O-H-I-O: On-the-job training in Australia
Stewart glimpses her future during exercise science internship in far places
Blue skies, a warm breeze, a morning jog along the Brisbane River, followed by a ferry ride to work is how Rachel Stewart begins her weekday mornings in Queensland, Australia. The Ohio State senior from Loveland, Ohio, has embarked on her first experience abroad 9,100 miles away from the Buckeye State. The exercise science major in the College of Education and Human Ecology is finishing a 450-hour internship with UQ Sports.
The academy is a strength and conditioning company, based at the University of Queensland, that provides services to both the campus and local community.
Stewart is one of two students from Ohio State awarded the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward the cost of study abroad or international internships.
“With this internship, I get to work with all types of athletes at all different competition levels, in regards to their strength and conditioning training components,” Stewart said. “This study abroad experience allows me to apply what I have learned in the classroom.”
Keeping Paralympians strong, conditioned
On a typical day, Stewart usually has a two-to-three-hour training session with the Australian Paralympic wheelchair rugby team. Then she heads back to the office to complete data entry, program planning and research.
Another block of training is scheduled for early evenings, when she might work with a rowing team, swimming club, rugby league team or Paralympic boccia players.
As part of her internship, Stewart runs lab tests – the same ones she learned in her exercise physiology class when she helped to design strength and conditioning programs for different athletes.
“My favorite part of the internship has been getting to work with incredible people, both my coworkers – who have been in the business for a long time – and the athletes. I even got to hold an Olympic gold medal, and it was much heavier than it looked.”
Embracing life Down Under
During her four-month stay in Australia, Stewart is basking in myriad cultural experiences. Her roommates are from Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan and Austria. She has become a fan of sports that Ozzies love: rugby, boccia (a bowling game similar to bocce), netball (similar to basketball) and cricket.
Stewart admits that she continues to remind herself to walk on the left side of the sidewalk rather than the right side, as is done in the United States. She has adapted to the Australian accent, though, and has even begun to understand many common slang words.
“Overall, this experience has been amazing; I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “Because I didn’t come here through a traditional study abroad program with a faculty member, it has taught me how independent I am, and how capable I am of doing whatever I set my mind to.”
She will have a few weeks to explore and travel throughout the continent before returning home. A road trip will take her from Cairns to Melbourne and a few places in between.
As she prepares to graduate from Ohio State in May 2015, Stewart plans to continue her studies and become a licensed physical therapist. “The knowledge I have gained from the strength and conditioning aspect,” she explained, “as well as interacting with a wide variety of people and populations, can all be directly incorporated into what I will be doing as a PT.”
But at least for the next few weeks as Stewart completes her internship, she will concentrate on learning as much as possible.
“Being here has taught me to not take anything for granted, so I jump at every opportunity that arises, whether it’s work, travel or personal,” she said. “When you realize how big the country is and all you want to do or see, the time you have just never seems to be enough.”