Dear Australia,
I want to sincerely thank you for the past four and a half months. You have changed me.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was signing up for when I agreed to study half way across the world. Hearing everyone else’s stories, those who braved the experience before me, made study abroad sound like an amazing experience. I know now, however, that this once in a lifetime experience cannot be put into words, or stories, or blogs. This incredible experience was something I will never forget as long as I live. I didn’t just find myself; I rediscovered myself.
You changed the way I view myself.
Pre-Australia, I didn’t quite know my place in the world. In America we grow up being taught life is supposed to go a certain way, follow a certain order. If you don’t quite follow this order, grow up, go to school, get a job, you’re not fulfilling the American dream. Australia, you challenged my perception of this “perfect life” and I thank you for that. I no longer feel the pressure to stick to the status quo, but rather want to venture out of my comfort zone and explore this life. Life is meant to be lived, and I believe many people lose sight of that. This world is meant to be travelled and places are meant to be seen. As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” When I grow old and look back on my life, I don’t want to regret living only the life my parents expected me to live. There is so much more out there for me.
You changed my perception of this “perfect life.”
I am still amazed at the kindness and friendliness I experienced while in Australia. Growing up on the east coast, near New York City, I was used to the hustle bustle and lightning-fast pace of everyday life. Faces pass without a smile or friendly nod, and people do not want to be bothered. God forbid you get in someone’s way, or try to talk to him or her on the subway. I miss all of the lovely strangers I met and spoke with on a daily basis in Australia. Friendly faces were seen almost everywhere, and people actually took the time to ask how your day was going.
You changed the way I look at other people.
I left this country with an incredible sense of independence, confidence, and courage. I’ve come to understand that life is what you make it and I strive to make everyday an adventure. I strive to appreciate nature in all its ways. I am humbled after seeing the world from a different perspective and through a different continent’s context. I push myself to reach out and speak with new people everyday and listen to the stories they share. I do my best to be more open-minded and look at the world in a brighter light.
You changed the way I live my life.
I no longer take for granted the opportunities presented to me, because each unknown can lead to the next great adventure. Every opportunity I encounter could be my next stepping stone, the next chapter in my story. The story of my life has not yet been written, and you have taught me to seek out adventure and the road less traveled. Because of you, Australia, I am no longer afraid to follow the path that seems most daunting, furthest from my comfort zone, because I know that’s where I truly find my joy.
You changed me as a whole, for the better, Australia. I am forever grateful for that.
Jennifer Lally is a student at Saint Joseph’s University of Pennsylvania and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.