Downtown Sydney Opera House at Night Ariel WurstaWhile deciding where I wanted to study abroad, I always had a feeling I would want to go to Australia. I go to Muhlenberg College, a small school of 2,200 undergraduate students located 15 minutes from my house. I personally had never left home for longer than 2 weeks, but love to travel. A lot of students are drawn to Europe, but something about the beaches of Australia intrigued me. The summer going into my junior year of college, I decided to say goodbye to my Muhlenberg friends and take the journey 14 hours from home, solo.

Orientation

When I got to my orientation in Sydney, I would soon meet the life-long friends that I still see to this day. A perk of studying with IFSA is the program sizes are usually on the smaller side, giving you another opportunity to have a few familiar faces at your host-university and around the city of your choice. No matter where you study abroad it is important to remember everyone else is experiencing this place and lifestyle for the first time as well.

Gold Coast Sky Ariel Wursta

As soon as we received our room assignments for the 4 day orientation I knew we would all settle in just fine. Our two program advisors were like our moms away from home providing different types of helpful resources like the Aussie version of Uber (Ola), local doctors’ offices and chemists, and restaurants and attractions in the area.

IFSA provided us a hostel, took us to an animal sanctuary where we were able to pet kangaroos and hold koala bears, see the famous Three Sisters, and go on a dinner cruise with a beautiful view of the Sydney Opera House.

Arrival in Gold Coast

Finally, we arrived to what would be our home for the next 4 months, Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. There were two housing options: on-campus apartments and Surfer Century Apartments in the heart of Surfer’s Paradise. I lived on the 20th floor of Surfer Century with a beautiful skyline view and the ocean. It was a dream being a block from the beach. We met our Griffith University mentor that IFSA partners with through the apartment. Our orientation leader happened to be the student body president who knew all the steps to assimilate into the Uni community. He took us on a walking tour teaching us about the tram, night life, grocery stores, sim cards and so much more. I thought it was awesome that IFSA partnered up with Griffith’s exchange student resources giving us the ability to meet other exchange students in our apartment complex as well as around the city of Gold Coast. I met friends from Ireland, Scotland, England as well as the United States. When I continued my study abroad experience into my second semester of junior year, two of my good friends from the IFSA program visited me in Dublin, Ireland over their spring break. The relationships I created abroad is a special bond that I would never exchange.

Favorite Places & Experiences

Burleigh Hills Gold Coast Ariel WurstaSomething I’ll miss forever are my commutes back from a long day of class. The tram ride to and from campus was around 20 minutes but worth every second. I would get off a few stops early and take my stroll back to the apartment on the beach. I’ll never forget my busy Wednesdays ending with some music, unwinding as I walked home on the shore line as the sun would set. By the end my friends and I felt like Gold Coast wasn’t so big, we saw familiar faces everywhere: the beach, the bars, the restaurants, and campus.

Dinner Market Gold Coast Ariel Wursta

To the left you’ll see my favorite local spot happened to be Burleigh Hill. Whether you wanted to go shopping, grab some amazing tacos at California Tacos, watch skilled surfers, or have a sunset picnic on Burleigh Hill, this place was absolutely gorgeous. And if you look to the right you’ll see the best dinner market

around, with foods from all different backgrounds. What I would do to go back to listen to live music and drink Marcella’s guava iced tea at Miami Marketta!

This was another spot for an IFSA excursion as well. Barefoot bowls is a turf-like activity that perfect for a laid back Sunday, 10/10 recommend.

Ocean Road Tour Ariel Wursta

Our last excursion as a group included a trip to Morton Island. We were able to go snorkeling, kayaking, and sand tobogganing on this beautiful two day trip.

There was plenty of extra time to do personal travel weekends by yourself or with a friend. Classes meet only once or twice a week. Griffith University provided recording of every big lecture which was super accommodating to all the students. When I wasn’t in their library, I took the time to explore the other neighboring towns as seen on the right is Rainbow Bay. On the left, it’s a picture of me at the 12 Apostles on a Great Ocean Road tour. The Great Ocean Road tour and my weekends in Byron Bay were by far major highlights of my trip. Australia is rich with natural beauty and people.

I learned so much about myself through this experience and made so many new friends. The relationships I built and the personal growth I achieved are things I will never take for granted and will always be so thankful to IFSA for making sure my experience was smooth sailing until the moment I was home.

Ariel Wursta is a psychology major at Muhlenberg College and studied abroad with IFSA at Griffith University in Fall 2019.