Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rebecca Smith on studying abroad ‘down under’




It is a surreal feeling to arrive in a city on the other side of the globe and see, for the first time, the Sydney Opera House. We have all seen it in pictures and movies but witnessing these iconic venues in real life is a memorable experience to say the least. The Opera House is probably the first image that comes to mind when people think of the Australian city, but Sydney has more things to do and see than you can imagine.

Living within the city, we are never far from multiple beaches that you can easily get to whether it be by walking, bus, or ferry ride. Throughout the semester on days when we didn’t frequent the beach, we went to all kinds of street markets around the city, the largest IMAX theater in the world, a show at the Opera House, walked around the Royal Botanical gardens, or rode some rides at Luna Park. Studying in a major metropolitan city really does have the perk of always having something to do when you aren’t attending class.

I am currently studying here at the University of Sydney with three other Trinity students, Annabel Wilmerding ’16, Meredith Bear ’16, and Juan Vargas ’16. It’s quite a bit of a change from Trinity, going to 300 person lectures here instead of the usual 15 person classes. But experiencing a massive university is a great experience. I had the good fortune to be able to take any four classes I wanted since I have basically finished my major at Trinity. Something to note about coming abroad to a program like this is that the grades here do not count towards your GPA, basically they are all pass/fail. So while I do still work hard to do well, it does feel great to not have to worry about my grades as much as I would at Trinity. Since school hasn’t been a major pressure on me this semester I have been able to really focus on experiencing Australia and traveling all over the country.

This semester I spent a weekend in the Blue Mountains, a weekend in the Outback, and a week traveling up the Northern coast. The Blue Mountains and the outback were hiking weekends where I saw some of the most beautiful views Australia has to offer. The outback of Australia isn’t a boring desert. There are a few places with massive rock formations you can hike and climb and when you reach the top you see the never-ending red desert that is the Outback. It was an amazing place and totally worth the visit despite the heat. For our spring break trip in September we traveled up the Northeast coast from Brisbane to Cairns. This is where some of Australia’s famous beaches are and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. Scuba diving the reef was, no exaggeration, the single greatest day of my life. The water is the most gorgeous blue and the reef itself is full of unbelievably vibrant neon greens, blues, oranges, yellows, and purples. And the fish are everywhere, exactly like in “Finding Nemo,” except they aren’t cartoons. I saw clownfish in a sea anemone, a reef shark, and countless other schools of bright fish. The 30% of the reef that is still alive is the most beautiful sight I have ever been privileged enough to see and it is a must for anyone traveling to Australia.

Another awesome thing about going abroad down under is how close to a few other countries it is. Next week I am flying to New Zealand to road trip the south island and, among other things, see where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. Then a few weeks later after the semester ends Meredith and I are taking a two-week trip through multiple countries in Southeast Asia. Something I’m going to guess no one studying abroad in Europe could pull off.

There are only a handful of students that choose Australia as their study abroad destination each semester while, the majority of the junior class ends up in various countries around Europe. If you are reading this and thinking of going abroad, think about Australia. You won’t regret it. I chose Australia over anywhere in Europe for multiple reasons. Australia is somewhere I have always been a little curious about from seeing it in so many movies (yes I’m talking about “Finding Nemo”) and hearing stories about it from my parents who visited the country in the 80s. Europe is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but Australia is the land of eternal summer where I went to the beach in the middle of their winter.

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