Hi! My name is Victoria Casey, and I am a junior on the Babson College softball team. This past semester I had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia. It truly was one of the most incredible experiences and it taught me so much about myself and about life.
Ever since I decided on Sydney I was constantly asked, "Why so far? What made you choose Australia?" For me, it was a personal answer. Australia was always a place that had fascinated me since a young age, and I always dreamed of going there one day. As I approached my junior year and studying abroad was an option for a semester, I realized this would be the opportunity to make that dream a reality. I would get several months to live in a place so far from home and really immerse myself in a different culture. It would be enough time to travel, explore, and enjoy places on the other side of the world.
Going in I knew I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and really take advantage of all the time I had in Australia. One of the reasons Australia interested me was its immense beauty, and it did not disappoint. I spent time at many of the beaches throughout Sydney exploring which ones I enjoyed most. I absolutely loved going to the harbor and taking in the views of the Habour Bridge (climbing the bridge was also another great accomplishment), and the infamous Sydney Opera House – getting to take a tour and see a show in the opera house was a surreal moment. Although Sydney was amazing, I loved exploring other parts of Australia as well.
During my semester break in September, I traveled throughout Northern Australia on an action-packed adventure. I spent time in the Whitsundays – home to one of the most famous beaches in the world, I saw the Great Barrier Reef, and so many other parts of Australia I did not even know existed. I went scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, white water rafting, as well as bungee jumping, and skydiving! All of these new experiences taught me how much I really love adventure, trying new things, and exploring new places – a passion I discovered throughout this trip. As my time in Australia came to a close I remember saying to one of my friends, "It's funny I finally feel like a local here, and now it is time to leave." It was true that after a couple months of living in Australia I found myself going all over without the help of maps. I knew which cafes were good to do work at or where to get the best chai latte; I had favorite spots throughout the city, and by the end of my trip I realized I had accomplished my goal in this country – which was to really immerse myself.
In addition to exploring Australia, I also traveled to Bali and throughout the South Island of New Zealand. Both were amazing trips that I planned with my friends. In Bali, we did everything from watching incredible sunsets over the ocean to biking through the jungle with locals and learning about their culture. On this excursion, we stopped in a Balinese home, met locals, saw rice paddies, and truly learned about life in Bali. Our adventure in New Zealand was one of my favorite things I did during my study abroad experience. My two friends and I decided to rent a van and drive throughout the entire South Island stopping at new places almost every day. We spent each day driving to our next destination, taking in the gorgeous scenery, and going on some of the most amazing hikes. It was the most unique 12 days, and it forced me to step outside my comfort zone. This was the first time I ever did a trip like this and myself along with my friends adapted to sleeping in a van with no heat, cooking simple meals in the back of the van, and driving on the other side of the road! There were a lot of new experiences on this trip, but I believe that is what made that adventure even more special.
Another common question I got from almost everyone was, "did you even attend school?" And yes, I did. Amongst all of the new adventures and the many travels I took four classes and wrote many papers. Often times my friends and I were desperately searching for wifi throughout hostels in northern Australia in order to submit assignments, or writing papers in the van while road tripping through New Zealand. Though at times this made school a little more stressful, my classes were another highlight of my semester abroad. I found a voice as an international student from America and felt like I brought a different perspective to my classes such as my Sociology of Terror course. I learned about the sporting culture in Australia and about the history of the Indigenous people. After my classes concluded I really felt that they had helped give me an insight into the culture and history of Australia as a nation.
It is hard to put into words how much I really learned during these past four months. The memories I made, the people I met, and the experiences I had have all changed me for the better. Seeing how Australians really appreciate the small things such as being lucky enough to get up in the morning and go surfing, or spending time with friends inspired me to stay present in the moment and value every minute. The way they enjoyed the simplicity of life showed me how to enjoy what is right in front of me. I learned how to have an open mind to new adventures, new people, and new cultures. I proved to myself that stepping outside of my comfort zone can lead to some of the most amazing adventures of my life. I gained a new sense of independence living in a new city on the other side of the world. All of these takeaways have left a strong impression on me and helped to create the experience of a lifetime.
The morning I was leaving Sydney I went to brunch with my friends and they all said how quiet I was. And I was quiet, I was reflecting on the past four months. I kept thinking that this incredible adventure was coming to a close and it would be a time in my life that I could always look back on and know it helped me grow tremendously as a person. As I left Sydney that day, I could not help but feel so grateful for this entire experience and all it had given me.