Meanwhile In Australia…

It is impossible to describe how much growth comes with studying abroad. From choosing where to go, to getting on the plane, to realizing that you’re in a new country and there is no looking back, you learn things you never thought you would have the opportunity to know before and meet people from different locations and cultures you would have never experienced before. The abroad experience is different for everyone who decides to embrace it and it is the biggest most beautiful leap of faith you could possibly take.

When I first arrived in Australia I didn’t know what was going to happen. Between the 14-hour time difference to my family and friends, leaving the country for the first time, and knowing that I am going to be unfathomably far from everything I know and love, it’s safe to say I was nothing less than terrified. Then, when I first arrived in my apartment and was alone for the first time since I had arrived, I tried distracting myself with unpacking, but the impending sense of loneliness was almost overwhelming as it finally hit me how far I was away from everything familiar. Though I will say this feeling was fleeting, as I heard music playing from the center of the complex, and when I went to see what was happening I immediately met some of the kindest people I know, and am still lucky to call my friends. I was thrust into Australian culture, as well as Norwegian, Swedish, German, and French culture, all of which were beautiful and exciting, as was the diversity of my experience from theirs.

My housemate is Australian, and it has been so interesting to learn about Australian culture by experiencing it with her firsthand. We often talk about the differences in our culture but also how surprisingly similar the culture is between Australia and America, and it is shocking to find so many similarities. When going abroad culture shock is often emphasized as it is a huge part of living in a different country for an extended period of time, but when talking to other Americans, we are all surprised to see how similar the culture and even the landscape is in a lot of ways. Though, there is one thing that we all have in common when it comes to culture shock and that is the education system. Classes in University consist of hybrid style learning (depending on the class), and usually have online learning materials and lectures that need to be completed prior to the class, so in class, you can work with the material you learned, or ask questions about assignments. The grading system is also a bit harsher and took some getting used to. One thing I came to appreciate was how Australian culture emphasizes taking a gap year and experiencing life and real work before going to University. As a result, a lot of my fellow classmates are those who are much older and wiser than me, some even with families and children. One of the most inspiring things I have experienced in class so far was a woman taking an Intro to Indigenous Australia course, as her children are Indigenous and she wanted to be able to understand her children’s culture fully so she could raise them with an appreciation and understanding of their experiences, past present and emerging. Further, before every class, and before every sporting event, national or otherwise, there is usually an acknowledgment of the traditional custodians of the land on which we live work, and study, and recognize the tribe on whose land we reside, as a means of showing respect to their Indigenous cultures.

By choosing to go to Australia this fall I got to experience things I never would have been able to experience otherwise. From the women’s FIFA World Cup to whale watching, to spending time with my housemate and her family during the footy grand finals (and the defeat we shared following their team’s loss), I feel lucky to have been able to have this experience, and it’s far from over. The best part is that my semester ends in November, but my apartment is available to me until December, so I will have to ability to travel around and see the sights without the pressure of school. Having extra time to stop and smell the roses and take in the experience at its maximum is an opportunity I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have been thoroughly enjoying my time so far, from discovering my favorite beaches, to hiking and experiencing Australian wildlife, both at the Australia Zoo and on the various hikes we have taken, I am finding that my experience here is one of the best leaps of faith I could have ever embarked on. I have seen and experienced so much so far, and I can’t wait to see and experience so much more.

Kayla Brundage is studying Psychology and Criminology and is studying abroad at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia.

Watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup game, Korea vs. Germany
Kangaroos at the Australia Zoo
View from Noosa Hiking Trail
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