While Justine Morley, a third-year international student, adjusts to winter at the University of Maine, it is summer in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. When her friends from home begin their day, the sun is setting here. However, the harsh weather and 16 hour time difference haven’t stopped Morley from enjoying her first few weeks in America.
Morley has wanted to study in New England since high school; she wanted an “American school experience.” On Jan. 14, she boarded a plane and arrived at UMaine for the international student orientation. Morley spent her first five days on campus with 30 other international students settling in and attending instructional programs that introduced them to the area and provided tips for succeeding at UMaine.
“I classify myself as only half international student,” Morley said.
While Morley is still adjusting to a new environment, she felt her transition was easier for her than for other international students because she has already been exposed to a lot of American pop culture and English is her first language. One of the biggest cultural differences Morley has had to adjust to has been the level of independence she now has. In Australia, Morley says most of her peers still live at home, only attending school a few days a week and having plenty of time to pursue work and other interests. UMaine is her first experience living away from home.
“UMaine has met my expectations of what college would be, from the living arrangements to the dining halls,” Morley said. “You always hear about American schools in the movies, like the fraternities and sororities. We have none of that in Australia. It’s crazy to see this is every American teenager’s real life, it’s not just in movies.”
One of Morley’s favorite experiences thus far has been attending hockey games.
“There is not much Uni spirit at home,” Morley said. “There are sports teams but it’s not a big deal. Everyone here takes sports so seriously, boys were running around with their shirts off ringing bells and the band was playing. Everyone’s enthusiasm was so exciting. At home you don’t bash the other team, so that was really funny to me.”
Morley says she is met with interest when people hear her accent and she tells them she is from Australia. However, there have been a few awkward cultural differences, like her roommates’ confusions when she calls rootbeer floats “spiders” or flip-flops “thongs.”
Morley is studying communications. Someday she would love to be a speechwriter for politicians or non-profit organizations. She wants to play a role in fixing crises and helping with damage control.
“In my friend group at home, when my friends are having boy troubles or trying to say something hard in a nice way, they call me to help them write their message,” said Morley.
Morley plans on exploring other parts of the U.S. when her time at UMaine ends. She has planned a month-long trip with her best friend that includes time in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Hawaii.
“Every time I travel, I look at it as a new adventure,” Morley said. “I grow so much from every new experience, I learn to relax in new situations, and I’m more open to meeting new people.”