Caroline Paskevich is used to going the distance to pursue her dreams. Despite being a self-described “shy” teenager, Caroline’s love of travel and passion for learning inspired her to expand her horizons by going abroad. After embarking on her first independent trip to the United States to attend skateboarding camp at the age of 15, Caroline knew that her dreams could take her anywhere.
A few years later, Caroline, a Langley, B.C. native, found herself moving halfway across the world for university. At the age of 18, Caroline left her friends, family, and the life she had always known behind for at least 3 years. Her destination? Bond University in Gold Coast, Australia.
While Caroline was a fairly experienced traveller, there is a difference between going abroad with family and studying abroad long term. She had previously never been away from home for more than two weeks, and so moving to Australia for the entirety of her undergraduate degree was a significant transition for Caroline. She would be an almost 17-hour plane ride away from her close-knit group of friends and family in a new place where she did not know anyone. However, Caroline did not hesitate to make the change; she was pursuing her lifelong dream to study Law abroad, and after accepting her offer to Bond University, she was ready to go.
Caroline had only ever attended school in Canada, and moving to an unfamiliar place with a different educational system was initially a little intimidating. However, Caroline moved past her nerves by focusing dedicatedly on school and setting clear, achievable goals to distract herself from homesickness. She also joined the university’s Law Club, which familiarized her with her fellow students and the field she wanted to pursue as a career. Within her first semester abroad, Caroline felt at home on a new continent.
Adapting to Life in Australia
Despite making a monumental change, Caroline loved her new home immediately and adapted to life in Australia very quickly. The first thing she noticed upon touching down in Australia was the fresh smell of the sea breeze.
“You breathe easier in Australia, no doubt,” Caroline says.
The next thing she noticed was the cultural openness and the friendliness of everyone she met. On the first morning Caroline woke up in Australia, she went for a walk along one of the Gold Coast’s beautiful beaches. During her walk, she was pleasantly surprised that over a dozen people said hello to her, saying smilingly how beautiful the weather was. The smell of the fresh ocean breeze, the beautiful weather, and the natural beauty of the landscape made Caroline feel immediately at home in a foreign country, and she knew she had made the right choice to move to Australia.
Caroline’s home-away-from-home was a dorm room on campus that she shared with a girl from France who was also studying abroad. Caroline loved living on campus, because her close proximity to school helped her meet students from across the globe. Many of the students who lived in her building were American, and they bonded over their shared experience of moving far from home. She also met new friends in her Law courses, and even though they all graduated in 2016, they stay in touch today!
Caroline also benefitted from the support of her teachers. According to Caroline, her Australian instructors adopted a relaxed, informal classroom setting, wherein students called their teachers by their first names and class sizes were small. As an aspiring lawyer, Caroline’s experienced instructors mentored her learning and development with a dedication she may not have found at a larger institution.
“My educational experience was super special and my teachers’ support helped make law school a fun place,” Caroline says.
Experiencing a New Culture
One of Caroline’s most memorable experiences as an undergraduate studying abroad was representing her school at a competitive advocacy event in Melbourne. Her “moot team” went head-to-head with other schools to participate in a mock legal case, drafting an oral argument to create the most compelling defence. While they were in Melbourne, Caroline and her peers gained valuable professional experience in their field of study, but they also got to enjoy the unique culture and explore a new part of Australia. The experience brought the team closer together, and Caroline made lifelong friends.
Caroline was able to do a lot of travelling within Australia during her time abroad. She loved touring the little towns dotted along the coast overlooking the beautiful blue ocean. On these trips, Caroline and her friends saw wildlife and some of Australia’s indigenous animals up close. Her travel experiences, along with the lessons she was learning in school and in her life as someone who moves away from home at the age of 18, shaped Caroline in life-altering ways.
“Who I am as a person is in no way comparable to who I was when I left,” says Caroline.
When she was a high school student in Canada, Caroline was very shy and prone to anxiety. After her experience moving abroad, Caroline graduated from Bond University with an undergraduate degree in Law, and she is currently supporting herself by working for a corporate law firm. This position has enabled her to venture out on worldwide travels with her friends, many of whom she met as a student. In short, Caroline’s choice to move to Australia for university changed the course of her life and was the first step to realizing her lifelong dreams.
“I am confident and excited about changes in life. I truly cannot imagine my life had I not taken the opportunity to study abroad.”
Caroline’s experience did not only give her an amazing education and help her meet new friends, but also transformed her professional career. She tells students who are considering going abroad not to worry too much about citizenship issues and employment opportunities. While some companies were a little wary of hiring someone who was not an Australian citizen, Caroline was inspired to work harder than anyone else to prove herself to employers. After a committed career search, Caroline found her current job and continues to gain excellent experience in Law.
Thinking back, Caroline reflects that all of these exciting developments in her personal and professional life come down to the choice she made at 18 to study abroad in Australia. In the future, she hopes to attain her Master’s degree abroad, preferably in London, which is a central hub for commercial law. Caroline is also passionate about supporting charitable causes, and she hopes one day to use her legal expertise to establish a foundation. For now, however, she is set to travel around Asia and explore another new continent. No matter where she lands, Australia will always have a special place in her heart.
Caroline’s Advice For Studying Abroad
1. Be grateful and enjoy every moment – not everyone has the chance to study abroad. Practicing gratitude will help with stress and homesickness, because you can remind yourself how lucky you are to be here.
2. Set goals – make the most of your time by thinking about why you’re going abroad. What do you want to learn? Set both general and specific goals for when you’re abroad.
3. Remember to take care of yourself – It sounds simple, but eating well and making time for exercise is integral to having a great time abroad. It’s important to remember that you are not on a two-week vacation– it’s important to develop a lifestyle.