“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Recently, I came across this quote on a travel blog and fell in love with it, though as an English major, perhaps I should have recognized it beforehand.
One reason it’s taken me so long to write this post, I think, is because it is difficult to summarize three weeks that were so crucial to my life, as well as my mindset. Traveling to Australia, along with the events that transpired there, was life changing. Struggling with which side of the aisle to walk on in the supermarket or getting in the opposite side of the car reflected how new everything on this journey was to me.
The moment I met up with all of the students at the airport, I knew I had come across a wonderful group of people. Equally reassuring, was hearing how all their concerns matched my own:
“I was so worried everyone would already know each other.”
“Do you think they’ll turn us away if we fucked up applying for the visa?”
“How will we survive a 28 hour flight?”
I don’t think many of us could complain about the last one though, after we reached our destination.
In an interview I did for my university’s career services blog, I suggested that studying abroad reminded me that human beings are always looking for similar things: friendship, new connections, and great experiences. In other words, we should never be afraid to ask for help.
Some highlights from my trip include trips to the pubs, clubs, and shops in the city of Melbourne, taking surfing lessons at Bells Beach, free jet ski rides, after some of the girls and I asked two older men (sorry mom and dad, if you’re reading this!) if we could hop on their jet skis with them, partying with one of the happiest elderly men I have ever met at a Gelati shop, going on a wine tour, taking a fourteen hour tour along the breathtaking Great Ocean Road and to see the Twelve Apostles, petting kangaroos at the sanctuary, and, of course, finally meeting Adam, the penpal I had been corresponding with nearly every day, two months before my trip.
I can thank Adam for teaching me that drop bears are merely fictional and are not in fact the koalas’ evil second cousin, that Australians have no such thing as road rage “Give way mate!” when a car got in our way, was as extreme as he got, and that Australians think, or, perhaps we are, that Americans are the most gullible people on Earth.
Thanks to Adam, aside from a tour of Melbourne with him on the first night (when I mistakenly got in on the wrong side of the car), I got to see the beautiful Sky High, where we had a picnic and watched the sunset, to see Chelsea beach, to go to Philip Island with him, where the penguins come out at night, and where we had fish and chips on the beach, an Aussie classic, and, he took a group of us on a tour around Melbourne, where we had our first parmas (a bit like a Panini).
Saying goodbye to such an incredible group of people, including the students on the trip, our “buddies,” who were Australian students at the school we studied at, and Adam, wasn’t easy, though those of us who live in the New Jersey/New York area are already planning a reunion. As for Adam, I told him I’d see him in New York.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” – A.A. Milne
*** I’d like to dedicate this post to my Grandpa J, who passed away while I was abroad. My aunt told me that before he passed away, he would pull out his iPad to show her the photos of me on my trip that my mom sent to him, which of course brought a smile to my face. Thanks to his help, I got to go on this trip. My grandpa was one of the biggest influences in my life and I’d like to thank him for that, as well as for always being one of my biggest supporters. He was a modern-day hero. My parents told me that while on the trip, I should say, “This is for you grandpa!” each time I did something new. We used to spend hours together naming parks when I was a little girl and my grandparents would watch me while my parents were at work; each time I saw a park in Australia, I took a photo for him. I would like to think that he got to experience my trip. I love you grandpa! ***
Has anyone else been to The Land Down Under or studied abroad in general? I’d love to hear about your experiences!