This past semester Vanessa Pearson ’21 was selected as a recipient for the Gilman Scholarship and traveled abroad to Australia. A brief interview was done with Pearson to learn more about this opportunity and experiences:
Thank you for taking time to answer some questions! To start off, can you tell me a little about you?
I am a junior here at Roanoke. I live off campus and commute to school. I am an education and psychology major looking to get my teaching license and work in an elementary school.
Where did you study abroad? Why did you choose to study there and what was it like? Was it different from what you were expecting?
I studied abroad in Townsville, Australia which is on the northern east coast. I chose to study there because I had always wanted to travel to Australia, and it was northern, therefore it would be warmer. I also chose it because they speak English, I wanted to get inside an elementary school classroom and therefore would have needed to understand what they were saying.
What were some of your favorite moments while abroad?
I loved meeting new people from all over the world. I loved traveling all around Australia. I got to be a part of a turtle release, which is where they released a turtle back into the ocean that they had found hurt and nurtured back to life.
What were you most worried about in terms of studying abroad?
I was worried that I wouldn’t make any friends while I was abroad and that I would be lonesome and homesick.
Did anything happen that you weren’t expecting? Were there any moments that particularly struck you while abroad? Tell me about them.
I was not expecting my time there to go by so quickly. I was nervous when I was traveling that this was going to be the longest trip of my life and I was surprised when it was time to pack up and come home. I had so many amazing moments with friends that I had made there. I loved the weekends where I got to travel with my friends to different cities. It struck me by surprise at how different everybody is while also being kind of the same.
What did you learn while abroad? This is not limited to just coursework (though certainly talk about the types of courses you were able to take) but also about the culture or cultures you interacted with and, cheesy as it is, yourself as well.
I learned that the cultures in Australia are still very ingrained in how they do things throughout their day. In classes, professors start off with an acknowledgement of culture and thanking the aboriginal people for providing the land in which the school was built on. I learned that I enjoyed learning about the culture of another country and that I would like to go to other countries in the future and learn more about the culture and the way they see things now.
What do you miss the most?
I miss the people that I met there the most. I met so many amazing people who I enjoyed spending my time with. It is still sometimes hard to come to school and not see them around. I miss the environment I was surrounded by during my time there.
Tell me about your plans for the future. How will you apply what you learned while abroad to help you?
I would love to continue to travel to different places in the world. My next trip I am planning would be to go and travel around Europe. I will apply what I have learned abroad because I learned to take a step back and truly listen to the stories that are being told around you. I learned that if you look around at even the smallest things, you can find so much culture in it.
Do you have any advice for other students interested in studying abroad?
My advice would be to do it. If you are thinking about it, you should one hundred percent just do it. It is an amazing experience and while you may miss home for the first couple of days, you make friends and it does get easier. It can open your eyes to some crazy and great things.
Congratulations again to Vanessa Pearson on receiving the Gilman Scholarship and on a successful trip, and thank you for taking time to answer some questions!