As 2023 is wrapping up, I wanted to leave a reflection on my time in Australia this past spring. I was there from February until June, and it really changed my perspective on so many things!
Academically, I really enjoyed taking a course called “Usability Engineering” at the University of Sydney. It is essentially an HCI (human-computer interaction) course where we worked in a group, designed an application, and experimented with different ways for users to interact with it. This class allowed me to combine my interests in web development, design, and digital marketing, aligning me more with my future career aspirations.
I also tried a bunch of different cuisines and dishes—some of my favorites included prawns (similar to shrimp), butter chicken and biryani (Indian dish of chicken and rice), Vietnamese pho (usually beef or chicken), and Korean bbq. Since I lived right in the city, it was easy for me to walk around and explore new restaurants, and I’m happy that I did. I’m also a picky eater, so it was challenging to get over that initial hump, but once I did, I could literally try anything that looked good!
Outside of this, I also found out that I thrive in my alone time. I found myself walking around the city (if something was less than 45 minutes away by foot, I put on my sneakers and went for it) and just enjoyed the scenery. On my last day, I completed a sunrise coastal walk along the beaches, played my music in my headphones, and stopped at a little cafe for breakfast–it was so lovely. Eating meals and doing tasks alone was also very healing, as I was able to be more in tune with myself and what I enjoy.
When we weren’t in Sydney, my friends and I were traveling around Australia and New Zealand, visiting Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Cairns, Dunedin, and Queenstown. I also really enjoyed traveling, since it gave me lots of time to get used to airports and time differences. I also learned how to take advantage of limited vacation time, and being able to make plans quickly but being flexible! I think this is a great skill to have, especially going into adulthood.
One thing that surprised me about going abroad is my love for new adventures and challenging myself. In Queenstown, I went skydiving 12,000 feet up in the air and it was such a rewarding experience. The scariest part was probably seeing all of my friends jumping from the plane, and also the freefall was such a rush, but I adored the views and saw beautiful mountains and bodies of water. We also visited the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, and it was also my first time snorkeling, so it was also a little scary initially. Once I got my floaty on, I was set, and I loved seeing the different kinds of fish and corals. I also surfed for the first time at Surf Camp, and I remember being so tired by the end of the sessions. The combination of sun, working out, and using muscles I’ve never used before wore me out, but it was also an incredible experience.
Outside of outdoor adventures, I’m happy that I pushed myself to meet new people from my classes and apartment complex. Us Notre Dame kids really bonded with each other plus other students from Indiana University, Cornell University, and the University of Southern California. I also really bonded with people from London, China, Japan, and New Zealand. We did lots of things together, and I made lifelong friends!
If you have aspirations to study abroad in the future, I would absolutely recommend it. You experience so many new things about yourself and the world around you. Take everything in, and continue to live your life the way you want :)