Meet Eko Owen

Program and Location:

University of the Sunshine Coast; Sunshine Coast, Australia

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I wanted to understand Australian politics better because I saw similarities with the U.S., past and presently.

What did you learn about yourself?

I learned that I can be quick to judge based on my own experiences, and how to recognize when I’m doing this.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

My favourite part of this program was that I got to make friends from multiple countries (including Australia) and learn about their cultures and viewpoints. I think it was really interesting seeing how similar ideas and customs can be while also being slightly different.

How did your study abroad experience prepare you for your future career?

It prepared me for, I think, any future career in that it helped make me aware of some of my own ideas and habits, and how they might not always blend with others, particularly people from a different culture than mine. It also helped me to realize that that’s a good thing, and that because of this I’m better equipped than before to compromise with people on what to do and how to do it.

What advice do you have to future study abroad students?

Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of new experiences or ideas, and just go for opportunities when you see them. Some of my best times in the Sunshine Coast came about because I was like, “Who knows when I’ll get the chance to do this again?”

Would you do it again?

Without a doubt I would study abroad again. I really hope I get the opportunity again someday to live in another country for a few months and be completely immersed in their way of life.

In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?

There were definitely some times I was worried about how others would react if they knew I was a lesbian, particularly in the beginning, but after a while I figured out that a lot of the people I was around in Sunshine Coast didn’t really care. I don’t think it had a huge impact on my experience abroad, perhaps because of where I was, but I did see and meet some people who were still pretty homophobic, so that was definitely a little unnerving for me.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

For anyone who LGBTQA+ abroad, I just gotta say try to feel out your surroundings as much as possible. Also don’t be afraid to reach out to local LGBTQA+ groups. They might take a while to find, but for me just having one person there who understood what it’s like being in this community was so helpful.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

Pretty much just friends that I made there and from back home. There wasn’t much in the way of accessible groups for LGBTQA+ students in the Sunshine Coast, or at least not well-advertised ones.