Dustin's Summer 2010 study abroad experience with CAPA International Education came full circle when he moved back to Sydney in 2011 for a full time job with the very company he interned with while on the CAPA program. Here he talks about the most rewarding moment of his internship experience, tells us what reverse culture shock feels like and shares some of his favorite hidden gems that he's discovered in Sydney.
CAPA WORLD: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
DUSTIN BROWN: I’m from a very small town in Indiana called Greensburg. I grew up playing sports of all varieties when I was younger, but specifically hit my stride playing basketball. I went to Purdue University. My major was Selling and Sales Management, with minors in Entrepreneurship & Organizational Leadership & Supervision.
CW: When did you study abroad with CAPA International Education? Why did you choose Sydney?
DB: I studied abroad with CAPA from May-July in 2010. I chose Sydney because I had always wanted to visit, and it was about as far away from home as I could possibly get. I wanted to really immerse myself in a another English-speaking culture and see if I could develop myself with more influences than those just found in Indiana.
CW: You’re now living back in Sydney working for your internship site host! What’s it like to be back? Do you see the city differently now that you’re a local?
DB: It’s great to be back! It’s a very different experience from my Internship, but it’s been great. When I was an intern, I was just overwhelmed with how big Sydney was. Coming from a town of <10,000, I wasn’t used to it! I wanted to get into everything and fully immerse myself as best as possible into the culture. Now that I’m a “local” I truly see Sydney as my home. I invite my friends to visit, and whenever I meet someone who is in the shoes I was in (uni student, or traveller) I try to befriend them and show them the city. I especially try to focus on all those “local” things that you may not think of or hear of when you’re just a tourist.
CW: Since you know the city well now, share a handful of your favorite hidden gems.
DB: Restaurants and Cafés: A place in Randwick called Isabellas on Alison road. They have amazing and very affordable breakfasts with fresh squeezed juices. There’s a place in Bondi that’s called Brown Sugar that is down Curlewis Street that is also amazing. Bars: My favourite bar would likely be Lord Nelsons in the Rocks. Beaches: We tend to go to Clovelly the most because it’s great for our two-year-old. We also enjoy Gordon’s Bay which is a lot more quiet. Beaches outside of Sydney like Dee Why and Collaroy are also very nice! Something I didn’t know about until I moved back are the Glebe markets and The Rocks markets. Both are amazing.
CW: What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting to your host country during your study abroad program? Most rewarding moment?
DB: My biggest challenge was simply accepting the laid back lifestyle here. Back home, if you were 15 minutes early, you were late. Here, if you’re on time, you’re pretty early. I think my most rewarding moment as an intern was actually a talk with one of my bosses about the future. We spoke about each of our plans and my desire to come back. Right then and there he said that if I was serious about coming back, I had earned my place. That if the budget permitted it, there would be a job waiting for me. After being an unpaid intern for seven weeks, it’s mind blowing to hear that you have made such an impact on one of the co-founders, that they were willing to consider that.
CW: CAPA's core values are personalized learning, cultural engagement and academic rigor. Talk about some of the ways in which you experienced any of these while abroad.
DB: The biggest learning environment for me was at my internship. I was able to find tasks that interested me that I could relate to. If I wasn't sure how a task benefited anyone, I made sure to ask questions to gain that insight and clarity. It really helped make each task more important, as I was able to relate it to an end-goal. Cultural Engagement is one of the most important things you can do. Australia is so rich in history and culture, that it really is a challenge to step out of your comfort zone and learn about your surroundings. By separating yourself from the crowd at times, you can really delve into the culture and learn about new things.
CW: Tell us about one interaction with the local community that stood out for you.
DB: The most interactive event that comes to mind was the soccer World Cup. We went down to FIFA FAN FEST in Darling Harbour every time the USA played and had a great time interacting with the crowd about the games. Another highlight was going to the State of Origin game at ANZ stadium with a similar atmosphere.
CW: How long did you wait before you moved back to Sydney? Did you felt any sort of reverse culture shock during the time you were back in the States? Any advice for other students experiencing the same thing?
DB: I came back to Sydney in July 2011. I had to return to Purdue for my final year of school. Once I graduated, I accepted a position here. The reverse culture shock didn't really hit me until my most recent visit home in November 2012. I hadn't been home in a year, and I felt totally out of my element. It was cold and actually snowing. I couldn't remember which side of the road to drive on; I kept using terminology that my friends and family didn't understand. I was even told I sounded different! I would say the best thing for students is to look at the great things you’re coming home to. It’s easy to get caught up in continual retrospection about your amazing trip, but you don’t want to be stuck in the past all the time.
CW: What advice would you offer other students currently on a study abroad program or those who aren't sure yet but are considering one?
DB: Plan ahead so you can save as much money as you can before you come! I talk to a lot of students who came on minimal budgets and continually felt like they missed out on some of the cool things to do here. I saved a good amount of money before I came, and I can honestly say that there wasn't anything I wanted to do that I didn't get to do. I was broke the whole next year at uni, but it was definitely worth it.
CW: What did your study abroad experience teach you about yourself and those around you?
DB: My study abroad experience taught me a lot about myself. The biggest thing was that it highlighted how outgoing I COULD be if I put my mind to it. Too often, I see people come on these type of trips and focus on staying with their small group of American friends and never branch out. I also see kids focus way too much on the partying aspect while abroad. There are definitely times to let your hair down and enjoy yourself, but there are equally as many times when it would be beneficial to call it an early night and make the most of your day the following day.