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A Change of Scenery — and Careers


June 27, 2017

By Tinashe Michael Tapera, BS/MS Psychology ’18


Nathan Clarke traveled a long way — 9412 miles to be exact — to find himself at Drexel University. As a study abroad student, Clarke had a very clear idea of the kind of experience he wanted to have when he left his home in Melbourne, Australia. His Drexel experience not only checked all the right boxes, but also led to an unexpected career change.

What prompted you to study abroad in the U.S.?

Study abroad was always something I wanted to do and as soon as I had the opportunity, I knew I wanted to see America. From the sports events (I’m a huge hockey fan) to trying pumpkin and pecan pie at Thanksgiving, a lot of what I experienced every day was totally new and exciting.

Being in Philadelphia also meant that I could travel to New York and Washington D.C. by bus to see all the tourist destinations and take in local history. These reasons first drew me to the city, and ultimately encouraged me to look more closely at Drexel University. The courses Drexel offered really took my interest.

I understand some of those courses played a large role in your educational and career pursuits. Can you talk more about this?

I took classes in gender studies, history and literature at Drexel, all of which were run by fantastic faculty who made my transition as smooth as possible. I always had an interest in literature and gender studies, but it was truly the efforts of the faculty here that fostered my engagement with the coursework.

It wasn’t long before I started to enjoy my Drexel classes more than those I was taking back home (where I was pursuing a business degree). The topics we explored gave me a chance to examine Australian history and to engage with Australian scholars, which are part of the Drexel coursework. These classes, and the roles of my teachers, really drew me to teaching as a career.

After returning to Australia, I dropped out of my business degree. A year later, I enrolled in secondary education (years 13-18) and arts (majoring in English and history), and now am a faculty of education ambassador, non-residential college advisor (similar to your RAs), treasurer with the Education Student's Association, and am in the process of becoming the Monash Chapter President of a men's mental health book club.

How is studying in the U.S. different from Australia?

Although I expected it to be a much larger difference, studying in the U.S. is pretty similar to studying in Australia. The real difference between the two countries is outside of the coursework. For those studying in Australia, living on campus or even studying interstate is really uncommon. It was awesome getting to meet people from across the country in Philadelphia.

Most students from rural Australia tend to travel to and from university each day. This means that we totally miss out on the great university culture that goes hand-in-hand with studying in America. Something I would encourage those to experience when traveling to the U.S. is college sports. Go see a football or basketball game — you’ll definitely love the whole night.

Do you plan to visit the U.S. again?

I definitely plan to go back one day. The whole trip was such a memorable experience and I learned so much about the U.S. and about myself. Working around my classes and assessments meant that I only really saw the northeastern states, so I definitely want to travel further west.

What really draws me back is the people and the way they treated both me and other study abroad students from Australia. As soon as they heard the accent, they would ask us about everything, wanting to know all about where I was from and how I was enjoying my time overseas. This made me feel welcome and comfortable with going out to explore places I wouldn't have seen without suggestions from the locals. From Detroit to New York, England to Saudi Arabia, I met people who I still keep in touch with to this day. I was even fortunate enough to have one come visit me in Australia.

What is your advice for someone else looking to switch degree or career paths?

After I returned to Australia, I knew that I wanted to change my career path and pursue a future in teaching. It took me a few months before I really started to explore my options and how I could expand upon my experience at Drexel back here in Melbourne.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the big questions about whether or not you truly enjoy what you study and just take things one step at a time. It was through the support of my friends that I found a course studying Secondary Education that really caught my attention, and it was my experience of my study abroad that made me stand out.