In my previous post, I explained that many people have been messaging me on Instagram asking me more about my experience as an exchange student. I also suggested having a Q&A post answering a few of my readers' questions, encouraging everyone to submit questions that they could thought would be suitable, so here they are! I have touched on the majority of these, but I decided to reiterate some of the details I find important and go more in-depth on the topics I haven't really covered. Whether you're thinking about being an exchange student yourself or just curious about my life, I hope this helps! Let's start out with a recap of the basics:
Q: Who are you?
A: Hi, I'm Carmen. I'm a 16-year-old American from College Park, Maryland studying my junior year abroad.
Q: Where are you?
A: I'm currently living in Perth, Australia. I have a twin sister named Lauren who is studying abroad in Victoria.
Q: Why did you pick Australia?
A: I wanted to study abroad in another English-speaking country. I'd heard about how pretty Australia is, plus
my dad has been here many times and he had a feeling I would like it, so here I am!
Q: How long are you staying?
A: I am staying in Perth for a total of 10 months. 4 down, 6 to go!
Q: Who are you staying with?
A: I'm staying with a host family. It's just a normal family who volunteered to host me, they don't get paid. In
my family are two sisters 12 & 15 (soon to be 16), and two parents.
Alright, so that's enough about me. Here are a bunch about Australia and studying abroad that may be helpful for prospective students:*
Q: How early did you hand in your application?
A: It should say on the website when the application is due. Mine was in January, which was about 6 months
before my intended departure date.
Q: Do you pay an extra fee for school tuition or is that part of the CIEE cost?
A: The money paid to CIEE is meant to go only toward your flights, your Sydney orientation (or wherever
you have it), and placement. You have to pay for everything additional. If you attend a private school,
tuition is an additional fee, but in your application you should have a few options of the range of tuition
price you're willing to pay. School supplies, uniforms, and obviously anything you buy on your trip you're
expected to pay for yourself. If you request to be placed in a public school but end up in a private one,
you should expect the company to wave the tuition fees. (That's what happened to my sister).
Q: What's the Australian education system like compared to the US?
A: In my experience, it's VERY different. First of all, there are no honors or AP courses. Only a university-
prep program for any year 11s or 12s who want to go to college. In Perth, that program is called ATAR,
but it seems to change practically every year and it's different in other states. I am in the ATAR program,
but I'm not going to get into depth about it because it's not really important for an exchange student to
know. Just know that these courses are harder (I guess similar to our honors system) than standard
classes; you'll hear a lot more about it if you come. The two grading systems are also quite unalike.
Australian grades are a lot less strict than American grades. For example, an A is 75-100%, B is between
65 and 75%, and a C is between 50 and 65%. Anything under a C is failing.
Q: Are your classmates nice? Was it hard making friends?
A: This one is sort of tricky, I really have no way of preparing you for this. The people you meet and the
friends you make really depend on where you end up--namely your school. One of the girls I met at
orientation is in Melbourne. She was really happy at her school and made some amazing friends.
However, not everyone is so lucky. I have met some people at my school who have welcomed me into
their group of friends, but there are times when they make jokes or references to things I'm not apart
of, making me feel left out. My closest friend in Australia is definitely not anyone at my school, but
another exchange student that I met at orientation. We ended up coming to Sydney together and we live
really close to one another. I've been spending more time with her than anyone at my school. I guess my
advice would be make sure you get a "buddy" to show you around for the first couple days at school so
you're not completely lost. I asked my school to assign me one when I got there but they didn't do it
(even though they said they would), so I had to find my way around and meet people on my own. My
sister in Melbourne definitely had an easier time meeting people just through having this, so I'd definitely
recommend it. Second, I'd just advise you to take every opportunity you can to meet new people (inside
or outside of school) and be open to making new friends!
Q: Are the people in Perth friendly?
A: I guess so? I haven't really talked that much to strangers since I got here but the ones I have are usually
pretty nice. Since I'm hoping to be out and about this summer, I'll put that theory to the test just for you
guys (; #doitfortheblog
Q: How often do you go to the beach?
A: I haven't been much yet since my host family has been in school and the closest beach is at least a half-
hour drive away, but we're able to get there on public transport in an hour and a half to two hours
(which is still better than my home😂) and I've gone a couple times with my friends! I'm hoping to go
a lot more this summer...
Q: Is it really buggy?
A: Everyone says that there are lots of bugs here but so far it hasn't been very different from home... Maybe
it gets worse later in the summer?
Q: Is it safe? (In terms of crime rate)
A: I haven't heard that it's particularly safe or unsafe here, but I know that the general crime rates tend to be
lower here than in the US.
Q: (One more personal one:) How did your parents first react to the idea of studying abroad? How'd you
A: Honestly, there really wasn't any "convincing" to do! We had one conversation about my studying abroad
several years ago, and back then it was my dad who'd first introduced the idea. At the beginning of
sophomore year, I heard stories about someone I know doing it, and it sounded like such an amazing
experience! So I brought it up to my family again, and they agreed to think about it if Lauren and I found
a decent-looking program that did exchange in Australia, where we wanted to go.
*Now don't hold me to these specific details for the entirety of Australia, these answers are just based on my experience.
If you have any other questions for me, feel free to privately message me on Instagram! (Or if you just want to talk and let me know you're reading my blog.) I'll add them to this list if I think they may be beneficial for future readers :) x