Hi everyone! Welcome to my last blog post! Oh so bittersweet. But before I get to the reflections of my time in Oz, I would just like to thank all of you for bearing with me all semester and reading my blog. I really only expected my parents to look at this thing, but I’m flattered that other people actually enjoyed reading about my adventures as well. I cannot thank everyone enough for all of the compliments and encouragement to keep writing (because to be honest, this blog was pretty un-fun at times) and for pushing me to be creative and exciting. You are all the best!

Some immediate thoughts upon arriving in America:

Wow, what day is it?
OMG unlimited cellular data! Use all the internet!!!
How do I flush this toilet? There’s no button on the top?…oh right it’s a lever.
Ugh, tax isn’t included in prices here.
Jet lag is REAL.
All of my stuff is forever covered in sand.
Holy cow why is everyone driving on the wrong side of the road?!?! ……
Hot shower hot shower hot shower
Football? What’s that?
Why is everyone so grumpy?
What shoes do I wear if I can’ wear flip flops?/How do I dress for winter??
It’s 4:30 pm, WHERE IS THE SUN

Clearly coming back to the States has been quite a whirlwind for me. Now my blog wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t get a little sappy about my time in Australia. So without further ado, here is a list of the 10 most important things that I learned this semester.

1. Educate yourself about other cultures. As my trip to Australia was my first time out of the US, I did not realize how important experiencing other cultures really is. By immersing myself into the history and uniqueness of Australian culture, I was able to truly gain insight on the similarities and differences, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both the Aussie and American way of life. This really opened my eyes to the fact that every country is completely its own – living, eating, speaking, and even driving in ways that cannot be copied. Learning about these qualities is crucial to understanding the world that we live in and will provide you with memories to last a lifetime along the way.

2. Take time to travel alone. From my day alone in Tasmania to random solo activities done around Sydney, the time I took to travel by myself resulted in some of my favorite memories. During these times, I learned what kind of people I gravitate towards and which parts of myself I look for in a companion. I learned that people are, for the most part, good, and that a simple smile is the best icebreaker out there. Time goes by much slower when you’re alone as you observe everything around you and soak in each and every moment. There are no distractions from yourself when you are alone, and sometimes that is the only way to truly connect with your thoughts and the world.

3. Do something everyday that is worth writing down. Because of this blog, I developed the habit of writing down my daily activities so that I wouldn’t forget them. If a day ended and I had nothing significant to write down, I felt a little defeated, like I had wasted the day. So from now on, even though I probably won’t be blogging about my life, I want to do one thing a day that I would qualify as noteworthy. Even if the day is dedicated to studying or some other uninspiring activity, I think that it’s important to go out and make a memory or learn something that will stick with you longer than the information for your upcoming test. Don’t waste your limited days on this planet.

4. The song ‘Riptide’ is applicable to any situation. That song, man. It really makes you feel things.

5. Fully engaging yourself in a difficult/new situation is the only way to get everything out of it. When I first interviewed at Lucas Gardens and met all of the students, I was intimidated and to be honest, scared out of my mind. I had never worked with children with such severe disabilities and I hadn’t even taken a physical therapy class, much less worked alongside a physiotherapist. With confidence and encouragement from Kaitlyn, we jumped into our internship at Lucas Gardens with everything we had. And I am so incredibly glad that we did. From taking initiative in the classroom, to learning the school song in sign language, to cracking jokes in the break room, we made the most out of our time with those adorable little munchkins. In strength we grow ❤

6. You ruin your life by tolerating it. At the end of the day, you should be excited to be alive. When you settle for anything other than what you innately desire, you cheat yourself of your own potential and happiness. Travel. Dance. Write. Eat. Do whatever it takes to live your life from a state of joy, don’t comply with anything less.

7. Sand sticks to everything. You can’t get rid of that stuff. Learn to love it or get off the beach.

8. Sun, saltwater, and great friends are the cure to any obstacle life throws at you. This semester has given me even another reason to love and appreciate my beautiful friends. They always know the right thing to say, how to make me smile, or when I just need a good cuddle. From all of the ups and downs of this semester, I know that I could not have gotten through any of them without the support of those I now consider family. I could not be more grateful for Sidra, Natalie, and Ruthie, as well as all of the other amazing friendships that were created this semester because you guys were what truly made this experience irreplaceable. If you only remember one equation in your life, let it be this: great friends + beach = pure bliss.

To all the incredible people I met here

9. Don’t let anyone stop you from living your dreams. Cliche, I know, but it’s true. If you want something, just go do it! People will always doubt you, think your crazy, or put you down, but missing out on life because others don’t feel like participating is plain insane. Just do you.

10. Traveling truly changes every fiber of your being. Oh man. How do I even begin to explain this one? Honestly, I think Ruthie put into words something that I never will be able to, so please enjoy this excerpt from her blog.

“I think there’s a common misperception about traveling as some romantic montage of wandering down rustic side streets and encountering perfect strangers on random corners – where everything you see and smell and taste becomes a metaphor for your burgeoning self-discovery. This line of false nostalgia could continue forever. But from my experience, traveling isn’t empowering – it’s humbling. The problem of hearing, seeing, and feeling everything so acutely – to such intense extremes – is paralyzing. You go from not feeling anything to experiencing everything all at once. Each blink of your eye is like a camera shutter, snapping mental images of places that pictures could never do justice. And while you’re taking in such spectacular, surreal other worlds – places that are beyond the scope of your own imagination – sometimes the most shocking and alien thing you find is yourself.”

Traveling opens up a world of unknown unknowns, experiences you didn’t even know you could have because you were naive to their existence. Words escape me when I try to describe the ways in which traveling has opened my eyes, broadened my horizons, and without any sense of irony – changed my life. From scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, to bushwalking the Blue Mountains, to cuddling a koala, to exploring four out of the six Australian states, I have come out of this experience a completely changed person. Saying I fell in love with Australia is an enormous understatement because the way I feel about my glorious home away from home for the past four months is beyond compare. I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel abroad and I cannot wait for my next adventure 🙂

If this post wasn’t already making you experience the feels, please please please watch this short video that wonderful Ruthie made, it really captures the raw emotion and wonder of this trip (and has some great typefaces as well).

Tears every time.

Coming home has been such a bittersweet experience and I wish I was back in Australia everyday. While it’s always great to come home to family, friends, and a strong wi-fi connection, I long for the beaches, accents, and laid back attitude of Aussieland. I JUST REALLY MISS IT THERE. Yes, I am in a state of post-Australia depression. While I’ll never be able to sum up my semester as simply as Madison or as eloquently as Ruthie (both of their blogs made me cry), I hope that this post displays some of the impact that traveling abroad has had on me.

And with that, it all comes to an end. Although these pictures, videos, and blog posts do this country not even a fraction of the justice it deserves, I hope that you all were able to find just a little inspiration from the place that has given me so much. So thank you, Australia, for the semester of a lifetime. I’ll be back for you.

“and if you are very, very lucky, there are a few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realize that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last ‒ and yet will remain with you for life.”