To quote the Australians (just kidding, they don’t really say it that much): G’day, everyone!
I hope the semester is going well for everyone, now that we’re more than halfway (!!) through February. I was really happy to have a snow day on Tuesday the 13th. We ended up not getting as much as predicted, so it proved an opportunity to catch up on some work and also have fun in the snow. I went sledding with some friends, and afterwards we played snow football.
This time last year, actually, I was not anywhere near the snow: I had just departed for my semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia. I flew out of Boston on February 11th, had a six-hour layover in Dallas, Texas, and then flew directly to Melbourne via Qantas and landed on the 13th. All in all, I traveled for a total of almost twenty-hours: the flight from Dallas to Melbourne is the fourth-longest commercial flight in the world. Although I was incredibly excited to be heading to Australia, I did have some anxiety leading up to my departure. Because of the opposite seasons, universities in Australia do not start until the end of February, so while everyone else was either back at Holy Cross or already abroad, I was at home for weeks. Plus, I was not only going thousands of miles away, but to a part of the world where I was fourteen to sixteen hours ahead of everyone else I knew.
Fortunately… going abroad ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done! It will be very hard to distill five months abroad into a blog post, in part because I hate thinking of these memories as taking part a year ago rather than being recent events…but I’ll do my best.
We were all enrolled at the University of Melbourne, one of the best universities in Australia. For student accommodation, the university has a number of residential colleges, which are communities that provide housing and dining for domestic, national, and international students. I was situated at one of the smaller colleges, St. Mary’s College, along with eight other Holy Cross students. Before the semester started, we participated in a weeklong orientation week consisting of day-long activities: including making a lip dub, participating in a city-wide scavenger hunt, and visiting the zoo, among others. It was an unforgettable week, and it felt like a redemption from my freshman year, which was almost entirely held virtually on Zoom.
Throughout the rest of the semester, we had several more events and excursions, from pub nights to a formal ball. They were all unique, and so much fun. The college had such a strong culture beyond the events, having its own traditions and slang. I relished the opportunity to be integrated into such a strong community, and made a lot of friends as a result.
Melbourne ended up being one of the most interesting places I’ve been to, let alone lived in. I will confess that before I traveled there, I knew little about it– all of the globally famous Australian landmarks seem to be located in Sydney and other parts of Australia. As I spent more time in the city, however, I grew to become vastly more acquainted with Melbourne’s special sites: the Victorian State Library, Flinders Street Station, the Shrine of Remembrance, you name it. They are all incredibly easy to access because Melbourne has incredible public transport: it boasts the world’s largest tram network. From college, I was only a two minute walk from a tram stop. Frequently (especially in the beginning), I’d jump on the tram to wander for hours and explore the city.
While no one would say they study abroad to take classes, I still had an interesting schedule. I took two creative writing classes to fulfill my concentration (I got to read some Australian poetry), a class on the process of adapting books to screen (which was really cool), and a science class, Australian Wildlife Biology. All Holy Cross students must take an Australian Content course, so I chose the Bio class. I’m pretty bad at science, actually, but I can’t deny this was a cool subject. We got to go on class field trips, have cool guest lecturers, and I operated a blog (much like this one!) where I reported two distinct Australian animals I saw across each week. It was an interesting challenge, and I got to learn about so much more than just the kangaroo and koala.
I was also fortunate enough to get to travel, making trips to New South Wales (Sydney), Western Australia (Broome), Tasmania (Hobart), and Queensland twice (Brisbane, Cairns). There are several low-cost airlines in Australia that also offer decent deals, if you scour the websites, and with the generosity of my parents and my willingness to stay in hostels, I got to travel all around the country. I did some conventional Australian experiences (seeing the Opera House, snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef) but I also got to take part in some unconventional experiences (riding a camel on the beach, trying crocodile meat, feeding kangaroos). While my favorite place in Australia by far is Melbourne– I really found a home and community there– I still appreciated the many, many memories from my travels that I’ll hold onto for a lifetime.
It’s now been seven months since I returned home, and a year since my initial arrival in Melbourne. I can’t deny that I miss the city a lot, but even more so, I really miss all of the friends that I made. Luckily I still remain in contact with them (thank you social media!), and ever since I returned to campus, I joined the Study Abroad Office as a Student Ambassador for the Australia program. I’m lucky to be able to share my experience in information sessions and directly communicate with students who are down under right now, to offer advice and, hopefully, assist them in experience the same wonderful memories that I did.