I can most certainly say, although studying abroad is one of the most nerve-wracking steps one can take during their college career, it has been one of the most eye-opening experiences that I have been lucky enough to call my life for a full four months.
After finalizing the paperwork and actually purchasing my plane ticket months prior to flying out to the Gold Coast, it hit me; wow.
I chose the farthest place possible to spend the second half of my junior year.
Being very close with my boyfriend, family and friends created a sense of sadness when packing my bags the weeks before my departure.
The goodbyes (see you later’s) were somewhat difficult, knowing that by the first week of January, I would be halfway across the world.
Little did I know, Australian’s have the absolute most welcoming and relaxed culture, making the move much easier.
Easing my way into the Australian lifestyle
The company I studied abroad with that was affiliated with Keene State College the last few years (CIS Abroad), arranged a weekend orientation in Cairns, Australia.
If you know anything about Australia, you know that The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful and striking wonders of the world, located right in Aussie.
We spent just about two hours on a beautiful boat sailing out to the Reef, which then came time to make your decision; snorkeling or scuba diving.
Being the nervous person I am, I chose to easiest route- snorkeling.
The various sea life I captured while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef was something like no other.
I saw a starfish that was larger than a steering wheel, speckled with all different shades of blue.
I encountered fish of every color of the rainbow, sea turtles, stingrays of every kind and I simply got to wear the biggest smile on my face all day long.
It is a truly indescribable experience that I highly recommend to anyone, and I will hold these memories close to my heart forever.
We spent the other half of the weekend in Rainforestation Nature Park, where I got to hold a koala, pet kangaroos and my favorite- take an army duck tour through the tropical rainforest.
The army duck was a big tank-looking vehicle that drove on land, but also turned into a boat.
After spending time riding through the rainforest, as the driver explained fascinating information about the different plants and wildlife, the vehicle drove right into the lake.
I was sitting up front and actually got to turn the propeller’s on.
There we were, sailing through the rest of the rainforest on what looked to be an on-land vehicle. Between my newfound love for the beauty that lay both within the Great Barrier Reef and the breathtaking rainforests located throughout Cairns, I knew I was ready to take on my four months in this amazing part of the world that I get to call my home away from home.
Australia so far
Australia, so far, has exceeded my expectations.
The culture, the beautiful land, amazing coastlines, extremely nice locals (I have encountered some of the most kind-hearted souls here), has drawn me into the Australian lifestyle more than I thought it ever would.
I spend my days here waking up very early, which was a change (a good one, to say the least).
Depending on the day, and the weather (it is the heart of summer right now, typically about 80-90 degrees every day), I either choose to go for a run or grab some breakfast on campus.
I am taking courses at the most amazing campus I have ever laid eyes on- Bond University.
The campus is surrounded with beautiful buildings, gorgeous land, consisting of the spectacular on-campus lake in the heart of campus, our on-campus bar, a newly built astonishing gymnasium, as well as my favorite spot to read a book- the small man-made waterfall included in the picture provided within this article.
Besides spending my day on-campus attending classes, I either hop on the bus and head to Surfer’s Paradise or Burleigh Heads (my two favorite beaches on the Gold Coast so far), or lay by the pool located right next to my house.
I live in a villa within “Varsity Shores,” a beautiful gated community that is about a five minute walk from campus. Every day I wake up and open my door to palm trees and pleasing warm weather.
Today, I visited a beach called “Mermaid Beach,” and it was simply breathtaking, consisting of baby blue waves and white sands.
If there is one thing that I am grateful for so far in this trip, it is the friends I have made.
The funniest part about the group of girls I have grown very close to in a short time is that every single one of them attends Keene State, and all three of us have never met prior to living in Australia.
Lucia, Maddie and Ivy have made this experience much easier, and these are girls I will hold near and dear to my heart forever.
We have shared hours of laughing together, searching for new places to go to together and most of all, stepping out of our comfort zones together.
Traveling forces one to step out of their comfort zone, much more than I thought I ever would.
My friends have made this much easier to do and I cherish our friendship deeply.
If there is one more thing I would mention that I have learned from being here so far, it is the value of my loved ones back home.
Being away from my boyfriend and family was one of the most difficult tasks I have had to overcome, especially with the 15 hour time difference, but the appreciation for them has grown more than it ever has before.
I have learned how to be independent here.
I have found the beauty of the little things in life.
The best part about all of these things is they have come about in the short three weeks I have been here.
With that in mind, I am positive that my experiences here on the Gold Coast, Australia will continue to grow and provide me with opportunities and life lessons that I am lucky to stumble upon in this amazing part of the world. Should you study abroad? Yes. Traveling is one of the best forms of education and I truly believe it is one of the greatest life changes I have made so far.
Erin Salnick can be contacted at email@example.com