When I chose to apply to Appalachian State University one draw card was the numerous programs I could become involved in during my student exchange. The Office of International Education and Development (OIED) web page allowed me to research exactly what I can do before I came.
I was especially drawn to the Cultural Ambassador Program. In this program I would be able to share my culture and international perspective with Appalachian State students or students of the local county. I served as a Cultural Ambassador, spreading my love of Australia and La Trobe University throughout Watauga County in presentations to K-12 schools and college classrooms, with subject matter as diverse as teaching backyard cricket and common business practices in Australia.
Along with the presentations as part of the Cultural Ambassador program, I was invited to present in both the International Management and Recreation Management. My travel history of 64 countries and 50 USA states was the integral reason for my invitation to the Recreation Management class.
Even before arriving at Appalachian, I volunteered to serve on the Executive Board of the student club, iPals. iPals is described by current president, Larissa Jenkins, as ‘pen pals in real life’ which is an accurate assessment. iPals pairs international students with domestic students to facilitate the exchange of cultures and friendship. In this role I helped to plan and implement events including international tailgating at Appalachian’s football games, International Thanksgiving Potluck and many more.
As I was studying in the business school there were many opportunities to get involved in the Walker College of Business. Within my first week I attended the Business for Good conference that focused on Sustainability, something App State is very passionate about. Another event was the Walker Business Connections where the morning offered three workshop options and the afternoon offered a career fair. It is really interesting to see the support businesses have for universities and they way they recruit for new employees straight out of college. I am sure most seniors will have a position lined up before their graduation.
The Walker College of Business offer faculty led international study tours and among the many destinations for next year is Australia. Leading the tour is Dr Martin Meznar and organising the trip is Meredith Pipes. I decided to introduce myself and offer my assistance in any way I can, mostly providing useful information like the name of a country pub to visit, where to go to buy inexpensive Australia souvenirs and Aussie food they all must try (meat pies). It has been a pleasure sharing my love for Australia and getting those travelling for the first time down under excited for their trip.
In general during my time here I was always representing both my university, La Trobe and Australia. I am thankful I had a couple of clothing items branded with La Trobe because here in the USA college pride is obvious with many students wearing App State branded clothing. I also had Vegemite at any event possible to make people try it, reactions were varied and priceless!
One thing I recommend to anyone travelling overseas is to take souvenirs from your home country to give out. The most popular gift I had were stickers of the Australian Flag, almost every student will have stickers on their water bottle or laptop. I also had pencils, pins and magnets.
Another novelty to take abroad is stuffed animal, in my case it was Beni from Bendigo, a Koala bear with a La Trobe branded t-shirt. Beni was my model in many situations and star of my blog, Instagram and Facebook pages. I sometimes felt Beni was more popular than I was even with my Australian accent!
Back during our first week of orientation in August, it was mentioned that Office of International Education and Development award two students at the end of the semester for their outstanding involvement. Here are the details:
The Outstanding Involvement Award is created to recognize exchange students who make a remarkable effort to be involved on campus in ways that:
Bring an international perspective to the campus and local community
Go above and beyond showing involvement in programs associated with OIED, but also in other organizations and activities across campus
Well, The Fall 2018 Outstanding Involvement Awards go to….
Melanie Birch-Inwood & Yuki Yamamoto.
I am honoured to receive this award for doing what I love, sharing my culture, love of travel and Vegemite with anyone who is interested. I thank the Office of International Education and Development for the opportunity!
Now to return to my home university, La Trobe University Bendigo, to continue to spread the word about study abroad to anyone who will listen and hopefully I can convince fellow students to take the leap!