Written by C. Victoria Johnson
I always knew that I wanted to study abroad in college but the big questions were where and for how long. I never thought that I would be living on the complete opposite side of the world for a whole semester. Traveling this far and for this long terrified me, but I am so grateful that I took a leap of faith and the 25-hour plane ride to Sydney, Australia.
For years I started my mornings next to my brother and sisters watching The Crocodile Hunter encounter the strange wildlife of Australia; I think my fascination of the country stemmed from those many mornings on the couch. Fourteen years later, my dad and I made a deal that if I got a higher score on my ACT and received additional scholarship money, I could study abroad wherever I wanted. I had always thought I would find myself somewhere in Europe, but from the moment I heard about the College of Communication and Information Global Scholars Program, I knew it was for me. I would be attending the famous University of Sydney, completing an internship, and spending a whole semester in breathtaking Australia.
One of the first lessons studying abroad taught me was that leaving the country is hard. Not only was leaving the country difficult in the instances of attaining a visa, filling out what seemed like endless paperwork, and following the extremely specific packing guidelines, but it was challenging to say goodbye to each one of my relatives and friends. Driving over to their houses to say goodbye, knowing I would not see them for four months, was daunting. However, after all of my goodbyes and a two-day journey, I stepped out into the Land Down Under. I was immediately comforted by the fact that I was not alone and that everyone in the group had just started their journey in a country on the other side of the world from their home. In this moment, I realized that I would not be completely without a family on the trip, as the group of UT students would become my Sydney family. Upon our arrival, we were rushed into activities to avoid jet lag, of which I enjoyed every minute. From Circular Quay to dinner at Blackbird, Sydney had stolen my heart and brought the group closer and closer together.
I was also comforted by the fact that I knew I had been prepared by the University of Tennessee to take this leap. In addition to being involved in the Chancellors Honor’s Program, I was an Ignite Team Leader. Both programs gave me a wealth of knowledge about leadership, diversity, and how to adjust. I already had an appreciation for learning more about different cultures and now before me was the amazing opportunity to dive into Australian culture. Studying abroad has pushed me to discover more about other cultures and about myself. One of these discoveries was that there is not only a strong Australian culture but many Asian cultures present in Australia as well.
I have loved every second of getting to know all the cultures represented in Australia and meeting Aussies of diverse backgrounds. The laid-back atmosphere is something that I have really grown to enjoy. No worries, the classic Australian phrase that I have heard many times every day, has become a central motto of my study abroad journey. I have often found myself overwhelmed with the stress of schoolwork and the business of everyday life and needing to step back to observe how far I have come. This simple phrase reminded me that everything would be alright no matter what got thrown my way. It has also been really amazing to experience how accepting and friendly Australians are. I have made many lifelong friends and have experienced the kindness of this country; everyone here truly are mates. In addition to the rich culture and the amazing people, the landscape of Sydney blew me away. You often hear about Sydney’s beaches but what left me breathless was the enormous cliffs and mountains. Sydney awoke my adventurous side and pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I am honored to be studying abroad in Sydney, a place that is packed full of so many diverse cultures. Being here has taught me so much about diversity, but also so much about myself. I have been immersed in new cultures while gaining crucial skills in adaptation, navigation, and communication. I possess a great appreciation for their relaxed mindset and know that I will be taking my “no worries” outlook back with me to the States. I have grown so much over the first phase of this program and I cannot wait to meet the person I will have grown to be by semester’s end. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity and all of those who have helped me experience the Land Down Under.