“Travel the world” is a common response from young people when asked about what is on their bucket list. Many tuck it away as a distant dream, hoping one day to make it a reality but often finding it difficult to work such plans into a busy life and a tight budget. However, studying abroad during your college years offers you the chance to get out of your comfort zone and explore new places, all while earning university credit. And that’s exactly what some of our adventurous High Point University students do every semester.
On Sept.1, senior Wade Rothrock boarded a plane and traded in the purple and white of High Point University for a semester of study abroad at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast. I sat down with Rothrock to talk about his experiences and find out why he chose Australia of all the potential study abroad locations. “I had always wanted to go to Australia,” Rothrock told me, “And because Bond was on the coast, there would be more access to travel around to see other places, too.” But before he could leave for the land down under, Rothrock needed to make sure he was ready to study in a foreign country.
“High Point University really prepared me for my study abroad experience,” Rothrock said, emphasizing that HPU’s Study Abroad program director Heidi Fischer played a key, supportive role in his trip. Despite the time difference, Fischer was relentless in her work to solve any issues that arose and to answer his emails promptly. She also works to ensure that classes taken overseas count for HPU credit. Additionally, the study abroad department provides orientation sessions that address potential culture shock and how to adjust to the new environment. No student leaves campus unprepared.
But it is called “study” abroad for a reason, so what did he learn? Besides being able to complete his psychology major there, Rothrock’s experience in Australia has given him a significant edge in his academic and professional career.
“I think the experience will appeal to future employers because it shows that I was able to go in to a new and foreign situation and adapt to my surroundings,” Rothrock said, noting that flexibility is a needed skill in today’s nimble economy.
Being able to interact with students from so many different countries exposed him to new cultures and language barriers – many of the students he met were international and non-native English speakers. However, these differences were not just overcome but embraced when Rothrock and his friends decided to host their own Thanksgiving Dinner, replacing the traditional fare with dishes from everyone’s home culture.
The learning didn’t stop there, however. Because of Bond University’s location, Rothrock could expand his Australian adventure far beyond the campus limits. He was able to scuba dive and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef; explore national parks, zoos, and rainforests; and visit the cities of Brisbane and Sydney, where he had the chance to attend a symphony performance and cruise the harbor. Sydney was also the stage for Aboriginal street performers with their didgeridoos, an indigenous art that is at once vibrant and central to the city’s culture and offered Rothrock a glimpse into Australian native heritage.
As for the overall experience, it seems that Rothrock’s trip across the globe has served not to quench his thirst for travel, but rather to light the spark of true wanderlust. He mentioned how he feels incredibly close to some of the friends he made while abroad – a testament to the bonds formed when you’re far from home and so is everyone else, it seems.
In many ways, that’s what High Point University is, too. It’s four years of glimpses into what could be; eight semesters of taste teasers for the exciting opportunities and adventures that lay ahead of students after they graduate. Study abroad allows students to deepen their educational experience and to show not only how much they’ve grown at High Point, but how much farther they are prepared to go.
-By Lillian Bijl
Lillian is an international relations major with minors in communication and Spanish. She is finding her voice at HPU by documenting the accomplishments of her peers. When she graduates, Lillian hopes to pursue a master’s degree in global health communication and work abroad.