Kira Pancotti's Australia Experience and Mallory Kahn-Johnston's Israel Experience

Kira Pancotti's Australia Experience and Mallory Kahn-Johnston's Israel Experience

Note: This story also appears in the May issue of the Sho'men Club Newsletter. To become a member of the Sho'men Club, click here.

Women's soccer players Kira Pancotti and Mallory Kahn-Johnston spent the spring semester abroad.  Pancotti spent the semester in Australia and writes about her experience in the Land Down Under, while Kahn-Johnston was in Israel for the semester and chronicles her time in the Middle East.

Kira Pancotti - Australia

G'day! I knew as a freshman that I wanted to study abroad in Australia. I didn't know much about its history, its origins or its people so I thought spending a semester in Australia would provide the perfect the opportunity to learn about this incredible country. However, there was just one potential stumbling block: my commitment to the Washington College Women's
Soccer team.  I wasn't sure if I would be able to miss a spring season to study abroad.  However, when it came time to seriously contemplate studying overseas, I learned that my fears were unjustified: my coaches urged me to take advantage of the opportunity. So here I am, studying on Australia's beautiful Gold Coast at Bond University in Robina, Queensland.

The Gold Coast of Australia is known for its incredible beaches and amazing weather. I am grateful to have left behind a miserable winter and instead take advantage of the Southern Hemisphere's summer (we've had numerous days when the temperature reached over 100 degrees) . The Bond University campus is 100 kilometers south of Brisbane; it is modern, beautiful and surrounded by water.  Although I was initially nervous about being away from my team and friends for an entire semester, having my fellow teammate Kelsey Newborn as my roommate made the adjustment seamless. I am lucky because not only do I have a good friend as my roommate, but there are also five other Washington College Students studying at Bond University.  Having these WAC'ers around campus brings a piece of home to Australia.

My semester started in mid-January and ends in mid-April. I arrived in Australia in late December and traveled the eastern coast of the continent for 10 days before school started. I landed in Sydney and spent three days sightseeing: I climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the rain, but the vista was stunning, visited the Taronga Zoo for a behind-the scenes tour, hiked the Blue Mountains and its valley (a rain forest) and petted and fed kangaroos and Wallabees at a local nature preserve. I then traveled north to Noosa and visited Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and home to Rainbow Beach.  Rainbow Beach has its name because the sand is many different colors due to mineral deposits. My last  sightseeing stop before arriving at Bond was Brisbane.  Although the visit to Brisbane coincided with heavy rain, I did explore the city and had a dream come true: I held a Koala in my arms. It was an amazing experience.  The koala I held was young -- just two years old. He was very calm but his heart seem to beat very quickly, his fur was a lot thicker than I had expected and he was also a lot heavier than I had imagined.

I am continuing my sightseeing in Australia on weekends.  Planning trips around my class schedule has not been too difficult with the assistance of the on-campus travel agency! I was scuba diving at the Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef on a catamaran recently (and conquered my fear of really deep water), and I also spent a weekend learning to surf in Byron Bay. Most recently, I hiked Mount Warning to watch the sunrise. It was breathtaking. My next (and last) trip will be to Tasmania for five days. Then I will head back to the states.

The classes at Bond are very different than they are at WAC; each class meets for two two-hour lectures, and one hour tutorials each week.  I enjoy the different teaching methods and the different perspectives I am exposed to here.  I am also playing soccer here at Bond. There is a club soccer and we meet a couple of times each week for scrimmage and practice.  We have some inter-university games coming up soon. 

I have met students from Germany, Canada, Norway, and of course Australia.  The Aussies are everything I expected and more: friendly, outgoing, kind and welcoming.

My experiences in Australia so far have exceeded by expectations, and I am happy I took a chance and studied abroad here. The friends and memories I am making here I will always remember fondly; unlike Vegemite which will always leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Mallory Kahn-Johnston - Israel

Hello from Israel! שלום מישראל!

Back in January I came to Israel not knowing what to expect. I had been here before, but it was only for a month during the summer and it was a tour around Israel. I wasn't sure what it was going to be like to actually live here for a whole semester. I was also worried to spend
a whole semester away from my family, friends, school, and soccer.

Now that I have been here for four months I can't imagine why I was worried.  I miss things from home, but this has truly been the experience of a lifetime.  I'm learning a new language, making new friends, and getting immersed in a new culture.

I've always been really concerned with Israeli politics and the constant conflicts that are  going on over here. It's been really interesting to get to study them in school as well as live them.

Since I've been here there have been some life changing experiences including living in the middle of the conflict.  While in Beer Sheva there have been five different rocket attacks from Gaza.  A siren goes off in the city and we have one minute to get to a shelter.  Experiencing this has showed me the ability of Israeli culture to move on.  Each time after this happened we still had class and things went back to normal fairly quickly.  It's been something to learn from.  It cannot be confused for apathy, but more a want and a need to continue with daily routines. It's been a very interesting time to be in the Middle East and Israel and I love hearing all the different opinions.

I've been able to play soccer here.  The school team plays small-soccer, which is played on a tennis court.  It is very different from WAC, but it is nice to be able to still play over here. I'm looking forward to coming back to WAC soccer and my team!

Overall studying abroad has been amazing and I'm so happy that I chose to do it. I don't know how I am going to leave in a few months and come back to "real life".  I have had the time of my life here and made so many connections that I'm sure it will be very hard to leave. I would strongly recommend studying abroad to everyone!