SYDNEY – “Adventure is out there.” This is not only a famous quote from one of Disney Pixar’s best movies, but it is also a great life motto. Take a step out of your comfort zone and try something new. For the freshmen reading this, maybe that hits close to home right now, only a few weeks into school. For the upperclassmen, maybe that will invoke some nostalgia. But the one thing that nobody tells you is that terrifying fear that comes with adventure. The great unknown. Regardless of your class at the University of Rhode Island, everyone who studies abroad gets that feeling.
It took me 23 hours to get from Boston’s Logan Airport to the Australian Border. I spent 20 hours flying, with the sun not coming up whatsoever on the 14 hour flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane. For some, maybe that’s what it felt like on the drive to URI. Terror, with no light at the end of the tunnel. However, once I got off the plane and into the terminal, I looked up to see a familiar sight. Krispy Kreme. You know, the donut shop that every fraternity and sorority goes to for their fundraisers? I had to laugh, was this really the whole new world that I had been promised?
As I left the airport and met up with my program, The Education Abroad Network. People who had been connecting via the Facebook page were hugging, introducing themselves, and swapping stories. Sound familiar? As I turned to the person next to me, she recognized my URI hoodie that I was wearing. The first words out of her mouth were, “You go to URI? I’m from East Greenwich.” That was when I knew I was going to be just fine.
My first day in the country felt a bit like a blur, but that was probably because I had gotten three hours of sleep over the last 36 hours. However, my jet lag woke me up around 5 a.m. the next day, and that was truly a blessing in disguise. This is when I truly realized where I was, and how amazing my new home was. Only about 50 feet from my hotel was the Cairns harbor, and the sun was rising just above the mountains in the city. I raced out onto the fishing pier and watched the sunrise. It was as if Australia was putting on a show to welcome me to the country. It was absolutely magnificent. Amazingly, that wasn’t even the highlight of my day.
Australia has an international mascot. When people think of Australia, one animal comes to mind. On my first full day in the country, that animal came up to me and ate right out of my hand. That animal is the kangaroo. While it took over an hour to coax one of them towards me, once it started eating the kangaroo stayed close to my friend and I for about half an hour. IT WAS SO CUTE. This was immediately followed by a bird landing on my friend who then quickly passed it around to me. It made for a great photo until it dug into my shirt and refused to fly off, forcing the park staff to come and pry it off of me.
One of the things that I miss most about URI is the tour guide team. Since I got here in the fall of 2015 tour guiding has basically been my life day in and day out. When I’m on tour the biggest piece of advice that I give to freshmen is to get involved. Do something spectacular. Adventure is out there. With that mindset, I was able to make the most out of my trip to the Great Barrier Reef.
One of the natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is something that you need to see to believe. The second that I jumped into the water I looked down to see a white tipped reef shark beneath me. After swimming around for a few more minutes a sea turtle appeared in front of me. The list of amazing things that I saw went on for what felt like an eternity, between a Sea Cucumber, a Blue Tang (Dory), and tons of other fish and creatures. However, one of the reasons that I was able to see and do all of this amazing stuff is because I had the mindset of, “my time here is limited, let’s make the most of it.” For anyone reading this, ESPECIALLY freshmen, I hope that is how you’ll choose to spend your time at URI.