For 5 months I was able to call Sydney, Australia home. I lived about 15 minutes from this iconic image of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. This picture was taken on a ferry ride between Circular Quay and Manly Beach. While this view was absolutely breath taking to me, many Aussies took this ferry every day to and from work. Getting to immerse myself in the Australian city life and culture was an unbelievable experience that I will cherish forever. I learned the city streets and back alleys and to this day could still navigate my way around the bustling city.
It’s near impossible to be on the beaches of Australia and not catch the surfing bug. Before I even left the United States I had signed up for a surf camp in Australia to learn the basics of surfing. Shortly after the camp I bought my own board and wet suit and went surfing almost every weekend. During Spring Break my friends and I rented a van, threw all our surfboards in the back, and drove up the coast stopping at different beaches people had recommended to us. The days were filled with sunshine, exploration, and surfing, while the moon and stars brought games, laughter, and recollection. In this picture my roommate (a fellow Wildcat) and I are at Crescent Head which was probably the best surf session I had the entire year.
It’s also impossible to leave Australia without hanging out with these little guys. These are wallabies, which are essentially mini kangaroos. They are fun and playful and definitely loved to eat. This was at an interactive zoo near Melbourne, Australia where I also got to pet some kangaroos, see dingos, and observe other Australian wildlife. Melbourne was a beautiful city near the southern tip of the Australian mainland. The city was really cool to explore because of all the back alleyways that were filled with little pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, and other random stores. Street art filled the alleys as well, covering entire walls and giving Melbourne its unique character.
People don’t usually think of mountains when they think of Australia, but they do have a few mountain ranges spanning across the country. The Blue Mountains are pictured here, and the three rock formations on the left are known as the Three Sisters. Throughout the semester some friends and I would take day hikes through different parts of the mountain range. Sometimes it seemed like this was more of a massive canyon than a mountain range, but it was stunning none the less. The base of the mountain is covered in Eucalyptus trees which release a gas into the air that tints the air blue, giving the mountains their name. The area was filled with waterfalls and caves that created perfect opportunities to explore off the beaten path a bit.
Once the semester was over, we packed our bags and hopped on a plane to Auckland, New Zealand where an entirely separate adventure was about to take place. Similar to Spring Break, we rented a van and traveled across the two islands for three weeks. New Zealand is very forward thinking in their approach to tourism and realizes that their biggest attraction is the nature and incredible beauty the islands hold. Because of this they have laws in place that make it legal to camp just about anywhere outside of city limits. So that is exactly what we did. At the end of each day we would pull off to the side of the road and set up camp for the night. This picture is from a place on the South Island called Wanaka. Here we hiked a mountain by the name of Mt. Roy. The views as we hiked the mountain were so serene I felt I could look at them for hours and still not take in every bit of beauty they held.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, and The Shire is still set up as a live set. Here are some of my traveling mates and me, just living our daily hobbit lives. One of the coolest things about this whole trip in New Zealand was everyone in our van was from a different country. We had someone from the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Brazil, and me from the United States. Everyone could speak English really well which allowed us to ask all sorts of questions about each other’s cultures and backgrounds. When you live in a van with someone for three weeks you definitely learn about who they are as a person. Between that and the bond only studying abroad could form, it was very hard to say goodbye to everyone after three weeks of traveling together. However, I now have friends all over Europe for when I am able to make my way over there.
New Zealand was full of amazing hikes, this one was no different. This was also a part of Mt. Roy. It was about 5 hours up and 4 hours down the mountain. Because of the storm that was moving in, we were in a cloud (that’s why it’s so hazy) by the time we got to the top.
This picture from Nelson Lakes in the South Island captures the feel of the entire New Zealand trip. The whole time I felt pretty secluded from society, yet such a part of the culture our van (nicknamed Georgia) had developed, and I was in constant awe of my surroundings. We were the only people here for a bit and just sat out on the dock in silence, staring at the mountains and clear water. There were eels swimming at our feet and a mama duck leading her ducklings around the lake. Later we went for a morning swim before packing up and heading on to our next destination.
Self reflect, figure out your passions, and hit the ground running (with your passions) when you get back to the U.S.