By Kirstie Borchers
Ashley Dawn Miller, then a twenty-year-old college student, found herself lost when looking ahead, akin to many students in their junior year of college. There was one thought constantly looming over her: Post-Graduation.
Miller graduated Sachem North High School in June of 2008, and was SUNY Cortland-bound the following fall. However, during her first semester she had bad experiences with roommates which made her more homesick than she thought possible. “I didn’t even know I wasn’t going back until the night before I was supposed to leave for the spring semester,” she says of her sudden decision. Miller then attended Suffolk County Community College for the following two years, graduated with her associate’s degree, and moved on to fulfill her bachelor’s at SUNY Stony Brook.
Upon her first semester at SUNY Stony Brook, Miller had an uneasy feeling. “I have always had anxiety issues, and when I met with my new advisor she asked me so many questions I didn’t have an answer to,” said Miller. She knew she wanted to do something in the business field, but what the something was, she had no idea. “I was panicking, I had to choose a few core classes in order to specialize my major, and I didn’t know what to do,” She remembers. She turned to her friends and family looking for further guidance.
“You have to do something you love, if you don’t love this choose something different,” her older sister, Melissa Miller said. She mulled this idea over for a few days. Should she really change her major to discover something else, after the time and money she had spent working toward a business degree?
Miller knew one thing; she needed a change of pace. She had always liked the idea of studying abroad, and a few of her close friends had done so and absolutely loved it. While she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do, she thought that such an experience would help her in the long run. “I was interested in partaking in an experience that would set me apart from my peers,” she said. She laughs reminiscing the process of applying to the study abroad program. Miller knew her parents wouldn’t be too keen on her picking up and leaving for four months in a foreign country, her mother especially would be constantly worried, but the more she looked into the different programs, the more she felt the need to travel.
Miller decided on the study abroad program in New Zealand. Although she’d have to endure a full day of air traveling, she was embarking on a journey to a beautiful place that was seldom talked about and often forgotten. Miller had never left the country before, and now she was finding herself counting down the days until she would be living on the other side of the world, surrounded by new places and faces. “Getting there was beyond stressful; my flight from JFK was delayed three hours which made me miss my plane from LAX to Auckland. I had to wait 24 hours in LA to catch another flight. The entire time I was streaming with emotions, sadness leaving my family, nervousness arriving in a place where I wasn’t familiar with the culture, and excitement to start a new beginning in a new environment. The plane ride was rough but as soon as I saw the breathtaking mountains, I took a deep breath and relaxed, all my worries were gone. I knew at that moment that all the time and effort I put into planning the trip was worthwhile and good things were to come.” She said.
“When I first got there I was so proud of myself for having the courage to leave my friends and family back home; I couldn’t imagine anything being more difficult. But as my time dwindled down I started to believe that leaving the country which had taught me so much about my character and what life has to offer, would prove to be even more of a challenge.” She said sadly. She had made so many friends that she still keeps in touch with on a regular basis. Thanks to technology, Miller video chats with her friends that are abroad, but it isn’t the same. “I would love to go back,” She says of the picturesque country that has since become a part of her.
Miller has advised many of her friends and fellow college students to study abroad. While in New Zealand she kept a blog through the SUNY Stony Brook website, as do many other students who study abroad, no matter their location.
Here at Suffolk County Community College, there are countless opportunities and destinations for students to study abroad.
If you are interested in studying abroad: http://department.sunysuffolk.edu/StudyAbroad/index_4729.asp