The Adventure Continues

I thought about writing about things ending for this week’s blog, but I’ve decided that’s silly. Classes and a couple activities have ended, but with 4 weeks still to go, my time in Australia is far from over. If anything, the past couple weeks of proved that some things ending does’t mean that everything is.

Ziplining!

Zip-lining!

I mentioned in my last blog post that I was off on another trip to Warnambool. Though I’ve already been to this place with these people, it was wonderful. We did the western half of the Great Ocean Road — though I still maintain that a more accurate name for much of it would be the Great Cow Road. We zip-lined, did a canopy tour and I saw glow worms for the first time!

While the trip didn’t necessary seem different from anything else I’ve done in Australia on the surface, it really changed my perspective. It feels a bit silly, but that trip made me feel young. I realized that I’ve spent so much time wanted to grow up that I’ve lost sight of the present. I’ve always focused on what’s next: studying hard in high school to get to college, working hard in college to get to graduate school or help the job search. My life has been all about the future and not just in regards to academics. I don’t know if I attribute it to the age of the friends I was traveling with (17 and 19) or it was just something about the trip, but it felt different. We raced through the forest on our way to see waterfalls, played silly video games, drove without a destination, tried new flavors of ginger beer and just generally had an amazing time letting loose.

The canopy tour platform from the highest tower

The canopy tour platform from the highest tower

I don’t know if that’s something I could have done if I didn’t go abroad. I think it was a combination of many factors like being surrounded almost exclusively by first years and graduate students, having barely any responsibilities and pushing myself to try new things. This is definitely the attitude I want to take into senior year. It will be important to have a strong finish to college courses, work hard on senior exams and figure out what I’m doing next year. This experience has reminded me though that it’s also important to enjoy my last year of college and my last year living in the same place as many of my friends.

London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road

London Bridge on the Great Ocean Road

It’s been truly amazing to see myself change and learn more about who I’ve always been. It’s such a blessing to have this opportunity and I hope that I’ll be able to continue making the most of it even as exams begin infringing on everyone’s lives. I had an amazing weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday last weekend and coming up is a visit to an escape room, road trips and hopefully much more. This is the life.

Over and Out,

Miranda

Just another day in the life…

In Australian Wildlife Biology yesterday, we were learning about Tasmanian Devils. My professor explained that part of the significance of conserving these animals is that they’re so iconic. I realized how right she was. I remembered watching Looney Toons when I was young. I loved Taz. How could you not? I never even imagined though that I would end up in his home. Tasmania seemed so exotic and far away. Yet going there a couple of weeks ago felt normal. It’s amazing how quickly people adjust.

I think that’s why I’ve been struggling to come up with blog post topics lately. The crazy, unbelievable semester abroad has turned into a normal life. It’s too cold

UC section on rowing day

UC section on rowing day

to spend the day at the beach. My classes and budget get in the way of going on long trips to far off places. Mostly it’s just that I’ve settled into a routine here. I eat meals with the same group of people, have hobbies like playing chess regularly, study and do all the other routine bits that make up a normal life.

Somehow even weekend trips to Tasmania feel routine, in part because I’ve spent so much time traveling. I love that I have to ability to take these trips and I’m incredibly appreciative of them, but it’s a huge part of the study abroad culture and that’s another reason the trips feel like less of a big deal. I was actually one of the last people to make it to Tasmania.

 

That being said, this is the more meaningful part of being abroad for me. I loved the weeks of traveling, meeting new people and having incredible experiences before the semester started. Towards the end though I started craving meaning again. The people I was meeting were all other international, college-aged kids. I wasn’t learning anything new, wasn’t doing anything productive. It was just weeks of beaches, sight-seeing, small talk and parties. That was fun for awhile, but it got boring. I’m so much happier to be where I am now: taking classes I love and spending time with friends.

Watching seal training behind the scenes during a field trip to the zoo

Watching seal training behind the scenes during a field trip to the zoo

And I do love my classes. I can’t believe I get to specialize this much – that my labs are trips to animal shelters, zoos and guide dog training facilities. I’m learning about things I really care about and learning skills that apply to careers I’m seriously considering. That learning and the close friendships I’ve made with people here has made my life finally feel like it has real meaning again.

My study abroad experience has been great for a number of reasons. When I applied, I wrote about how I expected study abroad to be a transformative experience that would provide me with the self confidence to tackle all the new challenges of truly becoming an adult. I really hoped that that would be true, but I wasn’t sure. I certainly had no concept of what a profound effect it would end up having on me. I came to a new country all alone and built a life here. Of course I had lots of help from a variety of people. But at the end of the day this is something I did. It makes the idea of leaving Whitman in a year so much less scary.

I’m not ready to come home just yet though. I have another month here and I plan on milking every minute I have left in Australia. I want to spend as much time with the people here before I put an ocean in between us. I still have places to visit and animals to see. Just because I’ve settled, doesn’t mean I’m done doing cool things. In fact I need to wrap this up so I can finish packing for my trip along the Great Ocean Road. Stay tuned for pictures of zip lining and glow worms (hopefully).

Over and Out,

Miranda

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Before I went abroad I had a friend tell me a month by month schedule of how I was going to feel. I don’t remember the details but it was something like the first month will be awesome, you’ll be homesick the second month and so forth. She was trying to assure me that time would fly and the second bout of long distance with my boyfriend wouldn’t be too hard. I’ve been thinking about that lately. I obviously wasn’t quite that simple but I definitely have gone through several changes of attitude lately.

It was about four weeks ago that I was desperately homesick. I’d just finished traveling by

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Beach along a hike in Tasmania

myself for a week so I was pretty lonely. I was about halfway through my time away and really feeling the distance. I was acutely aware of everything I was missing out on back home and  didn’t want to miss out on anything else – especially not graduation after which my boyfriend and many close friends would be leaving Whitman. University of Melbourne is smart enough to know that it was about that time in the semester when the international students start struggling so they sent out an email to let us know we had resources. I decided to take them up on it and met with their study abroad and exchange coordinator who really had nothing to tell me other than I should try harder and I could get counseling if I wanted. These were not what I needed to hear. So I continued what I was doing: hanging out with my new friends, going to class and enjoying all the down time that is so rare back home.

 

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Fro-yo run!

Turns out time was all I needed. Not only was I growing closer and closer with people here, but my classes were getting cooler. Labs that were field trips to the zoo continued to take me to new places. New labs started meeting and involved amazing things like learning how to artificially inseminate a cow and going on a tour of the animal shelter. Assignments were finally due and I needed to buckle down to do work. I played on my college’s soccer team, celebrated birthdays and spent a 3-day weekend in Tasmania. I swung to the complete opposite end and found myself awfully tempted by my friends’ suggestions that I stay. “It’s happened before,” they’d say “you could totally do it”. I dreamt of finishing my last year at Whitman and then coming back to Melbourne to get my Masters Degree under the supervision of my favorite professor here. I could come back to University College and become a Resident Tutor. Some of my friends would still be here so I know I’d love the living situation and the department I’d be in at Uni.

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Sunset behind mainland Tasmania

Well, here I am now. I have less than 50 days left in Australia and my attitude has changed again. I needed that time to fall completely head over heels in love with this beautiful country. I don’t know if I would have gotten over my homesickness nearly as much if I hadn’t. But at the end of the day, I do want to come home. I want to spend my senior year with the people who know me best. The people I’ve grown together with over the past three years. After that, who knows. Maybe I will end up back in Australia someday but that’s not my focus anymore. I don’t need to figure out the fastest way back here because I can appreciate every bit of my time here without needing to make it my life.

That’s a new feeling for me. I’ve always clung to what I had lest I lose it. There’s something wonderful about using my time here as best I can and then just letting it go. I had hoped that going abroad would help me grow as a person, but I didn’t realize just how much it would. It’s been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to experience the rest of it.

Over and Out,

Miranda