The Land Down Under: Was it All Just a Dream?
By Shannon Garrity – Shannon is a GlobaLinks Learning Abroad Student from Bridgewater State University who has just finished studying at James Cook University – Townsville, Australia.
Shannon Garrity, Study Abroad Student at James Cook University – Townsville
Apparently, I have been back in the states for almost a month, but somehow that does not even seem logical. For the first time I can honestly say Australia does truly feel like a world away. Everyday I experience a sense of culture shock and not necessarily by the lack of palm trees or Australian accents – but, rather, by my inability to summarize this experience in just a few words.
For everyone who has been abroad and come back, you know what I’m talking about – and for all of those who are starting their journeys – you will know what I’m talking about. It’s the simple three worded question almost every family member and close friend will ask, “How was it?” And, then a million different memories will run through your mind, which one do you talk about first?
Here’s the thing, if you can’t answer that question in a few words, that’s a good thing. For me – a multitude of things run through my head from the views of the plane arriving in Australia to orientation to moments with the best of friends I’ve met over there. All the people that surrounded me have now become familiar faces in pictures, all the picturesque images in my mind hold true on many post cards I’ve collected and souvenirs here and there…and being home again is surreal in itself, as I see even the most familiar places in a different light now.
No matter how many ways I arrange souvenirs around my room or plan trips to see friends I’ve met abroad – there is no finality to studying abroad. Nothing can capture the experience I had fully and that’s the beauty of it. As sad as I am that it is “over” in a physical sense of the word, all that can be taken out of it will go on for the rest of my life…from my continuing desire to travel the world to confirming my desire to become an international social worker to being more independent than I ever have been.
The thing is, for all those who have embarked on a similar journey as mine and had to say goodbye to a new land and its people – maybe you can relate to the aspect of leaving a small part of yourself in that country. There’s a part of me that looks back in amazement that only a few months ago I was hiking to the tops of a tropical island and diving one of the natural wonders of the world.
No matter how many opportunities and challenges that were sent me to me in the land down under, I look back with a huge smile on my face and the faint idea that it had to be all a dream to have been able to take advantage of such an incredible experience. So, if you just came home a month or even a year ago and still can’t summarize your time – don’t you worry, it is often the hardest things to explain that leave the biggest footprints on our hearts. And, for those just starting their journey abroad – make a pact to yourself that when you set your foot on home soil again the pictures you take will come alive in your own heart, the memories you make will leave you speechless, and apart of you will always be left throughout the world and grow in ways unimaginable.
The view of the Sydney Opera House from walking the Harbor Bridge at sunset.
The view of the Sydney Harbor Bridge from atop the Opera House’ steps.
View of part of the Sydney skyline at sunset.
My friends and I atop Mt. Stuart one of our last days in our host university’s city of Townsville, with spectacular 360 views of the city, ocean, Great Barrier Reef, mountains, bushland, and Great Dividing Range.
View of the Great Dividing Range on the western part of Mt. Stuart, this divides the tropical (majority inhabited) parts of Australia from the deserted Outback.
My last night in Townsville just so happened to be the night of the super moon, it was incredible watching the sun set and super moon rise simultaneously on the tropical beach.
Up-close view of the city where I spent the past 5 months of my life, with Castle Hill and Magnetic Island in the distance…both places I’ll never forget!