Student reflects on life in Australia


During my freshman year at Gannon, I debated back and forth about a million times whether I should study abroad or not. Eventually, I convinced myself that studying abroad would only take me away from my friends, cost a lot of money and put me behind academically.
I tried to put it out of my head, but the summer following that year I encountered Australia everywhere — on television, in books I was reading, in casual conversation. Could this be a sign?
I took it as the universe or God telling me I needed to take a semester in Australia, and I have never been happier to have followed my gut in my lifetime. I did not know what to expect out of this experience besides a 26-hour time difference from home, warm weather and spiders — of which I am terrified. However, what I actually found in Australia was a new sense of self, and a confidence I had never possessed before.
I have never been good at small talk or making new friends quickly, but being alone in a foreign country forces you to do just that. Before I knew it, I met roommates and other people living in my building, and they now have become close friends. I must admit, most are American, so that made things a little easier.
I have also met people from Norway, the Netherlands, Singapore, China, South Korea, Canada and countless other countries, in addition to Australians of course. I did not expect to encounter so many cultures in a country I considered very Westernized, but just being here has given me a completely different worldview.
Studying abroad has also given me a totally new sense of independence and confidence in myself. My 27-hour flight to Australia was the first flight I had ever taken alone, so I was quite apprehensive.
Now, I book flights and rental cars all on my own, as well as manage my money and ride public transportation with ease; I also organized my own phone plan and bank account abroad. I don’t believe I have ever matured so rapidly in such a short span of time.
Finally, Australia has taught me to adopt a love of travel and adventure. Before coming here, I saw skydiving and bungee jumping as something that only a wild thrill-seeker would do because honestly, I didn’t understand the point. Can you guess who can check both off her bucket list now?
I have a completely new sense of appreciation for nature and have hiked several mountains and sought out natural wonders, such as those present on the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne. I love walking through a new city, encountering the people and appreciating the complex architecture and rich history present in each of them, such as the iconic Opera House in Sydney.
I’ve seen wild emus, koalas and kangaroos, and I have gone swimming with fish the size of me in the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has taught me how to live, whereas before I was content to just “get by,” always looking to the next big thing.
Overall, I believe studying abroad changes people for the better, whether the change is expected or not. I largely based my decision to go to Australia off a feeling, and I have been transformed more than I could have imagined.
It is difficult to leave behind the familiarity and comfort of home, which is what almost stopped me from going in the first place. However, I know that this experience has changed my path and outlook on life for good, and that is something for which I will be forever grateful.

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