Marissa Frangione is a student at the University of West Florida. She studied abroad with ISA on the The Australian Sporting Industry program.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Marissa Frangione and I am a senior Psychology student at the University of West Florida. I am a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and currently serve as the Panhellenic Council President. I also work as a jazz instructor at Ballet Pensacola, a dance studio I grew up dancing. I love dancing, hanging out with friends, and going to the beach. Pensacola is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches so I spend a lot of my time there. I graduate from UWF in Spring 2016 and plan to attend graduate school for Sports Psychology after that (where at is TBA…)
Why did this program interest you so much?
The Australian Sporting Industry caught my attention as soon as I read Australia and Sport and Psychology. I have grown up always playing sports, but mainly dancing and playing soccer. I love watching football, baseball, soccer, pretty much any sport you can think of. Also, who doesn’t want to go to Australia? It has been a dream of mine to travel and I have never been out of the country, so I figured going somewhere where English was still the main language was a big factor for me. I also want to be a Sports Psychologist and so being able to study abroad and learn about sports and other aspects that will help me with my career seemed almost too good to be true.
So first, your program started in Melbourne and then went to Canberra. Can you tell us about what you did in those cities?
Well first, studying abroad during the summer can be a little tricky. It is summer here in America, so when we arrived in Melbourne and it was a brisk 50ish degrees outside, it caught us all a little off guard. Thankfully we knew it was going to be winter there so we packed accordingly, but once you are used to warm weather for a while, it’s hard to go back into the cold.
In Melbourne, we did and learned SO much! We stayed at hotel right near the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) stadium and only a 10 minute walk to downtown Melbourne. We toured the MCG stadium as well as the Australian Open. Both of these stadiums were massive and held so much history in Australian Sport. We also got to attend an Australian Football League game, which was amazing! AFL is so different than anything in America and I don’t think any of us have ever asked so many questions about a sport. We got to have the whole experience of eating Meat Pies and sporting our teams scarf (Go Crows!) we got before the game when the coaches of the team came out and taught us all about how to play AFL.
While in Melbourne, we also got to tour around the city, and what was nice was that we could walk anywhere we wanted to go so we didn’t have to pay for cabs or anything. Also, we got to tour the Great Ocean Road, which was probably one of my favorite things we did the whole entire trip. Along the tour, we got to see beaches, mountains, Mait’s Restrainforest, and the Twelve Apostles. During the tour, we stopped and actually got to see koalas for the first time! We also got to walk on the beach at shipwreck cove, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever laid my eyes on. Pictures can only capture so much, but seeing the Twelve Apostles and the Shipwreck Cove are two places that I will never let my eyes forget.
Our next stop was Canberra, where our University is located. The classes we are taking are based out of the University of Canberra, but our trip is almost like a “field trip” around Australia, which is a much better way to fully learn about a new culture, instead of sitting in a classroom. The first place we toured was the Parliament House, which was astonishing to just be able to walk in and walk around. Our guide and instructor for the trip, Lennon Wicks, taught us all about Australian government and how it is different than America’s. We stayed at the Australian Institute of Sport where all of the Australian Olympic athletes stay and train. We got to meet Mel Breen, an Australian Olympian who holds the record for the fastest women’s time running the 100m. Every day we had lectures from different faculty and workers at the AIS. We had a nutrition lecture, strength and conditioning lecture, sports physiotherapy lecture, recovery lecture, sport psychology lecture (AMAZING), and many more.
We also got to have sessions with the Australian Women’s Basketball team, where some of the players were only 15 or 16 years old! When we learned about recovery, we did an intense work out session with one of the personal trainers and then got to have a recovery session where we sat in ice baths and massage chairs that help the athletes recover quickly after a game or training session. We also got to eat in the dining area where the athletes eat, so we got to have free breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day while staying in Canberra, and eat like the athletes, so it was always healthy and nutritious. On one of our last days, we toured the University of Canberra and got to see the health hub where Lennon works and teaches. UC is an absolutely beautiful campus and the facilities they have there for exercise science training are incredible.
Next, Sydney. What did you do there?
Sydney was probably my favorite city that I went to while in Australia. It was my favorite because of the old history it held with a modern twist that just captured your attention as soon as you drive into the city. When you get to Sydney, you really feel like you have made it to Australia. We stayed at a Youth Hostel there, which I was nervous of at first, but once we arrived, it was nicer than some hotels I have stayed at over the years! There were a lot of common areas for us all to hang out, and the view from the rooftop where our rooms were was incredible! We had a view of the Sydney Opera House AND the Sydney Harbor Bridge. It was breath-taking. We stayed 4 to a room with bunk beds, but we had a lot of fun because it felt like we were at summer camp and it helped a lot with the clothing situation because all of us girls started sharing clothes! Also, it was a lot warmer in Sydney than it was in Melbourne and Canberra, so that was amazing. It was the perfect 65-70’s during the day and we absolutely loved it.
While in Sydney, we got to go to Rugby game and experience one of the most famous sports in Australia. During the game, we noticed that a lot of the players were wearing this kind of sticker thing behind their ear and we figured out that it was testing how many times during the game that the player’s head got hit, which in Rugby can be a lot… During the one game, we saw maybe 3-4 guys get completely knocked unconscious, but thankfully they all got up and were okay. It was cool to see that they were testing the head contact though, which some of the people in our group were doing their research on. Also while in Sydney, we traveled to the Blue Mountains, which is a national park and once again, just breathtaking. We only had one free day in our short trip in Sydney, so a group of us heading over to Coogee beach and did the famous walk from Coggee beach to Bondi Beach. The walk ended up being around 5 miles and we got to see whales, people surfing, and some other pretty amazing views of the Australian beaches and mountains. Being from Florida, we have the pretty beaches, but no mountains, so here in Australia it seems like you can have it all in one place. Since we had more free time that day, we explored the Sydney Opera house which seemed unreal. When people think of Australia, they think about the Sydney Opera House, and I got to tour it. I felt so lucky to be where I was in that moment.
What did it mean to “travel through the Blue Mountains”?
To “travel through the Blue Mountains” meant exploring and hiking one of Australia’s National Parks, which is just a train ride away from Sydney. I have been to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park in America, and touring the Blue Mountains felt just like being there. The best way to describe the Blue Mountains is to think about the Grand Canyon, but with a ton of trees. One thing I found super interesting about the Blue Mountains was that they got their name from when you look at them off in the distance from Sydney, they look blue because of the mist coming from the eucalyptus trees which refract the light and make a blue haze when seeing them in the distance. Also, another fascinating thing I learned was at a stop named Jameson valley. The valley was technically a canyon and the 2nd biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon. What’s funny though it that this canyon is almost 10 TIMES older than the Grand Canyon, which I found incredible.
One of the most famous parts of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters rock formation. There is a tale that the people tell, which goes that once there were three sisters that were turned to stone by their dad to save them from a cave monster, forming the “Three Sisters” rock formation that stands today. It was absolutely an incredible site to see.
While exploring the Blue Mountains, you can get on and off the tour bus at your pleasure, so during one of the stops, we decided to take a trail to see a waterfall. We got off at stop 16 and were supposed to get picked up at stop 17. Well, we ended up getting lost and not finding the bus stop until stop 19! We walked at least 3-4 miles, but the sights we saw were unbelievable and we were so happy we got lost and found them. We also had a lot of fun on our walk and talked and laughed a lot, which made us even closer as a group.
Then you finished in Cairns to explore the Great Barrier Reef? What else did the group do in Cairns?
Yes, while in Cairns, we took a boat trolley ride to Fitzroy Island where we got the chance to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I will be honest in that I was completely and utterly TERRIFIED the whole time because I am pretty scared of aquatic animals and creatures. There are so many kinds of fish, jellyfish, sharks, and other things that live in those waters and it was so scary to me. Also, breathing out of your mouth with a snorkel, while swimming with flippers, and not being able to stand up because you can’t step on the coral, was quite scary, but oh so rewarding!! While we were swimming and I got over my fear, we actually saw a sea turtle! It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced, being able to swim in the open water with a sea turtle. The coral and all the different kind of fish in the water were an astonishing sight to see. While on the Island, we also got to ride on a glass bottom boat to see more of the reef, paddleboard, and kayak. We had a great time on the island all day!
While in Cairns, our new instructors for this part of the trip, Nick and Sara, told us that Aussie’s work hard so that they can play hard, so while we were in Cairns, we were to learn how Aussie’s play! That is why we got to go to the Great Barrier Reef, go parasailing, white water rafting, and explore the city and shops. We got to stay in an apartment type of hotel where we actually had a kitchen and living room, so we got to shop for groceries and have an area we could all hang out and watch TV, which was really nice to have.
We also went to the zoo and I GOT TO HOLD A KOALA! Better yet, the Koala’s name was Cooper!! Cooper is one of my favorite names ever and I got to hold a Koala named Cooper… How amazing is that? We also got so close to kangaroos that we all took selfies with them and they were all so nice.
In Cairns, we also toured the Tjapukai, home to the Aborigines, who were the very first inhabitants in Australia. Here we learned all about their culture and their way of life, which is very different than the modern Australian’s today. They taught us how to throw a boomerang, a huge arrow to hunt, and put on a show for us where they played the big Didgeridoo (a wind instrument created by the indigenous Australians). It was very cool to learn all about their culture and get hands on experience in their way of life. Instead of just reading about it in a book, the Aborigines taught us about their culture, which is much more valuable to me.
One day in Cairns, we learned about life saving, which are volunteer lifeguards. They taught us all about the dangers in the water and the best way to be safe while swimming in Australia. We learned about the box jellyfish, which are deadly if you get stung and can be 6 feet long, and other types of jellyfish that are the size of your pinky fingernail that can also lead to death if not treated correctly. We were all scared to get in the water, but we learned if you swim between the flags, with a buddy, and are careful, you would be okay. Also, since we were there during the winter season, a lot of the jellyfish, sharks, and crocodiles that swim in the waters aren’t in season.
Also in Cairns, we got to go White Water Rafting, which I had never done before. My biggest fear was that I was going to fall out of the boat, but thankfully I didn’t and we actually made it through all of the rapids without any of us falling out. We had such a fun time on the trip down the river and we all got really close from having to work as a team all day. On our last day in Cairns, we all relaxed at the pool by the beach and had a group dinner, which was fun but sad because we were so sad to be leaving each other and Australia.
How were the instructors for The University of Canberra’s Discipline of Sport and Exercise Science department?
The instructors for the UC Sport and Exercise department were amazing and so helpful with teaching us not only about our classes and Australian sport, but also about Australian life and culture. Lennon Wicks was with us during the whole trip, except for Cairns, and he taught us so much about what being an Australian means. He was a great teacher, but almost like a dad too, and wanted us to have fun and he watched out for us. He would eat breakfast with all of us every morning and ask us how our research was going and talk to us about Australian sport, his job, and answer any questions that we had. When we got to Cairns, Nick and Sara joined the team and were also incredible instructors for the trip. Nick was super nice and very helpful in talking with us about Australia and what he experienced in coming to Australia from England. Sara was always there to keep everything on time and in order and Nick was super helpful in talking about jobs and Australian life. We all loved having the instructors with us during the trip because they taught us about what living in Australia is like as well as teach us about the Australian sporting industry from a first hand experience of people that work with athletes everyday, which is something we would not have gotten without them with us.
What did you learn about the Australian Sporting Industry that you would have never known had you not done this program?
If I had never done this program, I would never have been able to attend an Australian Football game with my own eyes, learn how to throw and kick the AFL ball that they use in the game, attend an Australian Rugby game, or meet Mel, the Olympian, and watch her train and work in the way that Australian Olympic athletes do everyday. Everything that I want to do with Sport Psychology I got to experience FIRST HAND while in Australia, being used in everyday life, which I would never have been able to experience just reading out of a book. Words can’t even describe how amazing of an experience it was to attend our first AFL game. We really felt immersed in another culture by eating Meat Pies, watching the games, seeing how the fans interact with each other during the games, and being able to compare that to games back in the United States.
You really cannot get a feel for how something is done or practiced without experiencing it first hand, so going to this program, I got to learn the ins and out of the Australian Sporting Industry with my own eyes. Instead of just looking at pictures of the MCG Stadium, I got to touch the turf with my own feet and sit in the seats surrounded by hundreds of Australians rooting for their favorite team. Instead of reading about the Australian Institute of Sport, I got to learn from the faculty, eat and sleep like an athlete, play basketball on the same courts the Men and Women’s basketball teams play, workout in the same gym athletes train in everyday, and take an ice bath in the same waters Australian Olympians have taken ice baths after a game or hard workout. These experiences and being able to experience them with my own eyes, feet, and hands, can never be taken away from me and could NOT have been experienced without the Australian Sporting Industry Study Abroad Program.
How are you going to take back what you’ve learned to the States?
I will be using my research I did on Sport Psychology in Australia vs. America in conjunction with my research I did in my senior year of school, and onto graduate school when I study Sport Psychology. When I attend graduate school and talk to other students about Sport Psychology, I won’t have just taken a class and learned about psychology in sports. Instead, I can say that I went to Australia, trained next to athletes that use Sport Psychology everyday in their training, and learned from my research that I did while studying abroad. Going abroad, studying, and learning about another culture is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life, and I encourage anyone that wants to study abroad to just do it!
Fill out any scholarship that you can and just go. No one has ever traveled abroad and said “Ugh I wish I hadn’t done that”. Especially going to Australia with this program, I got to experience all of the types of weather Australia has (cold, warm, rain, and sunshine), travel along the whole entire East coast, and fly for the first time over seas for 16 hours! I will also take back all of the friendships I made with the people on the trip with me. I even keep in touch with some locals I met in Australia, so if I ever go back, I will have friends to call and see. This is what makes an experience so special to me is what you can learn from the people you are with while experiencing something so fascinating like traveling throughout Australia for the first time together. I will take what I have learned and tell anyone and everyone that I can because I cherish my memories so much that I believe the world should know how amazing of a program I was lucky enough to attend.
The world awaits… discover it.