by Josh Santana ’15
On July 14, 2013, I set off for my first adventure outside of the United States. I remember standing in the security line at the Louisville airport and being fearful of leaving my home country. It was the first time I had ever flown on a plane without my family, and I had no idea of how to accomplish getting on a connecting flight.
My journey started in Louisville Kentucky, and after over 35+ hours of total travel time, I arrived in Sydney, Australia. The flight from Los Angeles to Sydney took around 15 hours alone. I stepped out of the plane, met my study abroad group, and breathed my first breathe of Australian air.
While in Sydney, IFSA Butler had set up activities for us to do. IFSA Butler is a travel agency that helps students study abroad.
Our first activity in Australia was a tour of downtown Sydney. We walked all throughout the streets of Sydney with a guide who showed us all the important building of the city.
The most memorable building to me was the Sydney Hospital. This was because they had a huge statue of a hog sitting in front. It was so obscure to have that in front of a hospital; it caused me to remember it. In addition, the actual structure of the hospital was beautiful. I was not just your ordinary-looking hospital. The building had different architectural structures that made it look like a very old-fashioned building.
After going past the hospital and other unique parts of downtown, we came upon the coolest part of Sydney, the Sydney Opera House. There it was, standing in front of me was one of the most recognizable parts of Australia. Many people have seen pictures of it, but I can say that I have actually seen the building in person. It was not the first time that I had seen the structure because we could see it from the hostel we were staying in, but seeing it up close in person made it even better.
Also, in Sydney, I saw my first ever cruise ship. It was parked in the Sydney Harbor.
The people that accompanied me in Sydney were students from all other the United States. All of us were studying at different locations in Australia, but we all had orientation together. I became great friends with some of these people in just three days. Some of them even flew from Melbourne to come visit me in Townsville. After spending my three days in Sydney, it was off to James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
The first week of classes was hectic. I was 50 minutes late to my first history class because I was not used to finding my way around a big university. Although the classes were very hard, I learned a lot. The political science class I was enrolled in studied policies from all over the world. What made that class even more fun was that there were people from all other the world in the class. I met people from Europe, Papa New Guinea, and other places. I was the only American in the class! This class will be invaluable to me because it opened my eyes to new parts of the world.
The math class that I took was very difficult, but my professor was awesome. He met with me once a week and went over the lessons that I did not understand completely. The thing about Australia that I am most proud about is that I did not miss a single class. I was there to learn and that is exactly what I did.
On top of all the learning, there was time for some fun activities. I made sure that I got five workouts in a week. The weight room was super expensive to use over there. Let me correct that, everything was super expensive in Australia. The United States dollar is pretty much equivalent to the Australian dollar, but the minimum wage around $20/hour depending on your age. This made traveling somewhat difficult to accomplish.
However, I had the opportunity to visit the Whit Sunday. This place is by far the most beautiful place that I have ever been in my life. Off the coast of this part of Australia exists 70+ islands. I had the opportunity to visit Whitehaven Beach. The water is crystal clear and the sand is perfectly white.
On the boat ride to Whitehaven Beach, our group had the opportunity to snorkel on a reef. I had seen pictures of reefs before, but when you actually see one in person, it is astonishing. When I put my mask in the water and saw the reef for the first time, I said out loud in my snorkel, “Wow, this is amazing.” My friend and I only stayed at the Whit Sundays for one night, but I would say it was probably at the top of the list of things I did in Australia.
Before Wabash College, I never envisioned that I would be studying in Australia one day. Hell, I did not think I would ever go to Australia until I was accepted to go my sophomore year in college. This opportunity changed my life and taught me valuable life lessons that will always be with me.
Living halfway around the world takes the normal life you are used to and completely shows you a new way of life. I met some amazing people that I will never forget, and I visited historical places that I never thought I would see. The actual information that I learned from school was only a fraction of the knowledge that I obtained while visiting “Down Under Mate.”