Sara Stillman, Nursing programme, La Trobe University, Australia

Hello, My name is Sara Stillman and I studied my fifth semester of my nursing studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Ever since I was a child I have known that I want to become a midwife. To become a midwife you first have to become a nurse. During my last year of gymnasium I started looking at what university I wanted to go to in Sweden. It was one thing that mattered, the exchange program. I had been in the States on exchange during high school, so I knew I wanted to go to Australia. Since Jönköping University offered a program, that's where I began studying.

During my semester away I studied three different subject. Indigenous and intercultural health and primary healthcare nursing which both were equal to 7,5 hp. I also studied nursing consolidating reflective clinical practice which is equal to 15 hp. I think all the classes were very different but I learned a lot. My favourite thing of the semester was the clinical placement in the nursing consolidating class. The school system in Australia is very different to Sweden. Since their seasons are different to ours, they have spring when we have fall and vice versa. Because of that, I studied subjects of the sixth and fifth semester even though I was in my fifth. I think they had a really good international students orientation at La Trobe. It is very overwhelming in the beginning, but once you start to understand the system and your teachers, it all gets easier. After orientation I had three weeks of intense classes, five week placement, spring break and three weeks with self studies and last but not least another two week of placement. The teachers treated me like any other student, but there is no stupid question. They understand that you come from a different background and sometimes have a different way of looking at things. In some classes I felt like it was good for the other students to get a new point of view from someone a lot different from them, a new influence.

My highlight of the semester was the five week clinical placement at Mercy Hospital for Women in the operating theater. They were not used to having nursing students without doing their specialty, and less used to having exchange students but it all turned out really good. The five weeks went by really fast and I learnt so much. An experience I was really nervous about beforehand, but turned out to be something I will be grateful for and use in my upcoming career as a nurse. The second placement was at a primary healthcare organisation named Birth for Humankind. It was a organisation that helps pregnant women with lower socioeconomic status. An opener and a really good placement even though it was more computer work than clinical work.

The communication with the partner university was good. I got two contacts that helped me with a lot of questions about the paperwork. It is hard to figure out what papers that need to be done when and who that is supposed to sign what, but in the end it all works out. I would say that the partner university was better about helping me than Jönköping university since the question gets directly to the right person.

I shared an apartment in CBD, central business district, with three other girls from JU. It is very hard to find apartments. Pair up with other student from your uni! There are a lot of Facebook groups, such as “Svenskar i Melbourne”, that can help you with tips for accommodation. It is very expensive to live in Melbourne and that is another reason to why pairing up with someone makes it easier and more affordable. The apartment I lived in was a very small two bedroom apartment, but it works when it is just for a couple of months.

Overall it is very expensive to live in Australia. Even though the dollar is less worth than the Swedish crowns, food and transport cost more. You can bike in Melbourne but I would not recommend it because of the left side and crazy traffic. During my time in Australia I would really say I developed myself. Both as a future nurse and my everyday way of thinking. I learnt to realize what is important to me and what I valuate in life. This kind of experience is a once in a lifetime and it will impact your way of critical thinking and problem solving. My English has absolutely improved in a academic way, but also in the everyday conversation. Of course it is a challenge to have a clinical placement in a country very far away with a different system and different language, but that is what develops you! Even though I lived with Swedish people and spoke Swedish everyday I got more confident in my English.

My advice to future exchange students going to La Trobe university in Melbourne would be to: 1. Save a lot of money, because you will need them! 2. Go outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself. 3. Take the opportunity to get to know other exchange students from all over the world. 4. Find out where you are going to have your classes (at the campus or in town) and arrange your accommodation according to that. 5. Start with the paperwork in time, it's a lot but it's totally worth it! 6. Plan your semester ahead so you have a clear picture and can make plans in other fun stuff!

My semester was really intense in the beginning, but it got a lot calmer as the semester went on. Six month away from home is a long time, but it did include a lot of highlights! The first highlights is of course my five week placement at the hospital. Second off I went to Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay with my flatmates for spring break. After that we had the three weeks of self studies which I decided to work in advance so that I could go off and meet some friends for a road trip from Mackay to Byron Bay instead. I came back to Melbourne and had my last placement before I went to a Chainsmokers concert, Melbourne Cup and then left for New Zealand. New Zealand was an absolute beauty! I went with two other girls that I met from uni in Melbourne and we had a great time together driving around the south island in out campervan. A couple of days after that I volunteered to work at a stable with racehorses for two weeks. Not a paid job, but so much fun! I also got to learn how to surf, which has been a childhood dream of mine! in the beginning of December my family and boyfriend came and I once again went on a road trip along the east coast and also visited Bali before I landed in Sweden again. A lot of travelling in a short amount of time, but also an incredible experience!

There are a lot of good parts about my exchange semester. I am very thankful I got the opportunity to go and live in a country on the other side of the world for a semester. I am very thankful for all the people I have met and all the friends I have made. I am so thankful for all the experiences and beautiful views I have got to see and all the travelling I got to do. And not to forget, forever thankful for my parents for helping my making this trip happened. Most of all I am thankful for the personal development of myself. It is not easy to leave ones whole comfort zone and supporting friends and family at home and go away for a long period of time, but coming home is worth it!

“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” which is a perfect quote to why you should take this opportunity and go on exchange.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask at