Writing about an experience like this is an extremely hard task to do because of all the amazing things I was able to take part in. The easiest place to start is at the beginning of this unfamiliar adventure. It all started with my Geography and World Studies Professors. The one professor introduced me to the studying abroad fair and the other professor was able to study abroad in Australia. Fast forward a year and there I was, flying across the world to a very unfamiliar place. I was feeling very nervous because I had never been that far from home by myself, and knowing I will be away for almost half a year.
When I landed the first thing that hit me was the beautiful scenery of this huge continent, and the warm weather. I was also able to meet some of the other students who were also studying abroad. It was a surprise to see how many students from around the U.S there were. I loved being able to meet everyone and to see how different and similar people were from my home country. Driving to Southern Cross University in Lismore really opened my eyes. I couldn’t believe the country side of rolling hills and the green landscape everywhere you look. Being able to see the vast ocean in the background tied all the beauty together.
Lismore is also a very cool city, our accommodation was on top of a big hill overlooking the surrounding land. One of the most exciting things to do while living in Lismore is to explore the area. They have tons of little shops and cafes to eat at but I liked the late night kebab shop called the best but the trick to getting this meal is to stay out late because it is only open late at night so we would stop on our way to the clubs. The clubs were very new to me, mainly because I am not the greatest dancer. The clubs definitely made me into a dancer, not a very good one, but I can bend my knees and shake my behind a little more now. Another great feature of Lismore is all the little secret areas they have in the country side – there are lots of little waterholes and waterfalls. There are some awesome places to swim in, the rest you will have to find out.
A great feature of Lismore is its location near the coast so you have the chance to go wherever you want went traveling. A short drive to the Gold Coast if you want to take a flight to another beautiful area, there is a train station only 30 minutes away that will take you up and down the entire county, and if you just want a day at the beach the drive will only take you around 45 minutes. There are definitely a few places you must go see while in Australia. Sydney being one of the most iconic places in Australia is only a cheap flight away. Everything there was a new site for me. There was so much to do there. The Opera house was my favorite thing to see, it really hit me how lucky I was when I saw that.
The Great Ocean Road was something I did not expect to see but it was amazing. Driving along the south coast stopping whenever we saw something we wanted to go see. The Twelve Apostles were a sight I will never forget. It is something you must see because there are only seven left because of the eroding coast line. You might also get to see some whales and penguins if you’re lucky. I also had the chance to go north and visit the Great Barrier Reef. The day was cloudy and rainy day which made for an interesting boat ride to the reef. Lots of people were sea sick which made the whole experience a little funnier. Even though the weather was overcast, once I jumped into the water it all changed. The colors from the reef and fish just popped. Swimming around these magnificent structures and very unique fish makes you never want to get out. But, then you hear there are sharks swimming around the area and so best not to stay in too long. But it really was one of the best experiences of my life. After the Great Barrier Reef we drove down the coast and stopped at some unbelievable places like natural waterslides. We stopped at a place called Whitsunday. The best day of my life was about to happen when we arrived here. The day started with us taking off into the ocean with jet skis. We jet skied around the Whitsunday islands, stopping at one in particular to have lunch and have a marine biologist talk to us about various things you would see in the ocean. We also had the opportunity to feed sting rays and other fish. Most of the day consisted of us shredding up the ocean, taking pictures and swimming in the middle of the ocean. It is definitely impossible to keep yourself from smiling when on a jet ski.
Something that is always there for you is the amazing Southern Cross Campus. The campus has got to be one of the most unique campuses I have seen. It was on giant hill with lots of bush. You never know when you’re going to see a big lizard crawl by or even a wallaby hop off. If you are lucky you might even see a koala or if you’re unlucky a snake. The campus has an amazing library and a plaza where they give free lunches every Wednesday. The plaza always seemed to have something fun going on and they always had a live singer or band playing. They also had a bar and restaurant called the unibar that overlooked the oval where they would play rugby and other social events. Behind the oval was very peaceful pond area with a koala sanctuary next to it.
My favorite part about Australia were the people. With their awesome accents and caring personalities there wasn’t a person you couldn’t like. The other international kids studying abroad were also very nice and everyone seemed excited to meet everyone and share some stories about themselves. When I arrived, I was very excited, until I found out I was living with five other girls. I was terrified because the only girl I have ever lived with was my mom. I ended up loving it so much. All the girls I lived with were so nice, caring, and fun to hang out with. We all bonded pretty well and we made some lifelong relationships. I ended up taking a road trip with four other girls and me. I was nervous to spend a week in a tiny car with all girls and be sleeping in tent in some random areas. Sleeping in a tent in Australia can be very fun and a little scary with all the creepy noises you hear. But seeing the night sky with stars is a sight you will never forget. It looks very different than it does in the states.
The most important relationship I made was with the best RA ever - Dean Santi. We didn’t become best friends right off the bat but we ended up spending everyday together playing basketball and chilling. Dean and our two friends or sisters as we called them, took a road trip to Cairns and we spent most of the time in a van packed with us four. We cooked and slept in that van and we would sleep in some strange positions in some sketchy areas. You become very close to people when you are forced to sleep back to back to back to back with them.
Without a doubt studying in Australia was the best decision I have ever made. I was able to learn a lot about a different continent and myself. I became more independent and learned how to travel light and cheap. Studying abroad in Australia allows you to see one of the most beautiful countries up close and personal. You also get to live in a culture that has many differences. It is the most laid back, exciting, and adventurous place on earth. It was worth every penny and I know I am going back there. One thing I will always cherish is the relationships I have made with everyone from Australia and all the other kids studying abroad. Making relationships with people in Australia will make it the best experience of your life.