Study Abroad Highlight: Townsville, Australia
Anthropology and political science double major with a Spanish and museum studies double minor, Natalia Ramirez-Vang’24 came to Beloit already interested in global studies. She emphasizes the importance of studying abroad in order to really understand the knowledge learned in her college career.
“I don’t think it’s possible to get a well rounded education without studying abroad and Beloit offers that,” Vang said. “Humanities is a global discipline, so everything I learn is way beyond the scope of the United States or can be applied to other countries. I’ve always wanted to travel as much as possible, but tying it into what I study and want to do as a career is a whole other step I could take by studying abroad. It gives me a glimpse into what international studies really is before starting my career.”
Natalia is currently studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. However, this wasn’t her original plan.
“Australia wasn’t my first or even my second choice. I originally wanted to go to London, then New Zealand for Indigenous studies, but neither of those plans worked out. I was scrambling trying to find somewhere suitable for me when the Global Experience Office recommended Australia,” Vang shared. “I didn’t think it was a good fit so I tried ignoring it but it kept popping up everywhere, until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Eventually I gave in and looked into it and it was a great match. I had no intention of choosing Australia, but after seeing how well it fit, it sort of felt like the decision had already been made.”
Natalia expresses her gratitude for the help she received during the process of studying abroad in her host country Australia.
“First came the application process for Beloit, then to the Australian university, then scholarships, then finally buying a ticket and following through with it. Because I’m an international student, there was orientation to get everyone settled in and used to the university and overall life here, which I’m grateful for. There’s always people here and at Beloit to help me when I need it, but I’m on my own for the majority of it,” Vang explained.
Reflecting on her experience in country, she draws similarities and differences to college life at Beloit.
“Classes are either really big or small, depending on the class. This university is heavily focused on marine sciences, so those courses usually fill auditoriums, while my humanities courses are about one or two dozen people where the professor knows everyone’s names. So the courses I take aren’t much different in size [than Beloit] and I like it that way, but it took some getting used to the differences, such as a different school portal where all the assignments are listed,” Vang explained. “I live in a dorm with about 400 other people, unlike Beloit, and it’s a new building so the utilities are in great condition and everything’s clean.”
Natalia reflects on her experience as an international student in Australia and the bonds she has made with her peers.
“There are so many other international students who are also experiencing all of this for the first time, so everyone is incredibly nice and understanding with each other and we all spend a lot of time teaching each other about our lives and languages back home,” Vang said.
Natalia recommends study abroad to all other Beloit college students and talks about how it has changed her overall perspective.
“[Study abroad] changed my perspective by taking on views that are not usually prioritized in the US. As a poli sci and anthro major, we tend to hear a lot from perspectives that are very driven by U.S. interest. Studying abroad means you get to learn which values in society, economics, politics, and more are prioritized in another country and relearn the same concepts from a whole new perspective,” Vang said. “I recommend it to every student, especially those looking into international careers as it gives a good first look into how to adjust to living in a new country, working with new people, and learning just as much about yourself as your studies.”