A great draw to Australia is its variety. Bestowing locals and tourists alike with a plethora of geography, culture, and activities, Australia has something for everyone and it is impossible to be bored or uninspired while there. Whatever one’s interest may be, Australia has it and in innumerable forms. There is always something to discover and even if one does not have a set path or plan in mind, there is great value in wandering and allowing the mind to be lost for a while before it is found again.
I started my study abroad program in Australia as a tourist and left feeling like a local. I got on a plane for twenty three plus hours to chase a dream I had since eighth grade. I began my journey expecting to stay in Australia for three weeks, learn from note-worthy speakers, have unforgettable adventures, make memories, meet new people, and maybe buy a souvenir or two (or ten). The thought that I would have found my place in a continent on the other side of the world that actually felt like somewhere where I could live longterm and call home never occurred to me and when those feelings happened, I was caught off guard. That being said, I’m glad that Australia resonated so deeply with me, because it taught me a crucial lesson about place and one’s relation to it.
(My group and I at the Great Barrier Reef)
All my life, I have travelled. The majority of my family lives in Poland and I have made it a priority to learn the language and spend my summers flying to my home country. From there, I started going wherever else I could and my passion for travel exponentially increased with every passport stamp and determined footprint. My wanderlust is considered a bit extreme by some, but frankly I do not care anymore. I have learned to shrug off others’ thoughts and the “but Caroline, why can’t you just settle in one place?”, “Why isn’t Wisconsin enough for you?”, “Where are you going now?”, “What are you trying to find?” questions, because I find them tiring and pointless.
(By the Harbour Bridge before seeing La Bohème at the Sydney Opera House)
Your place is not limited to where you were born or where you currently live, it is wherever you can thrive and grow as a person. It also does not have to be one location and there is beauty in complexity. There is no shame in having more than one sense of place in the world or a place that you never thought would have left such an impact on you, because it was beyond your original comfort zone. Embrace that, you have grown as a person. You have conquered your desire for comfort, swatted it away, and chosen to go beyond what is familiar. Sometimes you find somewhere you can call your place and it’s on the other side of the world. Rather than fighting that feeling, embrace it and allow yourself to broaden your horizons and discover yourself , because you will likely be pleasantly surprised.
I am grateful for this program, because I learned that it is okay to have more than one dream. For instance, I went into the program knowing that writing and the editorial realm was my world, but that I wanted to do more professionally and personally. I put in so much effort into the writing industry and, don’t get me wrong, I love it and am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had to be published and make my voice known. That being said, I have always felt that I was meant to do more than just write or edit. After working closely with the International Study Abroad representatives and getting to know them and their work, I learned that I would love to work for the ISA or a similar organization. It would be phenomenal to help other students achieve their dreams of studying abroad and discussing the importance of travel and its correlation to mindfulness. I will have to see what the future holds, but my time abroad taught me that it is okay to have multiple passions and more than one dream. It does not make you scatterbrained or lacking diligence, it makes you versatile.
(The town of Kiama)
I wish I could say I was okay with leaving and that it was “just a study abroad” or “only a temporary destination”. Unfortunately that’s not the case. I fell in love with Australia. I was happy. I felt like I didn’t have to force anything and being myself came naturally. There is no such thing as the perfect place but Australia came pretty close. Weirdly, coming back to Wisconsin felt like I was leaving home and not the other way around. I’m not sure how to feel about that, all I know is that I need to come back.
Thank you for the memories, Australia. See you soon.
~ The Caro Chronicles
(Kangaroos in Hunter Valley Wine Country)