May 22, 2014

Andi Folker's Australia Experience

Note: This story also appears in the May issue of the Sho'men Club Newsletter. To become a member of the Sho'men Club, click here.

Junior volleyball player Andi Folker '15 spent the spring semester in Australia and writes about her experience from the Land Down Under.  Here is her experience.

Maryland. It's such a wonderful state, and has been my home for all my life. I grew up in a teeny tiny town (smaller than Chestertown, if you can believe it) on the Eastern Shore and to say I didn't have much "world experience" while growing up would be a gross understatement. Put it this way, I had never even owned a passport until I had to prepare for this trip.

So naturally, when presented with the opportunity to go abroad, I pick the other side of the world: Australia.

What an amazing experience it has been. From exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the beautiful city of Cairns in Queensland to enjoying all of the perks that the city of Melbourne has to offer, this country has been nothing but good to me. I've made some amazing friends and had some once in a lifetime experiences that I will never forget. This country is full of beautiful people and wonderful things to do and see. I'm only sad to not have the chance to see them all! (But at some point, you do have to remember that you are STUDYING abroad)

While in Cairns I got to experience staying in a hostel for the first time, and got to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. That is something I will never forget and that day was definitely the best day of my life to date. The reef is its own little world, and it is unbelievably beautiful. Seeing sea turtles and barracudas (luckily no sharks) in their natural habitat was just an amazing experience, and the reef itself is just breathtaking.

I can definitely say this experience has helped me become more able and willing to take risks and do things I would not normally do. Before I left home, even going to a city like Washington, D.C. made me a little uneasy and now here I am living in the heart of Melbourne and loving every minute of it. The city is beautiful, and it is not what you would think of when you think "Australia." Contrary to popular belief, people do not ride kangaroos around, and they do not all say "G'day mate" but they do have an amazing and open-minded perspective on life that is refreshing to experience.

I still have another two months here in this great place and hope to have the opportunity to get to Uluru or New Zealand before I head back to the States. But if not, no matter what I can still say I have had some of the greatest experiences of my life while being here. I can definitely say I have caught the travel bug and cannot wait to either come back here later in life, or go to many of the other fantastic places in the world I've never been to and I have managed to make some great, lasting friendships along the way with people from all over the world.

I would recommend this country to any future students who are planning to go abroad, but even if Australia were not your taste I would recommend just going SOMEwhere. It has been a wonderful experience to get out of the normal routine of life and just go and see what is out there. It is a great thing to say that you went to another country on your own, and managed to survive despite potential language barriers and cultural differences. And it is simply a ton of fun!

The main thing I'm trying to say here is that if you can brave the 20+-hour flight to get to Australia, I can promise it will be worth it.

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