A 13-hour plane ride is the perfect time to sit and reflect on all of the aspect of my experience abroad, so that is what I am currently doing. My time in Australia was everything I could have hoped for and more—I definitely was not ready to leave. And as I sit here, all I can think about is not what I learned in the classroom, nor the beautiful sights that I was lucky to witness. What I am actually thinking about is how much I am going to miss the people that I met on the program. For me, the most rewarding aspect of my summer abroad was getting close to a whole new group of people.
Over the course of five weeks, 17 girls and two boys spent almost every moment together. This time tested each and every one of us—our ability to communicate, our patience, our strengths, our weaknesses—we all found a little more about who we are as individuals. Spending every day with the same small group is overwhelming and frustrating at times, but in the end, it proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences that one could ever partake in. We became a family by the end of our trip, and we all had trouble parting ways.
So as I sit here on the plane and think about this amazing journey, all I can say is, everyone should experience this feeling. It is painful to leave this new family behind, but we know that we will all see one another again someday, and the precious moments and “firsts” that were shared between all of us through studying abroad are what will keep us in contact through the years. Together, we immersed ourselves in a new culture. Together, we saw one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Together, we climbed to new heights, be it the top of a waterfall in Kakadu or the top of the Harbor Bridge in Sydney. The thing that made all of those experiences memorable, however, is the fact that we engaged in them together.
People bond and grow through the experiences that they share with others. When our journey began and I met everyone in my program, I thought to myself, ‘None of these people are like me. I can’t see myself getting close with anyone here.’ But as time went on, I realized that people do not have to be the same to be friends. We got to know each other on new levels and bonded through sharing experiences. Scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef is one experience that comes to mind; as it was a first for most of us, and a very intimidating one at that, we needed the reassurance from one another to stay calm before the dive and hold each others hair as we all got seasick on the boat. Moments like these are what bring people together. We went out on one of the roughest days possible on the reef; the weather was terrible, the wind was cold, and the waves were extremely choppy. We rode two hours out into the reef, arrived in a nauseated and nervous state of mind, and at the end of the day, it was one of the most magical experiences that any of us have ever had. Why? Sure, the coral and the fish were beautiful, and the instructors were awesome, but most of us got through the day because we had each other. I felt much more calm with people there that I felt close to, and at the end of the day, we all felt even closer.
I would recommend that every person studies abroad at one point in their life because, setting aside all of the academic benefits, it brings you closer to others. I now can say I have lifelong friends from all over the United States, and I look forward to the day we cross paths again and are able to experience another new piece of this world… Together.
Allison Hunt is a student at Temple University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. Allison has recently completed her study abroad with TEAN on the Tourism & Event Management – Australia Summer Program.