They say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer. After spending nearly half a year abroad immersing myself in new cultures and experiencing life in a whole new manner I must agree, travel does make you richer in ways I never could have anticipated.
There I was, February 11th, 2016 boarding my flight to Australia to study abroad at the University of Melbourne. Behind I left my family, my friends, my home, and most importantly my comfort zone. On the long flight I found myself thinking up scenarios of what my time abroad in Australia might bring. Would I make new friends? Would I like the food? Would I get homesick? The uncertainty of it all left me nervous but also with an overwhelming feeling of excitement for the endless possibilities that laid ahead. Now June 24th, 2016 reflecting back on my time here it is easy to see I am no longer the same nervous girl who boarded the plane that day but rather an enhanced version of her once self.
My time abroad has made me realize my own strength and how independent I am capable of being. There I was in a new and unfamiliar environment where I didn’t know anyone and I was thriving. Being 10,400 miles away from home experiencing life in a whole new culture surrounded by foreign people, places, and things can be overwhelming at times but it is the exact thing that I have valued most about my time abroad as it has led to great personal growth and development for me.
Luckily though for me Australia has introduced me to friends I’ll have for life because everyone needs a shoulder to lean on from time to time no matter how independent they’ve become. Being in a country surrounded by such extraordinary things can really help you to appreciate the simple things in life. Some of my favorite memories I have from Australia are the nights spent with friends making late night runs to the convenience store to grab Caramello Koalas followed by a good movie night in. With the connections I have made abroad I now have a couch to crash on in various cities within many countries and would return the favor right back any day.
Here in Australia I learned to prioritize. Being abroad meant limited time and money to do everything I wanted to do. While here I set the goal for myself to continuously step outside of my comfort zone. Simply boarding a plane to a foreign country wasn’t enough. I wanted to relentlessly try new things, to challenge myself both physically and mentally to aid in continuous growth. I lived in the CBD of Melbourne, the heart of the city. While I could have filled my months here in the city with ease never getting bored, I was determined to extend my travels even further. This meant traveling within Melbourne, learning how to use the tram and train systems paired with travel outside of Melbourne and Australia itself for that matter.
In my short time here I managed to venture off to:
- Byron Bay
- Mornington Peninsula
- Sovereign Hill
- The Great Ocean Road
- The whole South Island of New Zealand
- Phillip Island
- The Great Barrier Reef
- The Grampians
- The Yarra Valley
- St. Kilda
- Brighton Beach
- And many other suburbs of Melbourne itself
In each of these places I found myself trying new things embracing the unique culture that embodied each place. I learned the true value of being curious and not judgemental when it comes to unfamiliar things. I took that curiosity and ran with it using it to gain insight into my surroundings and all they had to offer.
I embraced the aboriginal culture of Australia’s natives learning about their unique history from none other than two natives of the area: Munji and Cockatoo Paul.
I experienced Anzac Day, a day commemorating the anniversary of the first major military war fought by both Australia and New Zealand in the First World War. This day also seeks to remember those who have died in combat. I attended the Dawn Service, a very special and honorary event to have been able to experience first hand.
I learned to embrace the relaxed culture that encompasses Australia. ‘Too easy’ along with ‘no worries’ are familiar phrases you hear often. While Australians may speak English, there are times I was convinced they were speaking their very own language. Here are some of my favorite Australian slang words:
- Good on ya (Good for you/ Job well done)
- No worries/ Too easy
- Ripper (Great/ Fantastic)
- Going Off (Used when the ‘party’ is good)
- Sook (A timid, boring, cowardly person)
- Ranga (Someone with red hair)
- Your Shout (Your turn to buy a round for the group)
- Keen (very interested)
I became acquainted with Australian culture through a variety of forms, taking advantage of numerous outlets. I attended the National Gallery of Victoria, Exhibits on 200 Years of Australian Fashion, as well as the Melbourne Museum, Aquarium, and zoo.
I observed street art (music and mixed media) produced by local artists in the heart of the city.
I indulged in new and unfamiliar foods to me.
I dove head first into the Australian sports culture attending AFL footy games time and time again. (Go Saints! #27 Josh Bruce has my heart forever.)
I experienced the learning culture through the University of Melbourne. Here I even took classes unrelated to my major such as Human Behavior and Environment. (Spoiler alert: it ended up being my favorite college-level class to date.)
I spent a great deal of time living in hostels as I traveled. These places brought backpackers from all over the world spanning across all age groups. I was quick to learn that everyone has a story so unique to your own. Each person was on their own journey for their own reasons. While my time spent getting to know these individuals was brief it was always insightful, altering my view of the world with each person met and each story told.
In my travels I challenged myself both physically and mentally, constantly stepping outside of my comfort zone, overcoming fears along the way. This included partaking in activities such as:
- Hang gliding
- Hiking glaciers
- Riding in a helicopter
- Mountain Biking
- Sea Kayaking
While yes I came here to Australia to study at the University of Melbourne, I have left with the realization that traveling and experiencing life outside of a textbook has taught me the most out of everything. I learned more traveling and seeing the world first hand than I have in my many years of sitting in a classroom. Through these experiences I have gained a more worldly view that has opened my eyes and mind to everything around me. I now see how interconnected our world is and the opportunities it offers if you are open minded enough to let them in. If I could offer one piece of advice to take away from my own experience it would be never underestimate the power of travel. Spending your money on experiences will leave you rich in ways you could never expect.
Until next time,
Cheers Australia, you’ll always be my home away from home.