By Samantha Plumley – Global Correspondent
“Where is your accent from?” the saleswoman asked. I waited for my Fijian friend to answer, but instead she just cleared her throat. I looked up and saw them both looking at me. Suddenly, I was the exotic one. The one with a story to tell. In some ways it feels like I have been here forever, but there are times when I feel like I just flew in. Studying abroad in Australia has been an endless vacation, and for the first time in a long time, I have a chance to breathe.
I smile more here, I laugh more here, I am happy here. Maybe because it’s warmer in the “Land Down Under,” or maybe it’s because of my new Australian “family.” I have met some truly amazing people during my time in Australia; our friendships formed fast, speeding through milestones. I have met individuals from all over the world, and I am honored they consider me a friend, as my study abroad experience would be nothing without them.
Not only is this experience about the people I have met, but it’s about me. Here it is easy to appreciate being young, and celebrate life. My time in Australia has allowed me to test boundaries and have endless new experiences. I feel like this is the first time I have really lived.
Island-hopping and exploring new beaches provide endless entertainment, but it is the unexpected turns in my adventure that I will carry with me. I thought getting caught in the rain on a hike was the worst thing that could happen, but last month I managed to get myself and my friends stranded in a place so rural cabs didn’t exist. My friends and I walked along the road to find some form of civilization, and stumbled upon a “restaurant.” The place was full of character and health code violations. Pickle jars filled with dead snakes lined the cabinet that housed utensils. Our waitress had to give us the number of a local who drove us back to campus.
The absurdity of some of the situations I have been in, particularly this one, leave me laughing until it hurts. Each day brings a new adventure, and I am constantly outside of my comfort zone.
A weekend trip to Moreton Island was the most challenging, yet rewarding, experience I have had so far. I am not an outdoorsy girl, so I was hesitant about camping on the remote island. During the day, we went off-roading and I was tossed around in the back a of well-loved Land Cruiser, taken to the various sights of the island. Although snorkeling shipwrecks and sandboarding was incredible, the best part of the weekend was laying in the soft sand on the beach, and searching the sky for shooting stars.
I will not remember the painful sunburns or the blisters from dancing all night in high heels, but I will remember being in awe at the natural beauty of this country, and how each person I met was friendlier than the last. I already know that once I return home, I will always remember my Australia.