My name is Michaela, and I studied abroad this semester at the University of the Sunshine Coast. I am originally from the East Coast of the United States, and had never left the continent before coming here. I was nervous, excited, and totally in awe at this opportunity. Reflecting back, having the chance to explore has been the most amazing aspect of this experience.
Hiking through the Sunshine Coast introduced me to familiar yet foreign plants and animals. I was also able to travel down the coast, visiting Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Byron Bay. Brisbane and the Gold Coast were a lot of fun, but have more city vibes than I am usually after. Byron Bay was more my style as it is a funky little town right by the ocean. While I was there I went skydiving for the first time, and it took my breath away—literally. I fell so in love with the thrill that I went again just a week later when my mom came to visit! After my second time I’m certain that I want to get certified to go on my own and maybe even become an instructor someday.
Toward the end of the semester I had more time to go on some longer trips. I spent a long weekend in Sydney and stayed with some family friends at Bondi Beach. Bondi is beautiful and has a more relaxed feel from the city itself. I was lucky enough to visit during Vivid, the annual light show, which puts on different displays and programs throughout the city. Sydney felt much bigger and busier than Brisbane, but also held a lot of history. From the Opera House to the Maritime Museum I got a sense that the city had a big influence on the formation of Australia as we know it today.
The biggest adventure of all was when I recently went to Bali. This felt significant for me because I haven’t done much traveling, and would no longer be in an English speaking country. I was a bit concerned about how I would navigate an even more foreign place than the one I had already been living in, but it ended up being no problem at all. At first the exchange rate and the high price tags were hard to wrap my mind around, but with technology it’s easy to figure out how much everything will cost. I ride a motor scooter back home, and realised that this was a big thing in Bali as well. They drive somewhat on the left side of the road, however the traffic laws are very lenient. It’s pretty much every vehicle for themselves, and if a scooter can get in between car, down a small ally, or around traffic by driving on the right side, then that’s what will happen. I fell in love with the erratic but functional nature of this place. We tried to eat in lots of local family owned restaurants and everything I tried was delicious.
I would definitely recommend travelling and going as far out of your comfort zone as possible while you’re here. These felt like once in a lifetime opportunities and have encouraged me to prioritise more travelling in my future!