When I left Adelaide in mid-2015 for a semester exchange abroad I had ticked all the boxes. Four subjects aligned to my course plan, a Korean language pocket guide, a room secured in the on-campus dormitory, and a one way plane ticket to Seoul. Supported by the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan Scholarship, thanks to the assistance of the UniSA international office and academic staff who processed my application, I set off for my first study abroad experience. Little did I know, 19 months later I would still be here continuing an amazing Asian journey with my UniSA engineering degree.
As one of very few engineers in my cohort to embark on an exchange, my Program Director and the UniSA International office were overwhelmingly supportive in setting me up for a successful semester – from picking the perfect partner University in the perfect country for me, to tailoring a flexible study plan. Some of my peers are holding back from these opportunities from fear of subject credit transfers, doubt of the quality and unfamiliarity of other universities, language barriers, financial support, and the prospect of simply powering through a technical degree and graduating as soon as possible. But I believe that engineers, more than many other professions, need the globally rounded, diverse and adaptable skills that come from an international experience.
The Korean teaching style was as gruelling as expected, but before I arrived I was put in contact with UniSA alumni in Korea and Korean academics in Adelaide who smoothed the transition. I couldn’t believe that in the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, one of our partner universities, the Korean professors teach the same content, even from the same textbook! Talk about a global profession.
Like all UniSA engineering students, I had to complete an internship before graduation. Unlike most students I decided to take mine abroad and after a series of fortunate circumstances, I landed a 5 month placement in Telstra Global’s Network Services team in Hong Kong. Instead of postponing my studies for a semester, I was able to take a UniSA course completely online, contributing to virtual classrooms via webcam, submitting assignments online, collaborating with team projects over the University’s share drive and watching pre-recorded lectures on my daily commute to work and even on business trips to Taiwan and Singapore. Being off campus wasn’t the end of my UniSA engagement, it was just the beginning! The UniSA international office maintained regular communications, inviting me to events in several countries. I also had the honour to meet with our Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Information Technology, Engineering and the Environment and our International Business Development coordinator when they were in town.
After being offered a summer research program in a Korean Digital Communications lab, my UniSA program director and I arranged that this field work could count towards my Bachelor’s degree – another opportunity to further diversify my degree. This lead to a second semester in Korea, finishing my New Colombo Plan program at another UniSA global partner institute.
Despite not stepping on campus for 1.5 years, I have been an active member of the UniSA community through the schools collaborative and flexible teaching options. I can’t wait for my final year back at the Mawson Lakes campus where I can implement the new skills I’ve picked up and make the most of the amazing facilities offered by the University.
To all UniSA students out there looking for something more to their degree, look outside the box. Don’t hesitate to contact the UniSA staff for support and approval, even if you’re not sure it’s possible. Our University is world class and has advantageous partnerships all over the world, let’s make the most of it!