My time in Australia has been genuinely amazing, and I am grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself in Australia’s work culture and explore the city of Sydney. I not only had the chance to explore the city’s beauty and acquire a wealth of knowledge, but I also refined my skills in the design industry and gained profound self-discovery. This experience led to a notable sense of personal and professional growth, highlighting my increased maturity and a strong passion for my field of study. The entire experience felt surreal. I felt as if I had lived there my entire life. For me, Australia has become a second home, and leaving to return home was a bittersweet moment. It was like a dream, almost unbelievable that I was fortunate enough to be there.
The first two weeks in Australia were a mix of challenges and surreal moments. Adapting to the new environment, the time zone shift, sharing a space with strangers, and coming to terms with the fact that I would be alone for two months all made the reality of my decision to come to Australia sink in. The weight of my decision to come to Australia hit me – this was not just an idea anymore; it was real. “I am actually in Australia.” For those initial two weeks, I was in a state of disbelief. A dream I had never allowed myself to believe could come true.
Studying abroad has always been a college goal of mine, yet the idea of pursuing an international internship in Sydney, Australia had never crossed my mind. While the prospect of committing to an internship initially filled me with fear, my determination to embrace this opportunity originated from a strong desire to deepen my understanding of my field of study, refine my professional skills, adapt seamlessly to the design industry, and most importantly, courageously venture beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone. The pivotal factor in accomplishing these goals was my willingness to take risks and stretch my boundaries. I initially anticipated a strict and highly stressful work culture environment like how it is perceived back in the States. The experience revealed itself to be more casual and relaxed, an environment I was grateful to be part of, as I found that it fostered a positive mindset. A significant factor that greatly contributed to accomplishing my internship goals was working for an outstanding boss and having confidence in the skills I have learned and applying them.
I considered myself fortunate to have been placed in a work environment that genuinely cared about my growth. The setting was one that not only highlighted my mistakes but also facilitated my learning from them, steering me toward success. Furthermore, the relaxed and welcoming work environment facilitated a smooth transition for me to adapt to the professional setting. While I did not have extensive team collaboration, the majority of my time was dedicated to either working independently or collaborating with my supervisor. I genuinely embraced the opportunity for independent work, as it provided me with the platform to refine the skills I had acquired in school.
I took on a range of responsibilities that significantly contributed to my professional development. These tasks encompassed enhancing my rendering skills, engaging in construction documentation, conducting research, facilitating client collaboration, and finalizing the selection of materials and finishes. Moreover, my collaboration with my supervisor involved attending client meetings, participating in on-site construction visits, and collaboratively formulating innovative design resolutions. The experience of working independently offered me a unique opportunity to grasp the essence of self-reliance, cultivate a meticulous eye for detail, and professional development. Furthermore, the collaboration with my supervisor not only established a foundation of trust and meaningful connections but also provided valuable insight into an effective teamwork dynamic and leadership skills. My supervisor’s mentorship not only guided me toward a trajectory of accomplishment but also gave me insight into designs that expanded my knowledge. All in all, I was fortunate to work under an exceptional boss who exhibited a genuine commitment to my skill development, showcased exemplary leadership, and ensured that I gained an exceptional experience in Australia.
Throughout my free time, I allocated a lot of time alone to reflect and immerse myself in Australia. This was my first time traveling alone, driven by a desire for independence. Though the idea of navigating solo initially felt overwhelming, I soon realized its benefits: reducing stress, minimizing distractions, and positively impacting my overall well-being. This solitude also led to deep self-discovery as I engaged in a range of activities, including pottery and cooking classes, long city walks, beachside reading, trying various cuisines, and exploring different parts of Sydney. These experiences were truly remarkable, and the fact that I was partaking in these activities on my own was quite astonishing. I felt a sense of accomplishment and immense pride in the confidence I gained.
Furthermore, a key objective of mine was to foster connections and forge lasting friendships. Recognizing that others in the program shared similar feelings of trepidation and being overwhelmed created a sense of friendship. This shared experience as solo travelers formed an immediate bond, allowing us to connect and tackle challenges as a cohesive group. Beyond these connections, I had ample opportunities to engage with locals from diverse backgrounds. Australia’s cultural richness attracted people worldwide, providing me with unique perspectives and a fresh outlook on both the environment and the individuals around me.
I underwent a transformative journey. I emerged as an improved and more accomplished version of myself, a change in which I take immense pride. The work environment played a significant role in fostering this positive shift, offering a mindset I had never before encountered. The experience has been instrumental in refining my skill set and expanding my industry insights. Above all, this experience has gifted me with cherished memories and enduring friendships that I had always dreamed of. It is a dream I never allowed myself to believe could come true, yet a dream that will always stay with me.
Cindy Cao (BS Interior Architecture) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Sydney, Australia through API. Cindy had the following to say about studying abroad, “Studying abroad has the power to enhance your college experience! University represents your final opportunity to enjoy convenient access to studying abroad! I find myself significantly more open to change, better equipped to handle challenges, and highly skilled at adjusting to unfamiliar environments! I’m genuinely grateful that I ventured beyond my comfort zone; as a result, I’ve gained invaluable new memories, forged lasting friendships, and developed perspectives on the world that will remain cherished throughout my life.”
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