Christi Hoover is a Resident Director in Gold Coast, Australia for IFSA-Butler. Her background in education and travel has prepared her to help students get the most out of their study abroad experience. Read on to learn more about Christi and some of her favorite parts of Australia!
What brought you to be a Resident Director?
I came to Australia to backpack for 6 months and fell in love with the country. I had left a job in education to travel and knew that I wanted to continue to work with students. So, I started in student support as a student services coordinator. Then a few years later, I became manager of student services. That progression lead me to becoming a director. I have been working in international education in Australia for 8 years now and can honestly say that it really is a part of who I am. I love having a job which combines my passions: education, recreation, culture and travel.
What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Many of the flora and fauna in Australia cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I live on the Gold Coast which is Australia’s most biologically diverse city. 80% of the population lives within 100 km (62 miles) of the coast, making it one of the world’s most urbanized coastal dwelling populations. Over 25% of Australians were born in a different country making for a very multicultural population. Melbourne has the largest Greek population in a city outside of Greece. Australia is home to the largest monolith (Uluru) and the largest living organism in the world (the Great Barrier Reef). You can see it from space! Also, Australia is the only country that is also a continent, and the only country that started as a prison.
What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I am from a very small town (population 300) and never got a passport until I was 24. Moving to live overseas was only the second time I had been on a plane. I really had no experience traveling and suddenly, there I was in London with little money and not knowing a soul. I was pretty much just out of school and had turned down a great job to come overseas, so it hadn’t been an easy decision. But challenging myself well outside of my comfort zone was one of the best decisions I have ever made. And let’s just say I’m now on my third passport (and filled every page in the first two).
What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
Getting to know the students. I love hearing how this experience has changed students’ lives and how they see themselves and the world. When students share their discoveries, challenges, and successes with me, it really makes it apparent how important cross cultural learning is and I feel privileged that I am involved in this process. I also work with some amazing staff, have the opportunity to take part in some pretty unique experiences, and visit some iconic locations.
What are some of the challenges of your job?
Managing crisis situations and incidents. Student safety and security is such a priority. A lot of work can go into assessing risk, creating contingency plans and keeping informed so that should there be any situations which require our involvement, we are ready. Rarely are these plans needed, but I always want to stay one step ahead in ensuring that students are informed and feel secure. Unfortunately not everyone has the perfect semester, but if there is a problem I’m usually a part of the solution. Although this can rewarding, it can be challenging.
What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Students are challenged in different ways. However, to pick one challenge that seems to effect most to some degree, I would say homesickness. The first few weeks in a new country can be hard and many students will find they do feel homesick and unsettled. But the vast majority of students don’t want to leave when the semester is coming to an end! I advise students to come to us for support during the tough times as my staff and I have been there ourselves! It’s likely we may be able to really help students feel better and more settled in this new experience. Some others may find it challenging financially. Australia is one of the locations where minimum wage is great and students are able to work part time. But it’s not always easy to find a job, so students shouldn’t rely on this and expect that it is a given.
What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Instead of comparing and contrasting when you come across things that are different, just embrace those differences! Analyze it later should you wish, but just jump into the experience and meet it with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Like anything, this experience is what you make it. So come with the idea that you are going to try new ways of doing things, learn about new cultures, join new communities and grow as a person! If you wanted things to be the same, you could have stayed back home, but you stepped out of your comfort zone for a reason, so don’t waste time or negativity when those differences present themselves.
What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Sunblock, togs (bathing suit) and sand shoes (sneakers) are pretty essential for exploring our amazing environment. And depending on where you study, it does get cooler here in the winter (your summer), so pack some jumpers (sweatshirts) and such. But you can buy those items here if needed, so instead I would say your sense of adventure!
What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Study abroad can be life changing and you will probably learn more about yourself, Australia, and the U.S. then you ever imagined. But you’ll need to be open to new experiences for it to really sink in. I am sure that your semester here in Australia will be one standout experience in your life, but when you return home, don’t shelf the experience. Realize what you have achieved, how you have grown and then continue your journey in learning more about yourself and the world around you.
To learn more about this study abroad program, check out this link!