“What are you going to do after you graduate?”
This is one of the most dreaded questions a college student may ever hear. For many people this is an anxiety-inducing question, but for me it has always been an easy one. Since I was 13, I knew that I wanted to go into the medical field and study biology. Family and friends seemed supportive of my choice, but once I got to college, everyone kept reassuring me it was okay to change my mind. For me though, the only path was the one leading to medical school.
In Australia, I Experienced Student Life Without the Stress
In the weeks before leaving to study abroad, my mom talked to me about how I might go to Australia and come back with new dreams. She assured me life would still continue if I decided to become a koala handler. I went along and told her I would keep an open mind on my trip. My semester abroad finally arrived, and I was off to move halfway across the world.
Every emotion pulsed in my body during my first few weeks abroad. As I got acclimated to Australian university life, my mom’s advice began to creep back into my head. I hadn’t signed up for any biology classes, only electives and core requirements. This new schedule gave me more freedom than I had ever had at my home university. With all my newfound time, I began to worry less about school and be able to focus more on seeing Australia.
This transition from constantly stressing about school to having time to truly experience what life has to offer was not one that came easily to me. After spending pretty much my entire life worried about juggling all my school assignments, I found myself lost with too much free time. During the beginning, I would just amble around my apartment or the community center not really sure what to do with myself. But as I gained more confidence, I started to meet more people who then became my new travel buddies.
In my first month of living in Adelaide, I traveled down the Great Ocean Road, camped in the Grampians National Park, explored the Blue Mountains, and spent a weekend at an old Australian sheep ranch. I learned very quickly that kangaroos and koalas were only novelties to tourists. The real Australian wildlife was much more interesting and diverse. Even back in Adelaide, I grew used to listening to the birds sing to each other every morning. My life had become full of nature and wildlife.
How I Rediscovered My Inner Biology Nerd
After every trip, I would call my family and regale them with all my stories. Soon enough I found I was the happiest I’d ever been. All of this travel and exploration opened up a whole new world to me. Naturally, I began to question my decision to go to medical school. Was becoming a doctor really worth giving up all my time? I tossed and turned over this thought for a few weeks, never able to come to a conclusion. However, my life would soon become all too clear.
Before I knew it, mid-semester break had arrived. My university gave us two whole weeks for break, and I could not have been more excited. I thought I was just going on the best holiday ever, but boy was I in for so much more. The first week of break was spent up in Cairns, Australia, also known as one of the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. Of course being that close to one of the world’s greatest natural beauties, my three friends and I took a day trip out to the reef. We spent the day snorkeling, and I even got to learn to scuba dive. It was one of the best experiences of my entire trip.
My love for science was why I had chosen to become a biology major in the first place. I couldn’t give that up if I wanted to.
There was so much life beneath the water. Once we got down to the ocean floor in our scuba gear, that is when the true biology nerd in me came out. I couldn’t get enough of it. Everywhere I turned was something new to look at, from clown fish, to sea cucumbers, to a stingray, there was no shortage of fascinating organisms. I was a little heartbroken when we had to head back to the marina; I could have spent the rest of my trip on the reef.
Later that night as I was going to sleep, I could not stop thinking about my day. My mind was racing with thoughts of coral reefs and memories of all the fish I saw. I must have lain there for an hour just reliving my day. Then it hit me. My love for science was why I had chosen to become a biology major in the first place. It is what excites me and lets me figure out the world around me. I couldn’t give that up if I wanted to.
From that moment on, I knew I had made the right decision becoming a biology major. Being able to get so close to all those beautiful sea creatures sparked a curiosity in me. Australia taught me to slow down and really examine the world around me. As much as I wanted to just lie on a beach for days on end, my passion for science would never let that happen.
All the doubts floating in my head slowly seemed to disappear after that. It was a tedious process, but as time went on, I gained more confidence in every decision I made. I was now more resolute than ever in my decision to go to medical school. Since coming back from my trip, my newfound assurance has pushed me through one of my hardest semesters. Four straight months full of nothing but science courses was definitely a shock to my brain. But it was just where I wanted to be. Australia exposed me to a whole new lifestyle, and also gave me the chance to realize that my true path in life was the one I was already on.
Lindsay McDonald is Biology student at Butler University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, in 2015.