Updated: Feb 17, 2020
On January 10th, 2020 I left the United States to embark on a journey that would leave me with a lifetime of priceless memories. The days leading up to the trip I felt that this experience would be good for me. I didn’t know that it would change me in the ways it did. I got to study abroad for two weeks in Brisbane, Australia and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Prior to coming on the trip, I was scared, anxious, and worried that I was about to make one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I was going to be all the way around the world from my family and I knew nobody else coming onto the trip. What was I going to do without my family being a 3-hour drive away? They were literally a 2 day flight away. While I’ve always yearned for independence, I’ve never been brave enough to take that initial leap of faith to have it. This opportunity to study abroad was that initial leap of faith that I needed to take to start my journey into independence. I was going to be on my own in a foreign country with people that I don’t know, that’s life. When you’re out of college, you’re in a foreign world where you have to be an adult and become self-sufficient. I know that I will struggle with that and that it will be a learning experience for me. I am equally scared and excited for that day. When my dad dropped me off at JFK to embark on my journey, I had a funny feeling that my life was going to change in ways I didn’t think were possible. It did, and I loved it.
When I landed in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia on January 12th, 2020, at 5:30 am Brisbane time. That is crazy, I was 15 hours ahead of all of my friends and family. The first day was an orientation day and getting us situated with the campus and each other. There were 10 of us taking this class and I was eager to get to know all of them. We were staying at the University of Queensland (UQ) and we were a part of the Sustainable Minerals Institute. UQ is one the best universities in the world and it is so beautiful. We stayed in their dorms, and it was similar to living in an apartment. There were 3-4 people in each apartment, and everyone had their own bedrooms. Each apartment came with one bathroom, shower, laundry machine, and tiny kitchenette. It was cute and I loved living there for 2 weeks. My professor actually taught at UQ for about 5 years before coming to Delaware, so he knew a ton about Brisbane and the university. He had so many connections within the city and it was awesome learning about the culture with his guidance. An interesting part about Australia is that our seasons are opposite, so our winter is their summer. When I went to Australia, it was summer time so the students at UQ were on summer break and it was warm there. The entire first day I was so jetlagged and tired. While I was trying to get to know everyone, I was also trying to keep my eyes open. I never experienced jetlag before, and it was hard. I ended up going to bed at like 8pm and then waking up at 5 am the following morning.
The jetlag sucked for the first few days. Even with it sucking, I still had a blast. For my first breakfast in Australia, I got to try Vegemite. It was pretty good. I slathered butter on the bread and then put a little bit of Vegemite. The best way to describe Vegemite is that it is salty and strong with an odd aftertaste. I tend to like things that not everyone likes and dislike things that are commonly liked. Vegemite is disliked by many, but I liked it. I don’t know if I would eat it in the states, but it was worth the try while in Australia. After trying Vegemite for the first time, I went to my class.
The class I was taking in Australia was about the sociological and ecological impacts of mining. Our focus was the Sand Mining on North Stradbroke Island and the impact it has on the Aboriginal population. North Stradbroke Island is an island with a population that is majority Aboriginal people. On the 5th day of the program, everyone got to go this island and it was so beautiful. By far the most beautiful place I have ever visited and the entire time I was on this island, I was in awe. We went to the beach, went on a hike around the beach, saw a sacred lake, and met a bunch of aboriginals. Prior coming onto the trip, I knew next to nothing about the Aboriginals. Learning about their culture was so intriguing because they use nature for everything. They use certain leaves, plants, and oils to cure illnesses. The lake that I went to people swim at in the beginning of the winter to prevent themselves from getting sick. It’s a lake that’s antiseptic and has all of these things that clean people. It was so captivating, and I got to learn about the Aboriginal communities in Queensland.
The mining aspect of my class was eye-opening as well. There are so many layers and components that go into mining. It inspired me to think differently and to be more open on certain issues because sometimes we don’t know the full picture of something. For this reason, I genuinely loved going to my class every day. My professor treated us like we were equals and he showed us Australia with the upmost excitement all of the time.
Every day he took us on a cultural experience and showed us a new part of Brisbane. The first day we went to this place called Kangaroo Point and I thought that I was going to see some Kangaroos while going here. That was not the case, but it was beautiful. To get there we took this thing called a CityCat, which is this ferry in Brisbane. It was awesome because the entire city of Brisbane is based around the river so we got to see the entire skyline of the city via this ferry. I fell in love with Brisbane on this trip to Kangaroo Point. The following day we went to one of the many Botanical Gardens and a lookout that looks over the entire city of Brisbane. I didn’t think it was possible to fall more in love with a city, but I did. There is so much beauty in Brisbane. I loved exploring it. Every day we spent in the city, I grew a new level of appreciation for it.
Brisbane is strategically laid out. There are walking bridges, buses have their own roads, bikers and walkers can avoid car traffic because they have certain paths. There is so much nature embedded within the city. It’s not this concrete jungle that most cities in the US feel like. I am not a city person, but I loved being in the city of Brisbane. They have these streets where it’s filled with stores and is solely meant for pedestrians. It’s most comparable to Times Square in New York City, but it’s better than Times Square in my opinion.
My favorite points on the trip were related to seeing Koalas. I loved seeing a Koala and taking a selfie with it while it was in its natural habitat. It was right after we spent an hour on this GORGEOUS beach called Cylinder Beach. I dipped my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this beach. Side note, but we went on a hike and we saw this beautiful sandstone. The day that I took a selfie with a Koala was an amazing day. Almost every souvenir that I have from Australia has a Koala on it. The best day of my trip was sadly the last. On that day, I got to hold a Koala. Three other students from my program and I went to this Koala Sanctuary and we all spent around $30 to hold and take a picture with a Koala. As I was holding my precious Koala, it pooped on my hands twice and I felt that it was telling me I should be one of them. I am not exaggerating. Having that Koala in my hands was the best experience of my life. I felt like I was higher than cloud nine, it felt that I was on top of the universe. After the legendary Koala experience, we all went to hang out with some Kangaroos. I took some cool selfies with an emu and a few Kangaroos. I loved that day.
Every day during my program, I took it upon myself to do at least one new cultural experience. Whether it was embarking on a new experience with my class, going to the street mall, taking the CityCat, trying a new food that’s not found in America, or talking to an Australian. I loved it. Talking to Australians was so cool, not only am I OBSESSED with their accent but I learned a lot about Australia through them. I learned about Australia’s education system, politics, food, and culture. Australia’s culture is about being humble and they don’t like people who show off or brag. I loved that. As I met and spoke with more Australians, I found that to be true. Australians are humble, caring, and they know so much about all of the animals around them. Literally, there would be a python roaming across the street and Australians wouldn’t blink twice. If that happened in America, there is a high likelihood that an American would freak out, scream, and potentially cry. I know I would do that. Pythons are SCARY.
Overall, my time in Australia was amazing. I loved exploring a whole new culture on the opposite end of the world. I felt that this trip transformed me as a person. I forced myself to be more open and not as judgmental. As well as I used this trip to see if I actually accepted myself for who I am, and if I was comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t want to prove myself to people by putting on a fake persona of myself like I’ve done so in the past. Honestly, it was challenging at times, but I did a good job at it. The friendships I’ve made on the trip are things that I hope would last for a lifetime. Everyone on the trip is a genuinely good person, and even if I never see them again, I wish the best for them. Accepting who I am is an ongoing challenge that I MUST take day by day as I am constantly evolving and changing as a person. This trip showed me that I can be myself, grow, and that leaving my comfort zone will lead to good things. I matured a lot as a person through this trip, and I cannot wait until the next time I go abroad.
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