By Gregory Camillone – Contributing Writer
Lasell College senior, Madeline Kenny discusses her experience and reasoning for studying abroad in Sydney, Australia and joining the Vietnam Shoulder-to-Shoulder trip.
What’s your inspiration to travel?
I come from a small town that’s not diverse. It’s all ‘run of the mill’ white [families] and I wanted to experience more. It’s a reason why I moved away to college. That wasn’t enough, so traveling gave me opportunities to embrace new cultures.
Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to study abroad? What was that like?
I don’t remember a specific moment where I was inspired to study abroad, but it was something on my mind. The more I researched it, the more I became interested. My friends wanted to study abroad as well. With that in mind, we planned some wonderful trips together.
What did you find among your research that made you more interested?
The beautiful scenery in comparison to the places I’ve seen here, for instance, a waterfall. I’ve seen plenty of waterfalls in America, but because they’re in Australia, it makes it a thousand percent better. There was this stigma around me going there that made it exciting.
Tell me more about the trips you planned. What made them wonderful?
I lived on the Gold Coast which is located on the center of the east coast. Sydney and Melbourne, two of the larger cities, are not near there. Being able to travel with friends and explore those cities was a surreal experience. We saw the Opera House without tourists which was a once in a lifetime adventure.
How did you handle being away from home for four months?
Ben & Jerry’s – 12 dollars a pint. In all seriousness, because I did have friends with me, it wasn’t hard being away from home. With today’s technology, it’s easy to communicate through FaceTime and Skype. I didn’t experience too much culture shock.
What habits do you use to keep in touch with friends you made while abroad?
We stay in contact through social media. Luckily, I was able to make friends that do live close enough to visit. I do my best to spend time with them in person. Otherwise, it’s joking around on social media and updating each other on our lives.
What did you learn about yourself while abroad?
I learned my patience wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. Through classes and experiences traveling, I do think I became a more patient person. It’s a good skill to have and didn’t realize I was lacking it before.
Why is patience valuable when traveling?
The number one thing is experiencing language barriers. It wasn’t something I had too much trouble with, but there were international students in my class. When they’re trying to say a sentence in English, you have to remember that they’re thinking of each word. It’s the same for everywhere you go. If I were to go to Spain, it would be a process for me to order a meal.
How does a student at Lasell go about studying abroad?
A student can contact the study abroad office on campus. There are three advisors who can get you in touch with schools abroad. There are plenty of resources to figure out where would be the best fit for you regarding your major and interests.
What advice would you give to a student debating to study abroad?
If you’re nervous to study abroad, don’t worry. Everyone is. If you’re considering it, I think you should do it. I know too many people who had the opportunity to travel in college and they immensely regret not doing it. Now’s the time to travel because you have the resources behind you to help.
How did studying abroad encourage you to take on the Vietnam Shoulder to Shoulder Program?
Because I have a new found travel bug, I felt I needed to embrace it as much as possible. Helping people is something I’m interested in. The Shoulder to Shoulder Program is a chance to assist others and experience the world. I’m lucky Lasell offers those options.
What are you most looking forward to about the Vietnam excursion?
We work one-on-one with orphans to teach them English. I’m really excited to make connections even though it’ll be sad to leave the kids when our time is over. I’m also excited to experience the culture through food and lifestyle on the streets. The Asian culture is beautiful. I’m interested in Buddhism and we are going to visit temples which I am excited about.
How do you plan on keeping your family and friends updated while in Vietnam?
Technology will be my form of communicating. Since it’s also a class I’m taking, I’ll be doing blog posts. I’m required to write, therefore people will be updated about what we’re doing in the Vietnam every day lifestyle. The posts will be more academically driven.
To those wishing to travel more, what’s a piece of advice you like to share?
Try to pick different places. Pick the places off the beaten path. There are many little villages and places we haven’t heard of. They’re far more rich in culture than the tourist hub spots around the world.
What were some of the places you traveled to off the beaten path? How were they more rich in culture?
I hit big spots the first time I went to Melbourne. The second time, I was able to see hidden parts of the city where locals would go. For Vietnam, we’re going to do a cultural emersion program which includes us living like a local. After graduation, a friend and I are trying to plan a backpacking trip across Europe where we intend to hit more off the beaten trails. It seems when people go to Europe, they hit London and Paris. We’re trying to go to places out of that realm.