Study abroad students return from ‘down under’

I’m back in the United States and trying to remember what sun almost every day felt like. Studying abroad in Australia and New Zealand was the trip of a lifetime and definitely a full immersion experience. Participating in a study abroad program gave me the opportunity to see two new countries, go on adventures every day, and gain a much stronger grasp on the history, biology, and culture of the world down under.

My final week in New Zealand was definitely a memorable one. For my travel break three of my friends and I journeyed to Taupo, a small lake town packed full of opportunity for recreational activities. One of the first days in Taupo our group rented double kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs). We had a blast spending the afternoon out on the lake under the warm sun, working to coordinate our kayak paddling and attempting to stay balanced on the SUPs. Needless to say we all got great workouts during those couple of hours!

However, my favorite activity in Taupo was undoubtedly bungee jumping. I recommend it to everyone! I was brimming with excited anticipation the entire night before, and when I walked up to the edge of the platform the morning of my jump I didn’t hesitate at all. Any pre-jump jitters I had felt were immediately replaced with eagerness to finally satisfy my curiosity of what exactly leaping from 147 feet would feel like.

The exhilaration while falling wasn’t remotely like anything I had ever experienced. Bungee jumping was made even better by being quickly dipped into the gorgeous blue-green water of the river below. After popping up out of the water it took me a second to realize I was still hanging by my feet and swinging through the air. Once I realized this I took my opportunity and continued to scream at the top of my lungs. It was truly so much fun! For the rest of the day I could not stop talking about. I kept repeating, “I can’t believe I got to do that!”
Although the whole day spent traveling back to the United States was tedious, the goodbyes at the airport were what we weren’t looking forward to the most. All the hugs and goodbyes were truly heartfelt and the group spent a good half an hour making sure we all properly said farewells to the people we had become so close to in such a short amount of time. The way everyone bonded so quickly will always be one of my favorite aspects of the trip.

Studying abroad introduces you to so many new people and gives everyone a commonality that I really feel will make all our friendships last.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel abroad and take in all that the cultures had to offer. The trip greatly increased my love for travel as well as heightened my interest in exploring the possibility of one day moving abroad. Even graduating abroad is something I am interested in doing.

Along with my now solidified love of Australia and New Zealand I found that just the experience of living outside the U.S. itself is rewarding in so many ways. I definitely felt I was out of my comfort zone for the first few days after first arriving. However, reflecting now on how I felt and the fact I not only got through the initial stress, panic, and homesickness proves something amazing to me.

I faced a challenge with a strong will and not only survived but also thrived. I carried much of what I learned from my classes and from the people throughout my trip and beyond. I created new friendships with not only people from all over Washington but with people from the other side of the world as well. I adapted to a new culture and took full advantage of all that was offered to me.

When looking back on these things I have accomplished is when I really see the immeasurable value of this study abroad trip to my personal evolution as a student and independent person.