I am now 3 days out of my semester abroad in an apartment in New York, reflecting on what has been an unforgettable adventure. My overseas study experience began and finished in California, at California State University, Monterey Bay.
I arrived in San Francisco on the 10th of January 2017. As the semester didn’t begin till the 20th of January, I spent a week at a hostel and spent the days exploring the beautiful city. In my short stay at the hostel I quickly met some captivating people from Austria, France, Singapore and New Zealand.
I arrived at CSUMB on the 17th, where I was checked in and received some very handy household items that the previous exchange students had donated. At first, I was a bit lonely in my dorm, missing the excitement and socialness of the hostel. But within the next few days, I soon realised that living on campus would be full of just as much excitement and much more! Meeting people I was bombarded with all the same questions regarding sharks, spiders and kangaroos. Everyone was incredibly excited when I showed them photos of USC, surrounded by kangaroos.
As the weeks went by the homework piled on, friendships developed and weekends were jammed packed. Surrounding the university, we explored Carmel Beach, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Big Sur, Santa Cruz and Pinnacles National Park. I found the study load quite heavy here, with copious amounts of homework in comparison to Australia, so during the week I spent a lot of time in the library. At lunch and dinner, we were all brought together at the dining commons. Although I found myself uninterested in eating at the same place every day, I am glad I could spend these times at the DC (of course we shortened it) because it became the place of many bonding moments and laughs. The sense of community here was honest and real.
I was lucky enough to create a class timetable where every weekend was a 4-day weekend for me, and I took full advantage of them with many road trips! A very cheap and old minivan that I purchased took me to LA, Coachella, Santa Barbara, Portland, Seattle, Lake Tahoe and even to Vancouver, Canada!
One of the main reasons I selected CSUMB as my first choice was because of their Scuba Diving classes. I was able to enrol in the Master Diver class as I had obtained my license in Australia a few years before. Monterey Bay is known for its amazing kelp forests and of course…the cold. I was beyond nervous as I prepared for my first cold water dive because I was feeling completely out of my comfort zone wearing 2 thick wet suits, a hood, thick gloves and extra weights than usual to offset the extra wetsuit buoyancy. Although I had great difficulty diving in a cold climate with vast amounts of surge and low visibility, I am incredibly grateful for this experience at CSUMB because these conditions have given me a great deal of experience and made me a stronger scuba diver. I am also very grateful to the teachers and instructors in this class who never gave up on the Australian who struggled in the cold water and with those annoying wetsuits!
Spring break was one of the highlights of the trip! An 8-seater Chevy Tahoe took us on a wild road trip from California to Nevada, Utah and Arizona, seeing Las Vegas, Bryce Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon. Although the trip consisted of many unexpected turns and almost everything didn’t go to plan, I wouldn’t change a thing!
While there were a few downs during the semester like missing passports and broken down cars, the ups most certainly outweigh them. I didn’t anticipate the last day to be as hard as it was and for so many people to impact on my time in so many ways, large or small. I have made so many friendships that I will cherish for life and now have couches to sleep on all over the world!
By Sara Perrott