My name is Kayla Schinik and I am a junior on the Babson softball team. Having such a huge passion for traveling and exploring different cities and cultures, I chose Babson knowing that I would be able to study abroad one semester while also playing a sport. This past semester I had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Sydney in Australia. Australia was my top pick because I believed it would be great for me to go (very) far away to meet new people (and ironically some that live in close proximity at Babson that I otherwise may have never met), explore a continent that I'd never been, and experience a completely different side of the world. That was the best decision I have ever made.
While I was applying for Sydney, I knew if I went completely alone it would be difficult, as I experienced this when I studied in London two summers ago, so finding out that my teammate, Victoria Casey, was joining me was super exciting. It was amazing to share all of the new experiences in Australia with one of my best friends. Just to give an overview of our living situation, Tori and I lived in singles that were part of a suite that we shared with four other girls. Three of the girls were from Chicago and the other one was from London. One of the girl's Australian boyfriend was our honorable fifth roommate, which was fun because he helped us plan trips, told us exactly what to visit, taught us Australian history, and gave us a local perspective. From our apartment, University, or 'USYD', was a twenty minute walk to class - fifteen if you booked it (which we had to several times). One of the most unique aspects of the university was the types of classes I took. I was enrolled in four classes: Sociology of Terror, Self and Society, Sport and Learning in Australian Culture, and Screen Cultures and Gender: Film to Apps. The two sociology classes were extremely interesting and made me think in a different way than I was used to, so I really enjoyed those classes (but that's not to say they weren't challenging!). Oddly enough, one of the most eye-opening pieces of information I learned in my Sociology of Terror class was that Americans are not taught about Australian history at all, while Australians are taught every single thing about the United States. I found myself in awe at how much history I did not know about Australia and with the help my Australian classmates, I learned so much more than I had expected. Outdoor Sports and Learning was easily the most laid-back class I've ever taken while also being the most fun class, as field trips to professional sports games such as Rugby League, Cricket, and AFL were mandatory and allowed us to experience the sporting aspect of Australian culture. While attending classes is not typically the most favorite college activity of most students, I found myself enjoying the unique courses more than I thought I would as they allowed me to hear fresh points of view while also sharing some of my own unique American perspective.
Australia is unlike anything else. Although the stories about the enormous spiders and plentiful cockroaches are unfortunately very true, the wild dingos and wallabies are truly spectacular. During our spring break trip in which we traveled up the east coast, we had a twelve-hour bus ride to one of our destinations, during which I spotted at least ten wallabies (they look like mini kangaroos) on the side of the highway. It was incredible. Not only did we travel outside of Sydney during spring break, but we made our way to Bali, and I ended up going to New Zealand twice, which is one of my favorite places I have ever been.
New Zealand is comparable to a ginormous national park. The first time I went there was in September with one other friend on a skiing trip. It was the most spur-of-the-moment trip I've ever been on. One day we started talking about how cool it would be to ski in New Zealand, and a few hours later, we had booked our flights for Christchurch for the next day! We ended up staying in Christchurch and commuting by a two hour shuttle to Mt. Hutt. The conditions were everything we could have asked for and one day there was even a foot of fresh powder! Pictures do not even do the trip justice. During the long weekend trip, we had no phone service and could only use our phones when we had wifi, so being disconnected allowed me to take in the trip that much more. Being disconnected forced me to be more in-the-moment and appreciate the beautiful scenery around me. The whole trip was incredible and I am so glad I was able to take my love for skiing across the globe.
The second time I ended up in New Zealand was in November, after classes ended. For 12 days, Sari Shulman (also a junior at Babson), Tori, and I slept and traveled in an RV that we drove around the South Island. Of course there were some bumps in the road, as we were crammed in a small van for a long period of time with no exact plans, but that's what made it all the more exciting. With nothing more than a few main spots we wanted to hit, such as Queenstown, Wanaka, and Milford Sound, and the occasional phone service (we turned off our phones for most of the trip), we set out on an epic adventure. We saw the most amazing views, took on some of the toughest hikes, and created memories to last ages. Not only was this an unreal trip because we were in the most beautiful country, but it allowed the three of us to become really close friends, which I am really thankful for.
Needless to say, I am forever grateful for my study abroad experience because it opened my eyes to many different cultures, experiences, and people. I hate to be that cliché and say that 'studying abroad changed me', but it did. It threw me into a new environment and forced me to get out of my comfort zone, gave me the ability to adventure and try new activities, such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and surfing, and allowed me to meet so many new people, some of which have become lifelong friends. Being in another country for four months made me, as my coach, Dave Canan says, more 'comfortable with being uncomfortable' and really forced me to look at the bigger picture in life and what is truly important.