Diving into Australia: Adventures in Studying Abroad
Absolutely incredible… How do I even begin to share about my experiences in Australia so far?!
I could compare/contrast differences between the West Coast of Canada and the Gold Coast of Australia, such as differences in costs, foods, activities, lifestyle and overall culture. Perhaps I could speak about differences in climate regarding weather, wildlife and plants, and overall environment.
I could also talk about how incredible it is to realize that in this exchange cohort so many of us come from many different places around the world with various backgrounds and how quickly strong connections are formed.
There’s so much I could expand on. Beginning a blog post can sometimes be the most difficult part, but once I start it can be even harder to tie everything together.
Developing a routine has been the hardest part. Starting to write this blog post was postponed for quite some time, especially considering that WiFi is very limited in areas of Australia and access is not always readily available. 😉
Nevertheless, this is my story in Australia so far. Enjoy. 🙂
Jumping into a new country is incredibly exciting! I’m now on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and there are many similarities but also so many differences. I began to meet some Australians, experienced a different environment, and learned about how people drive on the other side of the road and walk on the other side of the sidewalk!
From staying my first night in Brisbane, to staying at the hostel in Southport for the first week, I had my fair share of new experiences and met many new people!
Byron Bay Trip
After meeting many other international travellers at the hostel, it was time to get ready for the Byron Bay Orientation Trip!!
It was absolutely phenomenal. I experienced wildlife, kayaking, surfing, hiking, beaches, dancing, and many new experiences with amazing people, connections, and great memories.
Almost time to start school
The start of school was only a few days away and I still hadn’t chosen a place to live!! I’d teamed up with others to search for a suitable place, and had a few options. I eventually decided to live in the Genesis building.
With the stress of finding a place to live alleviated, the anticipation for the beginning of classes was building!
It had now been two weeks in Australia and my time here had been filled with the excitement of new experiences, meeting new people, learning new languages and forming new connections.
At this point I was in awe and wonder, and so pleased about deciding to embark upon this journey. I’m embracing new challenges and gaining valuable insight into new perspectives, learning more about the world around me, and myself.
Celebrating the amazing time in Australia so far, a group of exchange students gathered over the weekend for a house party in Miami Beach and a BBQ at my home building (Genesis).
Thoughts on being far from home
Being thrust into an entirely new setting far from home is incredibly exciting, but there are also moments of homesickness as well. It’s absolutely amazing that I’m on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, so far from my home in Canada, then it suddenly hit me… I’m halfway across the world!
I can’t share all these new experiences with my Victoria friends in the moment, and I don’t have the same communities of support and embrace. However, with technology the opportunity to connect virtually exists – no matter how far away friends and family might be!
Additionally I have begun to notice major differences between my past travelling experiences backpacking in Costa Rica comparative to being on an exchange semester here in Australia. As a backpacker you are free, every day is a new adventure with new experiences, no attachments, and you can go wherever your heart may take you.
While being on an exchange semester is inclusive of these things, it is uniquely distinctive. The feeling of being free as the wind exists initially. Many changes are taking place before getting settled into a new home and environment, but it also involves the building of new roots and foundations. As classes begin and new responsibilities are taking place, it becomes increasingly important to build routine and prioritize what is important each week.
As I will spend a greater extent of time in one location I will have the opportunity to foster these foundations, connections, and things that are most important to me – grounding myself to this new community, and taking the time to immerse myself in all this experience has to offer. There is already ample opportunity each day and it is difficult to do all the things that I would like to accomplish while I’m here, but I’m becoming more and more conscious of the things that I want to pursue and will continue to stretch my capabilities in relishing the experiences that each day presents.
Getting into the swing of it
The following week was filled with adventures searching for WiFi (it’s incredibly difficult to secure WiFi), coffee and lunch dates, and events such as the Back to School Party, Photo Scavenger Hunt, and Griffith International Student Meet and Greet.
I’m really here to learn
After finishing an active weekend that included a beautiful hike to Burleigh Heads, I decided it might be time for me to begin my assignment, which was due Friday. Wait… I’m here to study?? Yes indeed! 😉 In addition to everything I do each week, I’m also going to school! The classes I am taking while on exchange are:
- Climate Change and Public Health – Exploring my interest in the earth, sustainability and how it relates to overall health and wellbeing. This course explores these relationships from a more global perspective by understanding the relationships between environmental changes and human and ecosystem health.
- Exercise and Sports Nutrition – Allows me to expand upon my existing knowledge of nutrition, particularly relating to exercise. This course re-engages my interest in Dietetics.
- World History – I was never interested in history, but as I’ve become a more avid traveller my interest in understanding the history of different societies has grown. I’m hoping the information shared in this course can provide some insight to explain variations in cultural, economic, and political differences around the world.
- Community Internship – The internship course has a limited capacity for the number of students and among a list of 200+ internship opportunities I was selected to do research with the Griffith University Cultural Research Centre. In my role I would explore the factors that contribute to youth disengagement on the Gold Coast, and develop strategies to encourage positive youth development. I would contribute to this goal through research, research presentation, and youth engagement.
It was a busy week! I finished actively planning my upcoming mid-semester break trip, as well as my assignment due Friday. The assignment was a project plan for my community internship, and it was 15 pages long. It was an exhausting week, and I also experienced my first Australian sickness, which persisted over the entire week.
Skydiving in Byron Bay
After such a busy week, I decided it was time to celebrate with something special for the weekend…
Before arriving in Australia, I knew skydiving was something I wanted to do. While in Byron Bay, I decided to book this skydive excursion! I am so glad I did. 😀
It was one of the most incredible, craziest and overall awesome experiences! There’s nothing quite like it: the anticipation leading up to jumping out of a plane and free falling from the sky to the Earth at about 200km/h! It was the biggest adrenaline rush of my life and I loved the whole experience. I would do it again in a heartbeat! <3
After this amazing experience I reflected on my time in Australia and balance in particular. I thought about last week, which was quite stressful regarding my assignment, and how it was limiting my capacity to pursue other opportunities. I wondered if it would be possible to make any changes in balance, and turned my direction towards my courses; maybe I could drop one of them.
My attention jumped towards my community internship course. Although the course offered a great opportunity to develop skills, I needed to be mindful of this opportunity and other opportunities that were present. Can they compare? What is currently more valuable?
This project could have been something wonderful for me to leave behind in Australia, and an experience to take home with me. But I am seeking to create, build and remember other experiences that I believe will be more fulfilling to my growth at this time.
Feeling liberated from my decision to drop the course, I now have more free time for other pursuits… such as scuba diving!! 😀
The following Saturday I went to Julian Rocks in Byron Bay with the Griffith University Dive Club. It had been three years since I scuba dived, with my first exposure to this mystical experience being in Costa Rica, and fond memories of diving Isla Del Caño.
I woke up early that morning, practiced some scuba skills in the pool to refresh my knowledge, then got set to go for the dive! The entire experience was phenomenal. The people, the ocean, the animals, embracing the scuba diving world again was such a wonderful feeling and I returned back to the Gold Coast on such a high! 😀
Being out on the ocean and riding the waves on the boat was also adrenaline-provoking and ignited my love for being out on the ocean as I stabilized myself on the boat so I would not fall out. While under water we saw hundreds of fish, small and giant, some Wobbegong sharks, two turtles (we even saw a turtle above the water surfing the waves 😀 ), and even a large humpback whale on our return back to shore. Unfortunately I didn’t capture as much footage of the experience as I would’ve liked, but here’s a glimpse into some time spent under water.
Hiking in SpringBrook
Arriving into Australia initially it was very weird getting used to traffic as a pedestrian, but I quickly got used to it, and it was a similar experience for driving as well. It felt good to drive again after so long and I am happy to have gone with this wonderful group of individuals!
Soon after SpringBrook, the week unfolded with more classes, another weekly international dinner, and a wild weekend of exploration and parties!
A sunrise surf
After surfing in Byron Bay as well as taking advantage of the opportunity in living in a place called Surfer’s Paradise, I felt inspired to get a surfboard. After searching for a few days I found a beautiful board and wetsuit!
Surfing the first couple of times was crazy hard (huge waves 2-3 x my size), but it was also so so awesome to be out on the ocean.
Sunday night I couldn’t sleep and awoke super early (4am.. wow!), so I decided: what better opportunity to see the sunrise?! Let’s do a sunrise surf! 😀
Time flew by as I was working on an assignment, and next thing I knew the sun was beginning to rise. I rushed quickly and got suited up, then sprinted to the beach in excitement with surfboard in hand! The sand was cold, the ocean warm, and I was welcomed with these gorgeous views, and great waves, making for an overall beautiful start to the day 🙂
This past weekend I ‘worked’ a club crawl, studied for my assignments, and went to the Illumi Run!!
We got our tickets and swag bags earlier that week and the race was at Metricon Stadium, a huge stadium slightly away from Surfer’s.
After 5km of walking/running/dancing around the stadium, we went to the centre of the stadium where there was a huge dance party with an extreme amount of glow paint, glowsticks and heaps of people! It was an amazing night. 🙂
Summarizing experiences so far
There are so many beautiful and amazing things that have happened while here on exchange in Australia. It’s hard to summarize! I feel blessed and am incredibly grateful for the all the beauty I’ve experienced. Life is full of opportunity and the world is open for so many new experiences!
The last few days have consisted of some surfing, group dinners, and a lot of studying! The mid-semester break is in two weeks, which also means that there are a lot of assignments due before and after this break. I don’t intend to use the break for studying and reading, though, 😉 so I need to finish all my assignments before I travel!
I’m incredibly excited for the upcoming mid-semester break and it is highly motivating to finish my assignments before the break! I’ve been in Australia for 8 weeks now, time has gone by incredibly fast and each day is filled with so many new experiences, and there is still so much I want to do and see!
Some things I miss from back home would be cooking stir fries, ample amount of nature, and the drinking water. 😉
During this time of year I would usually be eagerly anticipating the beginning of a fresh new school year at UVic. It is weird not being engaged in Orientation and the welcoming of new students!
I hope everyone is well and that this blog provides some insight into my adventures while I’m overseas!! <3 🙂