Hi! 😊 My name is Salla-Mari and I’m a 25-year-old psychology major from Finland. I’m currently doing my third year at the uni and finishing some of the last courses for my Bachelor’s degree. This year, I’m going to move abroad and live out one of my long-lasting dreams. In February I’m going to be in Australia, the land down under! I can’t even begin to describe how excited I am about it and it still feels surreal. I applied to the exchange programme even though I knew that there would be a lot of competition over who gets to go there. I had always dreamt that someday I would visit Australia and when the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to try.
I have to admit that I have never been outside of Europe or even travelled alone. And as you know, the flights to Australia are going to be long ones! Because of that, I’m a bit terrified but I keep believing that everything will go fine and I’m sure that I’ll have an amazing time there! I actually just booked myself a surf camp and now I’m starting to believe this is all really happening. I’m going to be in Australia for five months studying at the University of Wollongong, which is located on the Western coast of Australia, only an hour away from Sydney. UOW has a large spectrum of psychology courses and the courses I selected are Psychology of Physical Activity and Health, Biological Psychology and Learning, Assessment and Intervention and Advanced Topics in Cognition. In addition to those, I also chose couple courses from other study fields. We were told that it would be good to select a few extra courses just in case, so that if you won’t get to every course, there would be options to choose from.
Truth be told, there has been a lot of work regarding the exchange. There’s now only two months left, and I still have a lot to do before my departure. I already have my plane tickets, visa, apartment, insurance and so on. But I still have to figure out things concerning my current apartment in Finland and to do a lot of paperwork. The do-list has been quite long but luckily most of the things are now taken care of. It has been a surprise how much little details you have to take into account. So, don’t leave everything to the last minute, trust me. Luckily help is always just an email or phone call way! Probably the most differing thing about exchange in Australia versus in Europe is that you have to apply for a student visa in order to study there. International students also need to pay overseas health cover payment and to get several vaccinations. It took several hours for me to fill and send the visa applications, not to mention all the attachment documents. The application wasn’t hard to complete but it was quite long and specific to say the least.
I myself have had some health issues over the years and even though I’m in a good place now, I keep worrying how I’m going to arrange everything on the opposite side of the globe. Having a chronic illness was the main reason I hesitated to apply at first, but I decided that I would not get it stop me from doing the things that are important to me. Arranging medical issues in a different country is complicated and takes a lot of time, but I’m keeping a hopeful mind that everything will go well. I want to emphasise that health comes first, and you aren’t always able to move abroad, even for a short period of time. But in my case, it turned out that it was mostly a matter of arrangements. I was once told that if you hesitate, whether you should go or not, then you should definitely go – and I stand behind this. Even though there’s been a million things to do and a lot of fees to pay, I don’t think for a second that it wouldn’t be worth it all. So, I encourage all of you not to hesitate to apply if you have the chance to go!
It’s hard to say, what I look forward the most about the upcoming experience. Of course, I can’t wait to see what’s Australia like. I look forward for the overall atmosphere, the nature, the animals, uni life, the people, surfing… everything really. Most importantly, I want to go outside my comfort zone, to meet new people and to get new friends. And to make memories I can think about when I’m old and wrinkly! This might be one of the best choices I have ever done, and I’m sure that I’ll have memorable five months ahead of me.