Alumni Spotlight: Jack Olson

Jack Olson is a senior at the University of Minnesota Duluth and studied abroad with ISA in Gold Coast, Australia in Spring 2020. Jack is currently enrolled in Career Semester, which is a live career-focused seminar combined with an international internship. Jack talks about his many adventures abroad in Australia and how this experience inspired him to pursue an opportunity like Career Semester once he was back in the States. We reached out to Jack to learn more!

  1. What was your most moving experience from your time abroad in Gold Coast?

For the first 20 years of my life, when I was asked the common question of what excites me, I would always say experiences. Experiences are what connect us and create a life worth living. When presented with the opportunity to study abroad in Gold Coast, Australia, I thought back to my passion for new experiences and knew I could not pass on this beautiful opportunity. During my time in Australia, every day brought new and exciting experiences that I will cherish forever.

One that stood out to me and has changed my life indefinitely was an interaction I had with a local Aussie! Me and my mate were out exploring when we entered an Aboriginal Australian art gallery. Four memorable hours later, we realize that we missed our bus because we had been conversing with the gallery owner. With our bus being long gone, we decided to stay and continue our chat. Not only did we learn so much about the Australian culture, more than we would in any classroom, we learned immense amounts of information about ourselves. Most of our conversation revolved around how our cultures interpreted the meaning of a productive life. I will especially remember one particular statement the man stressed. He said, “life is an experience in itself, it’s up to you to decide how you want to live that experience.” I think about this quote often and try to create experiences out of even the little things. Reflecting on this life-changing event, I cannot stress how thankful I am to have had such a meaningful conversation with someone of a vastly different culture.

2. What do you miss most about Australia? 

I can’t believe it’s been nearly 7 months since I returned home from my “abbreviated” semester abroad in Australia. I miss everything about this incredible place that I was fortunate to call home. I miss the feeling of being both grown up, and so very, very young.  One thing that makes me want to go back to Australia every day is the constant adventure. When I got home, the hardest part was the sense of loneliness and boredom I felt. In Australia, my life was a constant adventure. Every day I got into a routine, but a routine unlike any other I’ve experienced: Go to class. Go somewhere exotic for lunch. Go to the beach. Travel to some extraordinary destination on the weekends. Come back, repeat. In Australia, there were always things to do and people to meet. I miss my schedule because it was the most adventures and exciting routine I’ve ever experienced.

3. Tell us about your experience having to return home early as a result of COVID-19. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect, what did you learn from this experience?

Unfortunately, due to fears of Covid-19, I had to evacuate Australia and return home in mid-March 2020. The news came with extreme shock and sadness for me and my fellow ISA peers. The hardest part of leaving on such abrupt terms was that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to many of my friends. I made more friends abroad than I have in my entire life, so it was extremely disheartening to leave them so soon. It was difficult to accept the fact that I was leaving this beautiful country.

Once I returned home and had time to accept that my study abroad experience was over, I had a lot of time to reflect. It came to my realization just how fortunate I was to have been able to experience this. I learned so many things about myself that would have never been discovered unless I embarked on this journey. I learned that life is full of tiny moments, and rather than wanting these feel-good experiences to last forever, it is better to enjoy them as they happen and be thankful that they did. Most importantly, I learned the value of independence. All alone, I set out to a land so far away and came back with knowledge of which I am eternally thankful for.

4. What inspired you to pursue Career Semester? Tell us about your experience so far!

A few months after returning home, ISA sent an email about the Career Semester internship program. I took immediate interest in this because of how much intercultural knowledge I gained from study abroad. Career Semester is an online class and internship proctored by international professors. I am currently doing the Digital Marketing class where we will soon find out our internship placements. In addition to learning a lot about Digital Marketing, I have learned the value of being a positive person. We only want to hang around positive people, same goes with the professional workspace. We only want to work with uplifting and positive coworkers because it will motivate everyone to accomplish great things. Career Semester has allowed me to further develop my intercultural understanding and meet incredible, like-minded peers.

 5. Do you have any advice for any students who studied abroad during COVID-19 and had to leave their program locations early?

To all the students who had to leave study abroad early, I ask you to never lose your sense of adventure. Keep taking risks and get out of your comfort zone. Even though it was difficult to leave early, and you may feel like it wasn’t fair, remember that only 10% of college undergraduate students study abroad. Feel thankful for the experience because the memories will last a lifetime. I believe that there was a reason why our program got cut short. Maybe the reason was to keep us humble, or maybe it was to make sure we never lose our sense of adventure. I don’t know exactly why, but there was a reason, so keep your head up and explore because this world has so much to offer!

Inspired by Jack’s journey and want to discover your own while immersing yourself in an abroad experience? Fill out your details below to let our team know and we’ll help you find your adventure today!

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