Woman sitting at desk, fabric hangings on the wall behind, laptop, papers, and phone in front of her on the desk.

Exchange Programs Across the World

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Jada Martin interviewed visiting professor of journalism Katherine Roff. Coincidentally, both Jada’s story and Kate’s story have both been previously featured in our collection.

Woman writing on chalk board
Kate Roff teaches news writing in the journalism program at Oakland University. Photo by Jada Martin, October 2019.

JM: Describe where you grew up. What was your life like there?

KR: I grew up in Geraldton, Western Australia. It’s a small(ish) coastal town – small enough for everyone to know each other but big enough to feel like a city. We spent a lot of time barefoot at the beach, playing sports (field hockey and tennis), and never drove more than 10 minutes to get anywhere.

JM: Why and how did you leave? Where did you go?

KR: After graduating high school at 17, I went to Thailand on a Rotary exchange program, where I lived with host families for a year. It changed my life. It was such a great experience to be immersed in another culture, learn the language, and appreciate a totally different part of the world from my own. When I returned, I went to university in Perth, the capital of Western Australia.

Woman sitting at desk, fabric hangings on the wall behind, laptop, papers, and phone in front of her on the desk.
Kate Roff prepares for her journalism course at Oakland University. Photo credit Jada Martin, October, 2019.

JM: Who came with you? Who did you leave behind? Why?

KR: Many of my friends from high school attended the same university, but we lived on campus and met students from all over the world – including my future husband, who was on an exchange program from Michigan Tech. We’ve lived in several other countries since then, and have settled in Michigan with our two young sons. My family remains in Australia, my parents and siblings, along with my closest friends, but Australians love to travel so we are fortunate to have lots of visitors here.

JM: What did you bring with you? What did you leave behind? Why?

KR: While living in New Zealand, my husband and I bought an antique dining table, and then realized that we had entered the adult stage of shipping all our furniture everywhere we went. It’s an intense process, but at least I don’t have to leave all my books behind, I would be sad to part with them.

JM: How did you feel when you left?

KR: It’s a bitter-sweet feeling. I love new adventures and have a serious case of wanderlust, but I know how easy the lifestyle is in Australia, and I knew I would miss that.

JM: Describe how your life is different where you live now.

KR: I have to say the pace of life here is like no other we have experienced; Michigan doesn’t do things in halves. Sometimes that’s intense, but I love that our little family gets to experience elaborate holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween, white Christmases, and the diverse seasons we have here. Fall is my favourite (yes, the spelling here is different too).

Woman smiles standing by podium that says Oakland University.
Kate Roff stays after class in October, 2019, to answer questions about assignments. Photo by Jada Martin.

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