My Abroad Experience- Melbourne, Australia

If you’re looking for an urban adventure filled with culture and kangaroos, Melbourne Australia is the place for you. Although it is the second biggest city in Australia, it’s easy to get lost in the beautiful outdoors that surround it. The Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, and countless national parks are just a few of the adventures that one may come across. Not to mention the city itself, being the art and culture capital of Australia. The streets are filled with people from every country imaginable. Because of this beautiful mix of new humanities and adventure, I decided to go to Melbourne for a semester as my out of the classroom experience.



The choice of where to study abroad wasn’t easy. I wanted to find a place that would focus on my GLI theme of humanities, but I also wanted to be somewhere that I had no great knowledge of because I craved adventure. I have traveled to many countries, but after thinking about it, I decided Australia would be a new experience that I may not have the chance to do again. Melbourne is named the culture capital of the country, and also was a bigger city than I’ve ever had the chance to live in. It was perfect.



Upon arrival, I immediately noticed that there were more people from different nationalities than I had ever seen in one place in my life. This was just at the airport. My school I attended, La Trobe University, is actually one third exchange students, creating a comfortable space to meet and greet students from all over the world. My first night I ate dinner with a girl from Malaysia. This was a memorable experience due to the fact that I had never had a chance to learn about Malaysia’s culture. I went to bed with thoughts of how different it would be to live in her world rather than mine in the United States.


Throughout my time in Australia, I attended many different cultural events in the city. Whether it was a Holi Festival, an authentic Middle Eastern restaurant, or even just surfing with Australians, each experience left me with a better understanding of how truly different the values and customs are from each culture. This gave me a grasp on my GLI theme and challenge that I hope to apply in class this year. I now have first hand experience on how important it truly is to become knowledgeable about as many different nationalities as possible. It not only opens one’s eyes to the endless world that is outside of the United States, it also puts a new perspective on how important it is to honor and celebrates every individuals culture.


All in all, I am proud of my experience in Melbourne Australia. I had to take steps that I have not before in my life. Being alone in a country you have never been to and don’t know anything about isn’t easy. I knew that I had to buck up, enjoy whatever experience life threw at me, and make decisions for myself that would create the best abroad experience I could have. Although the United States isn’t the most respected country by the rest of the world, (I had a few experiences where that was proved) I pushed myself each day to go to class, share my voice, and show that Americans can be open minded and leaders.


Studying abroad is an experience that I believe everyone should take part in. Of course it is fun, but it also creates a more open mind, a more confident leader, and an endless desire for adventure. I am now prepared to start my senior year in GLI. I want to use my theme and knowledge to create a program giving students in grade school a taste of different cultures so they can learn what I learned in Australia, even if they don’t have the opportunity to go abroad. My out of the classroom experience was a life changing one, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain

This summer, I spent three months living and working in Barcelona, Spain for my Beyond the Classroom experience.  I was an intern at a non-governmental organization that helps women start their own businesses in countries around the Mediterranean.  As an intern, I helped translate documents from Spanish (and sometimes other languages) to English, planned programs related to entrepreneurship for young women, and helped apply for grants from various institutions.  I learned a lot about the day-to-day operations of an NGO and how they interact with governments, businesses, and other organizations



Spanish and Catalan independence flags in Barcelona

For my global challenge, I was interested in how political systems can address people of varied cultural practices and beliefs.  My time in Barcelona provided me with the perfect opportunity to examine this question. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous community in Spain, which has its own language and many of its own cultural traditions.  The Catalan independence movement has a long history that continues today. While I was in Spain, the former Spanish president was removed and replaced, a new president of Catalonia was approved, and there were several demonstrations throughout Barcelona and Catalonia, both for and against independence.

I lived with a host family for the three months of my internship, which was an important part of my cultural education.  They were Catalan from small towns outside of Barcelona and spoke Catalan with each other. Because I only speak Spanish, or castellano, as they would say, the family had to switch languages when I was around.  Pretty much everyone in Catalonia also speaks Spanish, but I was aware of the different ways people would switch between languages.

As a political science student with this global challenge, I had many chances to have discussions and learn from the people I met.  Many of the Spanish people I interacted with were very interested to hear from an American, both about US politics and what was happening in Catalonia.  I watched Catalan television and attended pro-independence events with my host family and discussed the concerns of the business community and international groups at my internship.  One night, we went to an event where a representative from Finland and a lawyer from Scotland were translated into Catalan as they talked about their own countries’ experiences with independence and their identification with the independence movement.  My internship also provided an interesting way to compare countries, as I prepared reports on the status of policies about women and entrepreneurship in several Mediterranean countries.

Overall, I could not have wished for a better out of the classroom experience from my time in Spain.  My language skills have improved so much from living and working in Spanish, and my Catalan is coming along.  I feel confident and capable, and I can’t wait to return to Barcelona.

The City of Bells: Córdoba, Argentina

Welcome to Córdoba, Argentina, also known as the City of Bells because of the vast amount of churches that reside every few blocks. Around you are rolling hills known as sierras, and kioskos, or mini marts on every corner. You hear honking coming from the colectivos, or city buses trying to stay on their schedules which they can’t ever seem to keep. You smell freshly baked criollos coming from the bakeries as a stray dog follows you on your way to school. Most importantly, you are always greeted with a friendly kiss on the cheek and a smile.


Cathedral in Córdoba city center

I arrived in Córdoba in February which is during their summer. I was welcomed with 100-degree weather and humidity that helps you stick to your sheets. Over the course of my first week I was introduced to my social tutor, Juli along with some other tutors assigned to my fellow UM classmates. Our tutors were not to help us academically, rather to help us figure out the bus system, get to the city center, find a good restaurant and of course, be our friends. We would find ourselves at the tutor’s houses hanging out after school and having asados, or barbeques on open grills. Our tutors were the ones who really helped us get in touch with the Argentine culture which helped us acclimate faster as well as more comfortably.



Salinas Grandes, Salt Flats

Our classes were given completely in Spanish. We learned about the culture, the literature and were even taught by two highly recognized and published authors. Our classes gave us the opportunity to understand why Argentina is the way it is today as we learned about the dictatorship and the hardship the people had to go through not even 50 years ago. We learned about los desaparecidos, or “the disappeared” as during that time, many people who opposed the dictatorship mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately, many people of that generation are still missing including children who were taken away from their families at birth. While in Argentina I learned how this tragedy is still affecting everyone from those who benefitted from the dictatorship, to those who don’t even keep their money in the bank anymore because of the insecurity.



Boat tour in Iguazú Falls

One of my most treasured experiences was when some friends and I traveled northeast, right on the border of Argentina and Brazil to Iguazú Falls. The town itself was small and was comprised mostly of hotels and small tourist shops because the real attraction was just a short bus ride away, the waterfalls. In the Iguazú Falls Natural Park, jungle surrounds you as well as native species of both plants and animals. In the whole park there are over 200 waterfalls and metal or wooden paths to lead you all around. We were lucky enough to even take a boat tour and go underneath the falls! Gallons of water were dumped on us; it was an experience like nonother. People come from all over the Americas to see the spectacular waterfalls and I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see them for myself. This was just one of the aspects that enhanced my entire study abroad experience, but I feel that I am forever changed and extremely lucky to have had this chance to live in Argentina.

A Summer In Fire


After months of planning, weeks of grant writing, and days of organizing I was ready to start off on my summer experience. Only upon reaching the area I was to be working in for the rest of summer did I realize the enormity of the task I had gotten myself into.

I spent my summer in the Alice Creek Basin and on Wolf Creek Ranch, about an hour from Lincoln, Montana, setting up and moving around 30 cameras in a high severity burn area, and healthy unburned-growth forest. The Alice Creek fire burned over 20,000 acres of land in the summer of 2017. I was conducting my own original research focusing on wildlife presence in burned and unburned areas and how the areas compared to one another.

When I first arrived at Alice Creek I only had a faint idea what to except. If you’ve never been in a high severity burn site, the first time is quite a breathtaking experience. The area looked like something out of an apocalypse movie. The ground was pure black, with the skeletal toothpick remains of 30-40ft trees towering above head. Absolutely no green could be seen. The air was quiet and still, completely devoid of any life. The whole feeling was ethereal, like we were pioneers, the first life to set foot in the area after the fires had ravaged the basin the previous summer.39515360_1997903856897890_191056118309453824_n

We spent the rest of the day traversing up and down the steep slopes and ravines of the immense basin, placing cameras and conducting vegetation sampling as we went. It was hard work, and on that first day, a flicker of doubt crossed my mind multiple times. It’s always been a dream of mine to conduct my own research, but as more and more small problems arose, I contemplated if I had been too ambitious. Doubt was replaced by concern, and I feared that all my hard work to get to this point might have been for nothing. It was around this same time we came to the summit of the basin, after hours of nothing but uphill hiking we were finally at the top. As I stood overlooking the breathtaking view, my fears started to melt away. I had made it this far, over half of the cameras had been set up and there was no turning back. As in any type of research, problems will always arise, but now I was ready to face them. As I stood on the top of that mountain, I knew everything was going to be okay.


Now the summer is coming to a close. Pretty soon I’ll be heading up to Alice Creek for the last time. The cameras will be collected, the data will be sorted, and I’ll start the next step in my research and start writing my paper. I had an amazing summer. My research, for the most part, went smoothly, I conquered my anxieties and reinforced the love I have for working in nature. Over the last couple of months I watched the Alice Creek Basin slowly transform. While scars left by the fire will remain for the next century, life is slowly returning. On my last visit the ground was carpeted with yellow glacial lilies and pink fireweed, rejuvenated by the nitrogen-rich soil. Birds were singing and surprisingly enough I found several nests tucked into overturned trees roots, the gaping mouths of newborn chicks staring at me. Although fire is destructive, it can be healthy for an ecosystem. While I was saddened by the loss of this once magnificent forest, I saw a poetic beauty in it. The fire wasn’t an end, as so much as it was a chance to start again.


My Experience in Senator Tester’s Office

For my Beyond the Classroom experience, I had the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C. in the Office of Senator Jon Tester. I started my internship with very brief knowledge about the legislative process and the operations of a legislative office. However, within a couple of weeks of intensive training, I have come to learn the vast amount of accountability that a legislative office owes its constituents.


One of the most exciting aspects of my internship was having the opportunity to conduct legislative research. On my first day, I got assigned to work with a legislative assistant who specializes in foreign affairs issues. For that reason, I’ve attended several Foreign Relations Committee hearings and completed some research on issues like the Russia investigation and U.S. tariffs. Specifically, I wrote a number of briefing memos about the updates on Special Counsel Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation, the dangerous effects of President Trump’s tariffs on Montana farmers, and President Trump’s recent Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I am glad that I had the opportunity to study and research issues that are currently causing extreme conflict in the global arena, as this relates to my Global Challenge. My Global Challenge focuses on reaching global cooperation, despite the fact that many nations experience intense political and cultural differences. Overall, this internship has provided me insight on how the U.S. approaches global issues through the legislative process.

Additionally, a large portion of my internship consisted of constituent work like logging correspondence, giving visitors tours of the Capitol building, and answering hundreds of phone calls. Constituent calls were difficult to handle at times due to several controversial issues and bills at the time. The most difficult part of my internship was probably dealing with angry callers who simply did not want to hear the Senator’s point of view at all. However, it was my job to assure constituents that their voices mattered and that I would definitely be relaying their messages to the Senator.

Through the process of logging constituent calls and letters, I also learned about the diverse perspectives of Montanans. Although the current population of Montana is just over one million, the political positions and perspectives of people in the state varies on such a grand scale. Because Montanans have such differing stances on political issues, I began to understand the benefits of being a “moderate” within politics like Senator Tester. Although the Senator does not always vote in a way that will appease all of his constituents, he values the voices of Montanans and tries his best to reflect those voices in Congress. Also, through learning more about the Senator’s tenure in Congress, I soon realized that he is willing to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way despite the current polarization in the U.S. political sphere. As my internship progressed, I started to appreciate the Senator’s ability to put aside partisanship in order to enact legislation and effectively do his job.

last day

On a broader scale, I feel as though my internship experience also contributed to the working of our democracy. One of the key components of a democracy is the guarantee that the voice and will of the people with be reflected in government. As an intern, I was the intermediary between the constituents and the Senator. For this reason, logging constituent calls was fundamental to ensuring that Montana voices are heard by the Senator and reflected in his decisions within Congress. Overall, I’ve learned so much about the legislative process during this experience and I am hopeful that it will help me become a more effective advocate in the American political system.