Olivia Whitehead, a sophomore social work major, chose Deakin University in Australia hoping the university would lead her to studying abroad in the U.S. Whitehead knew Deakin was associated with Winthrop University and Michigan University and after doing some research, she thought Winthrop would be a better option for her.
Whitehead enjoys waterskiing, exercising, traveling, being with her family members and friends and volunteering.
“After I graduate I want to work in the child protection field and hopefully work somewhere overseas for a year or two,” Whitehead said.
Traveling is Whitehead’s favorite hobby. So far she has been to Fiji, Thailand, Dubai, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. She also hopes to travel more in the future. Consequently, she feels confident staying far from her home country without being homesick. However, the time zone differences do affect her.
“The only thing that is annoying is trying to contact people back home when the time difference is 15 hours,” Whitehead said.
Despite her confidence, Whitehead admits she misses home when it comes to social activities, family gatherings, birthdays and weddings.
At first Whitehead found it strange how often some Americans use slang and shortcuts for words.
“Another thing that struck me as strange was the amount of times people use ‘y’all’ in their sentences. At first, I had no idea what it meant but, now I am used to it,” Whitehead said.
One disadvantage that Whitehead found is not having a car, especially when there is a lack of public transportation. Another disadvantage is not having her family come to the Winthrop Family Day.
“Also, I felt as though we were excluded a little bit during Welcome Week whilst we were busy organizing bank accounts and so on,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead has a great impression of Americans, and based on her travels to other states, she finds southerners are the friendliest and nicest.
“I think Americans are really great,” Whitehead said. “What shocked me at first was the amount of compliments Americans give to one another, but it is such an easy way to make someone’s day better.”
Whitehead says the Winthrop community is always welcoming and eager to listen to what she has to say.
“I really love the campus here, the buildings are gorgeous and it is so nice to be outside on a sunny day,” Whitehead said.
According to Whitehead, the differences between universities in Australia and America are the grading systems, year classifications and lecture halls.
“Back home we don’t have freshmen, sophomore etc., but rather we have first years, second years and so on. It took me a while to understand what year everyone was in here,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead recommends that students take advantage of studying abroad or at least stay in another country for a while to test one’s self-independence.
“I would suggest you do a little bit of travel, even just go somewhere with friends for a week or so without your parents, just to understand how independent you have to be when living in another country,” Whitehead said.
She says Winthrop students are able to study at her university back home due to the relationship between the two universities.
Although Whitehead believes that getting scholarships can be hard at times, she says it is worth looking in to. Whitehead says planning ahead is essential to make it easier and to handle obstacles one may encounter during the process.
“When people at Winthrop tell me they want to study abroad, I tell them to start planning,” Whitehead said. “The earlier you start planning, the better the experience will be.”