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Britt - Australia

There are days when I feel that I could write hundreds of pages about my four and a half month journey through Australia, and then there are other times where I struggle to find even a single word to describe my trip. Having had the opportunity to travel frequently in my life I thought I would be more prepared for my time abroad.  I was wrong.  Stepping off the plane on the Gold Coast of Australia in late August 2004 was an extremely surreal moment, as I prepared for my semester at Bond University.  Finally having the opportunity to do something I’d been dreaming about for years was a scary and exciting experience.  Realizing that I was thousands of miles from home and completely alone was not the most comforting feeling, but it wasn’t terrifying either.  In a way it was reassuring to know that at least if I had to be alone I could be “alone” with the 50 other students in my program (Australearn), who were also thousands of miles from home without a familiar face in sight. 

During my time in Australia I was able to take two trips to the Great Barrier Reef, sail through the Whitsunday Islands , and see the sights of Sydney , Brisbane , Melbourne , and Perth . Throughout the semester I also drove the Great Ocean Road, camped on Frasier Island, and hiked, kayaked, and bungee jumped my way through  New Zealand all while learning not only about myself, but about the friends I made along the way.  Surfing on some of the best beaches in the world, swimming alongside dolphins and whale watching were all part of my daily life outside of attending interesting classes with engaging professors that forced me to look beyond my “American” way of thinking.

To say that studying abroad changed my outlook on life is an understatement.  From the relationships I developed with my peers, teachers, and fellow travelers, to the cultural experiences and understanding I gained from countless trips, local outings, and conversations, I can honestly say that almost every aspect of my daily life has been impacted in some way.  Some are major things, like having a greater cultural awareness and sensitivity, and some are seemingly smaller things, like not being so loud (a surefire way for people to pick out the Americans in a crowd).  I have learned the importance of packing light and always wearing a smile, and that although Australians speak English, their use of very unfamiliar slang and love of saying the opposite of what they really mean sometimes creates a slight language barrier. 

Looking back it seems that my expectations for studying abroad were never really realistic.  Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how amazing and impactful the entire experience would be.  At its best, my trip was mind-blowing.  At its worst, it was incredible.  Although I may sometimes have a hard time expressing exactly what my semester abroad meant to me and how it impacted my life I know that I will always be able to recall the countless memories and lessons learned with great ease, fondness, and laughter.


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