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An adventure down under

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Woodbury resident Alexa Erickson has the travel bug.

“I have a huge passion for traveling,” she said. “You get to go someplace completely different.”

Erickson, who just completed her junior year at the College of St. Benedict, recently exercised her travel muscle when she spent her spring semester, Jan. 18 to June 20, studying abroad in Australia.

“Studying abroad for a semester just sounded incredible,” she said. “It kind of feels like a dream now that I’m back because there was so much adventure and excitement packed into those four months.”

Erickson said she decided on Australia for her study abroad opportunity because it seemed like a good fit for her given that Australia is so westernized, which means that it is fairly similar to the United States.

“I chose Australia because, just from what I’ve heard before going, is that the culture is so welcoming and exciting,” she said. “Plus, it’s right by the ocean.

“I turned out to be a perfect fit.”

Erickson first began her study abroad journey during the 2013-14 academic year, her sophomore year, when she began the application and interview process with the Office for Education Abroad at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn.

“It was kind of intense, but definitely worth it,” she said.

Erickson said she spent considerable time preparing for her study abroad program, which she said wasn’t really necessary.

“At first it was nerve wracking making sure I had everything,” she said. “But once you get there it doesn’t matter because you make that place home once you’re there .

“It doesn’t have to be as scary as some people think it is.”  

During the first month abroad, Erickson spent some time traveling around Thailand, New Zealand and Australia before getting settled at the University of Notre Dame-Australia, which is located in Fremantle in Western Australia, about 30 miles from the capital city of Perth.

Erickson and the other study abroad students stayed at the P&O Hotel.

At the university Erickson was enrolled in five courses  – environmental science, archaeology, Australian cinema, Australian history and society, and a study abroad seminar course.

“We’re encouraged just to take random, fun classes,” she said.

Erickson is majoring in communication and gender studies.

Since Erickson was in class for only three hours a day Tuesdays through Fridays, she was able to explore Australia quite a bit during her time abroad.

“The academic part was challenging, but I feel like I learned a ton,” she said. “But I think I learned more from out-of-the-classroom experiences.”

In fact, one of her favorite adventures, she said, was through her history and society course when the class spent a week in the Outback with the Aboriginal tribe.

“That was really eye opening,” she said. “It was nice to step outside the fun of Australia and get to really know a culture within.”

Erickson was able to travel to Bali, enjoy scuba diving and other activities during her time in Australia.

Erickson said she would highly recommend studying abroad to any student who is interested because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“Just go for it,” she said. “You won’t regret it ever.”

Erickson said she will carry her study abroad experience with her always.

“The classroom learning was great, but the outside-the-classroom learning was even better,” she said. “Going abroad, especially for such a long period, gives you a sense of independence and it opens your eyes to the world outside of what you’re used to.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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