“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain
Making the Decision
Being able to travel abroad is an amazing opportunity. Being able to study abroad? Well it doesn’t get much better then that. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t wait around for your friends to do it with you. Studying abroad is all about pushing yourself to try new things and meet new people. Don’t be afraid, there are tons of people more than happy to help you through the process and answer any questions you have. Everyone at OIEP is super friendly so visit their office and ask any of the questions you have. Take the risk. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
It took me more than one try for me to commit to studying abroad. My original plan was to spend the summer following my sophomore year in Sydney, Australia. I sent my application in and awaited a reply from the International Education office. At this point studying abroad was just a thought in my mind that I wasn’t completely committed to. I had planned on spending a summer abroad mainly because I was afraid to leave my friends at Oswego behind and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the shenanigans that often occur each semester in Oswego. However, when the time came for me to accept my offer to spend the summer abroad, I soon realized that this wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Summer sessions are much shorter than full semester sessions and our summer is actually Australia’s winter. It was then that I realized that I needed to make this decision for myself. I couldn’t let old friends keep me from making new ones and experiencing new things in different places. Although I will miss the friends I have become so close to in Oswego, I know that they will be there when I come back and I know that I have made a decision that I couldn’t be happier with. I am about to embark on the journey of a lifetime that I will never forget.
Let the Countdown Begin:
Just about a month until I take my adventure to Australia. Plane ticket is booked, visa is received, all my forms are filled out. Anticipation is killing me, naturally. New plans have me going early with a fellow SUNY student that my coordinator has recently introduced me to. We will be departing a week early to hit up the Gold Coast where we will be relaxing at the beach in surfers paradise. Can’t believe I’ll be sitting on the beach in February, a time when I am usually trekking through the snow to class in good old SUNY Oswego. Needless to say, I would trade my winter jacket and gloves in any day for a bottle of sun tan lotion and a bathing suit. Next step packing…this shall be an interesting task to tackle.
Packing Up and Getting Ready to Go:
I have to say, packing may be my least favorite activity in the world. After about a month of procrastination, I finally broke out the suitcase and started weeding through my things deciding what would be worth packing and what would be better left at home. There’s no better time to pack for the next 5 months of your life than the week before you leave, right? I don’t think there’s really a handbook out there that can tell you exactly what to pack or exactly what you’ll need. Everyone’s different and no matter what you’ll always feel like you’re leaving something majorly important behind or pack something that never even makes it out of the suitcase. I think the most useful advice I received about packing was also the most simple piece of advice out there: don’t stress over it. This same advice can be applied to leaving home in general. To be honest no one’s ever really sure what the future holds and it might be scary to try new things, but you’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you push yourself to do it.So if you’re stressing about whether that pair of shoes really needs to come with you halfway around the world or if you’re stressing about whether you should even take that journey across the world, just remember, there is no right answer. Stressing doesn’t solve any problems. Just let go and follow your gut feeling, and remember this is a chance of a lifetime. You won’t know you’ve made the right decision until you experience it yourself. Tomorrow, my journey really begins. It’ll be a long flight but it’ll be so worth it when i look out the window and see my new home for the next 5 months for the first time. I couldn’t be more excited.
After months of anticipation the day had finally come for me to make my journey to Australia. Of course it was snowing the day I left New York and its crummy weather behind. I guess it was only fitting that I should experience snow for the last time this winter. I was incredibly anxious and excited to get there. The plan was to meet up with a fellow SUNY student named Alyssa, that I had been talking with over Facebook and we planned a trip together to the Gold Coast in Brisbane. However, things never go as planned. When I showed up to the airport Alyssa was there but the airport staff had informed her that she would not be getting on the plane that day. Apparently her visa had never actually been processed so they couldn’t let her out of the country. At first I was pretty calm about it; I guess it didn’t really hit me that I’d be doing this alone. Anxiety started to set in as I sat for hours in the airport waiting for my plane. Traveling alone is scary and I started to worry I wouldn’t know where to go in the airports or when I arrived in Brisbane. We had a connecting flight in Los Angeles but due to the snow, we had missed our connecting flight. Luckily a lot of the people on my plane were in the same boat and the airline was super accommodating. They ended up rerouting us into Melbourne before we could fly to Brisbane. In actuality, everything went smoothly from the second I got on my first plane till I arrived at my hostel. It didn’t feel that way at the time since Alyssa wasn’t with me and I had an extra leg of flying. I ended up being really proud of myself and am thankful that I was forced to be grown up about the situation and learned to deal with traveling alone. That’s what studying abroad is all about: pushing yourself to step out of your comfort zone and experience new challenges.
Backpackers in Paradise
After what seemed like endless hours of traveling, it was finally time to explore Australia. I was staying in a backpackers’ hostel in Surfer’s Paradise. It actually started off as a miserable experience in all honesty. I was feeling a little out of place since I was there all by myself and didn’t know a single person. It was essentially a party hostel and it got pretty loud at night. I was staying in a 4 person bedroom and on the night I arrived no one was actually in the room. I really should have just gone downstairs and tried to make new friends but I was intimidated by all the people who sounded like they were already friends. My first full day there I decided to get out and explore the beach. The beach was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect. Things started to feel a little better, being at the beach. The beach was just a short walk from the hostel and insanely easy to find. I had to think to myself that of all the places to feel alone, at least I was in paradise and could enjoy the beach. I continued to go to the beach and got some new roommates. It wasn’t till about the 4th day that I really hit it off with one of my new roommates. Ironically enough the day I met this new roommate, Alyssa ended up showing up to the hostel. I spent the next day with my new roommate and that night we joined the party downstairs. It was funny cause I had been upset about the fact that Alyssa wasn’t with me but I didn’t even end up hanging out with her the day she got there. My roommate and I sat down at a table and immediately people came up to us and started talking to us. It amazed me how easy it was to meet new people and become friends with them here. If only I had just gone downstairs the first days I was there. Most of the people I met were actually traveling alone as well. I found these people so interesting. Most of them were traveling around all of Australia stopping in hostels along the way. Some were actually staying in the hostel from months to years. After talking to these people I started to become really interested in the concept of traveling. We live in such an amazing world and there’s so many awesome people in this world that we will probably never get to meet cause we’re stuck in one spot. I think we forget that there’s more to this world than our hometown. Traveling is such an interesting concept to me and I think its important for us to step outside of our little bubbles and really branch out. You’ll be surprised what/who you can find when you leave your comfort zone. I am beyond thankful for this opportunity and am really learning what this world has to offer. The next night Alyssa and I went out together and had a blast. I was so excited that I’d be spending the next 5 months with her. Both of us were so anxious to get to Melbourne and ready to start our journey.
Off To Melbourne
The day had finally come for me to head to my new home. I was really excited to meet the people I’d be spending the next 5 months with. It helped that I was coming with Alyssa so that I wouldn’t feel completely alone in the situation. When we arrived we were taken to our rooms. We lived in different buildings and Alyssa had not yet gotten a phone plan so at first it was hard to find each other after we moved in. Luckily we bumped into each other and managed to find some dinner. We were feeling a little stressed out and overwhelmed by everything but were glad that we had each other. We met some people in the dorms, mostly other exchange students in the same boat and some Australians that were RAs. It was nice getting to know some new people and I was excited to get to know everyone. The next night a few of us went into the city to explore. We met a kid who had been studying at the university for a couple years and he offered to show us around. It was so nice experiencing a new city and Melbourne’s streets were bursting with culture. Beautiful graffiti covers the alley ways and people frequent rooftop restaurants/bars to take in the view of the city at night. I had heard that Melbourne was a beautiful and artsy city and everything I had heard was so on point. I was so happy to be experiencing this awesome city first hand and ready to do some more exploring soon.
We didn’t have much time to settle in after we arrived on campus. A couple days after arriving a whole group of international students took a trip to the Great Ocean Road and Lorne to start to experience the wonders of beautiful Australia while also getting to know each other. This trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I could not imagine a better way to transition into life in Australia. It helped me meet a whole group of people who were in the exact same position as me, while also helped me get excited to see all the gorgeous views Australia has to offer. While on this trip I learned to surf, got my first taste of “goon” (their lingo for box wine which is very popular among broke college kids), saw the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, saw my first koala up close, and made friends from all over the world. We stayed in a hostel in Lorne, which is a few hours away from Melbourne. I stayed in a room with about 10 other people and had the best couple of nights getting to know these people. Experiencing Australia for the first time provided a great bonding opportunity for all of us. Travel is not only a good way to meet new people, but it is also a great way to become closer to people. I am so thankful that I got to share my first experiences in Australia with these people. I couldn’t imagine a better start to my journey.