Leaving the UK was an extremely surreal experience and I never realised how sad it could be to say goodbye to those I love at home. The plane journey itself was long, but if you are a pro-napper like myself it isn’t long enough. Landing was interesting, we stopped at Brunei where I met a DJ who was scared of flying and was only going to Australia for a week to see his friend – it didn’t seem long enough to me. We chatted for 3 hours just about his life, before getting back on the plane. That is what is most fun about travelling the stories told from one traveller to the other.
Once I arrived in Australia (at 4am) it was again a surreal experience and it stayed like that for about a week. I went straight to bed on my first night getting up at 8am to attend the last day of registration at 9am. I had no internet, no Australian phone, and no idea where I was; where to eat or where anything was and there was no one on my floor where I lived. It sounds awful but it felt so peaceful and comfortable not knowing anyone or anything.
It took me a good week to sort out bank accounts, internet and actually get my life sorted so I could eat. After a few days I was already meeting people and by the weekend already on a trip to the Great Ocean Road, which I highly recommend! Not only do you learn Australian Football, how to surf, some of the culture, Australian animals, and see some wonderful sights but here is where I made my best friends from across the globe; Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Scotland, Mexico and Germany.
I was lucky enough to have an incredible bunch of people in my accommodation and we called ourselves a family, cooking ridiculous meals, laughing, dressing up, drinking, working, and eating together as a unit. We had Australians, English, and Alaskans all together. We were Tower 6 and we went on to win Tower Parades – a dance dress up competition between each Tower (there were 12 of them). Never have I seen such competition between friends as I had on this day and each performance was fantastic!
After the first semester I had been to Tasmania, the Grampians, Brisbane to Byron Bay (East Coast), Adelaide and each time meeting the most spectacular friends. However, most international students only go abroad for one semester so they all said there farewells to me, “Goodbye until next time,” and there will be a next time.
Over the Christmas holidays I didn’t actually go home, I got a job instead and lived on campus. Most people had left for home either abroad or in Australia. However, I met one girl at the end of the year and she was looking for a house for the second semester. She ended up living on my accommodation floor for a month and we ended up being such good friends that I spent Christmas with her and her family – Aussie Style: SO much alcohol was shared and seafood eaten. On Boxing Day we watched wild seals swim around and sting rays gliding about. She now has a house with my 3 other best Australian friends – they call themselves “bogans” and, well, the shoe fits. It’s now the beginning of semester two and I go round theirs continuously – my little Australian family.
My final word of advice if you are going on a year abroad is to not worry, people love to help and tell you their stories so just ask the right questions and strangers will tell you their whole lives. Make the most of your time abroad, travel, talk, make memories and actually do study – I have never been prouder than to say that I have managed good grades whilst still being able to travel, work and socialise!
Michelle Gault is an Environmental Sciences student currently on her year abroad at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.