After completing a semester exchange program in Australia, Tanner Cook has two simple words of advice for fellow students: do it!
“When I first came to CU, I didn’t think studying in another country was in the cards for me because of course requirements and added cost,” Cook says. “But the whole thing was easier on my credits and my bank account than I originally thought, and it was worth so much more than what it costs.”
He quickly learned that even with a full semester to enjoy, there’s no time to wait. Long before he ever felt settled in New South Wales, he threw himself into unorthodox travel plans, branched outside of traditional tourist spots and tried to immerse himself in the culture.
“During your time away, you won’t just meet other students,” he says. “You’ll meet people from all over the world, hostel-hopping, hitchhiking, couchsurfing, working. Each and every one of them has a story to tell. And after your study abroad experience, you will, too.”
That doesn’t mean the experience was without difficulties. Adjusting to a completely different lifestyle was more of a challenge than Cook anticipated.
“It was my first time living out of the state in which I grew up, and I was literally halfway around the world,” he says. “I knew no one at first. I knew nothing about the town. I knew nothing about how to operate in a different country. But the struggle and the learning process was what helped me grow the most while away. While that may sound cliché, it’s true.”
The class structure also was different than what he left in the U.S. It required less class time but greater personal responsibility for learning. Cook said he found it fascinating to learn environmental engineering concepts through Australian examples, which helped him to escape from the America-centric view he held before.
Cook left Australia with the travel bug, certain that he’ll move to another country and culture in the future.
“There’s just so much to see, and so much of the world can only be experienced if you fully immerse yourself and live as a local,” he says. “Simple vacations just won’t cut it for me.”