Photo Essay Contest

Chelsea Conway
Host Institution: University of Southern Queensland -- Australia
Home Institution: Mansfield University
Period: Fall 2008

Lincoln Steffens said “The unknown is the province of the student; it is the field for his life’s adventure, and it is a wide field full of life’s beckonings.” It was an unknown and unfamiliar life and culture that I decided to adventure to as a student. An adventure that began when I left New York as an exchange student to the moment I became an Aussie.

My first wild kangaroo.
Some may say Australia is a barren, ugly country of scrublands filled with crocodiles. But I would simply say you are watching Crocodile Dundee a bit too much, because Australia is a vast country made up of every form of terrain possible. Australia offers anyone the opportunity to immerse themselves in whatever environment of their preference, from city, to coastal, to outback.

Hiking in the mountains of Tasmania.
For most, the journey begins in the bustle of Sydney, a beautiful harbour city filled with fashion, entertainment, and history. I was fortunate enough to see the Rocks, one of the beginning settlements in Australia. I also engulfed myself in some of the renowned famous icons around the city through seeing a ballet at the Opera House and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I took in the animals and wildlife by visiting the Taronga Zoo which overlooks the city and I submerged myself in a shark dive, where I was bitten- but not by a shark, by a turtle! I even had the opportunity to hang loose with the locals at Bondi and Manly Beach by taking a surf lesson.

The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
As much as I enjoyed the city life, my university was located in Queensland, the sunshine state, which was the reason I was loured into Hervey Bay. With the warm temperatures and beaches I was more than convinced that my study abroad program should take place in this small country town, which neither lacks in excitement nor charm. The biggest appeal to Hervey Bay consists of the fantastic whale watching and Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, consisting of miles of gorgeous beaches.

One of the many whales we saw while whale watching in Hervey Bay.
It is at the University of Southern Queensland, Fraser Coast Campus where I attended my classes, where the professors are familiarized and personal with every student. USQ has the class sizes remain small allowing for greater attention and help from the professors. The campus has a very friendly and open atmosphere, filled with students from every type of background and nationality.

USQ Fraser Coast campus.
Due to the limited size of the university, they do not offer an on-campus residence life. However, the university assisted in finding accommodation with a homestay family. Through my stay with this family I have felt like I’ve absorbed the Aussie way of life. I’ve learned to talk the Aussie slang, engulfed myself in the traditional food like meat pies and tim tams, and I’ve been welcomed into the Aussie celebrations such as the Grand Footie Finals and the Melbourne Cup. I will never forget barracking for the Australian cricket team in a bar of enthusiastic Aussies while drinking Toohey’s and XXXX beer.

My Aussie family.
Some highlights of my other adventures throughout Australia consist of boating down crocodile infested waters, to see a huge 15 foot crocodile. Or trekking through the Cape Tribulation Rainforest in search of the rare bird, the cassowary. Also, road tripping around Tasmania with other uni students in the snow pursuing the Tasmanian devil and exploring the famous Port Arthur Prison where many convicts were discarded in earlier days. Swimming amongst seals and penguins on the coast of Victoria will be an experience difficult to beat. But, my most prominent memory will be of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, where I received some of the greatest excitement ever as I swam amongst colourful fish, sting rays, moray eels, sea turtles, and sharks!

Scuba diving with turtles, sharks and sting rays.
Studying abroad has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I’ve learned so much about others cultures, while being able to share my culture with other people. The friendly laidback attitudes of Aussies make it easy to make and meet friends that will be greatly missed until I’m able to return one day. My one recommendation to university students is to study abroad if you are presented with the opportunity because you truly grow as an individual and you learn so much more than what is taught in a classroom.

Traveling with other international students to the Blue Mountains.
Whether it be spotting kangaroos in the fields, watching penguins wattle up on the beaches, or cuddling koalas, my travels in Australia have been far more than a memory, it has been an experience, a discovery, and adventure.

Cuddling a koala at a wildlife sanctuary!
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