It is truly unbelievable how fast time has flown by. Before leaving for Australia, I was playing this game called Cow Evolution where the aim is to collect different cows and evolve them into other ones. You earn coins and gems as you continue to play. Eventually, you reach a point where you can no longer evolve the cows. When that happens, you have the opportunity to restart the game and try to unlock the different cows again. This time, you get to keep the coins and gems earned in the previous attempt. During the first few weeks in Brisbane, Australia at The University of Queensland, I felt like a freshman again. I attended a new student orientation where I didn’t know anyone, was placed in housing with strangers, and was doe-eyed and excited to begin the semester in a foreign place. But, unlike freshman year, I was starting this semester with all the skills and knowledge that I gained from the previous years at university, similar to the gems and coins that carry over in new rounds in Cow Evolution.
The St. Lucia Campus, where ibis and bush turkeys roam abundantly, is gorgeous, especially the Great Court, which is similar to a bigger version of Vorhees Mall on College Ave. Enclosed by grand, sandstone buildings, it is a great place to rest in between classes. The pockets of construction on campus made me feel like I was still at Rutgers–just a little bit.
Every Wednesday, market stalls would pop up on campus and students could peruse through booths of handmade jewelry, clothes, and flowers. There was even an eyebrow threading booth!
A quick and easy lunch option was a sausage sizzle, which different clubs and organizations would have daily. This wonderfully simple sausage placed diagonally on a slice of white toast with optional grilled onions never failed to satiate my hunger.
Because UQ is a foreign university, I had to adjust to the different grading system and teaching methods. Most lectures, regardless of the subject, are recorded so students aren’t required to go to class. Recitations, or tutorials as they are called there, often aren’t required either. Whether attendance factors into your overall grade or not depends on the class.
In the first lectures of the semester, the teachers would pay respect to the aboriginal ancestors and to the land. Australian Aboriginals have a strong connection to the land and have this concept of turning a space–empty and foreign–into a place, which is familiar and full of meaning. Inhabiting an area and making memories in the environment is how to give it meaning and turn it into a place. Over the course of a semester, I’ve turned UQ, Brisbane, and even Australia, into a place, a home. It’s also what has happened at Rutgers: Australia was wonderful, but there is no place like home. And at the end of my six months, I was ready to come back to Jersey.
This experience will forever hold great importance in my life. Australia is rich in cultures and I have greatly enjoyed learning about them. The knowledge I have gained at UQ will undoubtedly stay with me into adulthood. The conversations I have had with other students at UQ and with travelers I have met on adventures have enriched my life and challenged how I view the world. I have come away from these five months with a different mindset, a strengthened sense of self, and a broader and more informed viewpoint on certain events occurring in the world. I feel different, a good different, and I know I have grown so much during this past semester.
I encourage you, if possible, to take that leap out of your comfort zone and study abroad. Or if that’s not possible, spend some time and live somewhere new for a little bit. It’s an experience you won’t regret.