I’m currently 50 days into my semester abroad at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia. I’ve fallen in love with cities and beaches and the way of life. When people think of culture, it’s usually Europe and Asia that come to mind: the architecture, history, and foreign language. I traveled Europe in my teen years and it has endless opportunities and staggering beauty, but by choosing to start my adventure down under, I’ve been able to experience a beautiful culture on the opposite side of the planet that’s changed my life.
When I first got here, I was much more homesick than I expected. When I moved into college as a freshman, I had no problems. The goodbyes were teary, but the rest was perfect. I adjusted almost immediately, and that’s what I expected would happen when I studied abroad. However, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I wouldn’t be seeing my friends or parents for three months and I was totally alone on the other side of the world. It wasn’t until I started classes that I began to calm down and get used to things. Being on a campus (especially one as beautiful as this) gave me a sense of home, and living among other locals and study abroad kids in the dorm-style living helped me meet people quickly.
This one really requires no explanation, but I’ll give you one anyways. The beaches here are something straight off a postcard. The ocean is a perfect turquoise anywhere you go and the sand is soft and white. The sky even seems bluer. While some are nicer than others, I have yet to find a beach that doesn’t blow my mind the second I see it. My recommendations:
Local beaches: Broadbeach, Burleigh Heads, Surfers Paradise
Beaches worth traveling to see: Byron Bay Beach (Byron Bay, New South Wales), 75 Mile Beach (Fraser Island), Bondi (Sydney), Whitehaven (Whitsunday Islands- most spectacular beach I’ve ever seen, also ranked as one of the top 5 beaches in the world)
Truth be told, I have yet to encounter an unfriendly Australian. People here go out of their way to help each other; that’s rare to find, and yet I’ve found it everywhere. One student spent a good 15 minutes trying to teach me how to use the printers here (it was ridiculously simple, so I must’ve looked like an idiot, but bless him, he never laughed once). Every time I’ve looked lost, someone has approached me asking if I need help. It actually caught me off guard at first, simply because I’ve grown to not expect much kindness from perfect strangers.
Hear me out- I know you’ve probably heard all about the deadly spiders and dangerous sea creatures rampantly roaming the country. While it is true that Australia is home to a lot more creepy creatures than I should be comfortable with, it’s also true that they are certainly not everywhere. I’ve seen a few jellyfish, which I was warned about, some big spiders, which still nearly stopped my breathing, but nothing I couldn’t handle, and I’m a total wimp. One of my favorite days here was my trip to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. I got to hold a koala, watch some adorable wallabies and dingos run around, and play with kangaroos. There’s a whole fenced off area where the kangaroos roam around freely and just hang out with you. HOW COOL IS THAT? I hugged them, I pet them, I took selfies with them. In my opinion, that makes up for the potential encounter with a bug.
I may be biased here since I was raised in Massachusetts and go to school right outside of Boston, but America is extremely fast paced. This may be truer in some places more than others (looking at you, Boston), but I think overall that’s a pretty accurate statement. Don’t get me wrong, I love the competitive atmosphere and there’s something comforting about car horns in traffic, large iced coffees with a turbo shot, and pedestrians walking faster than bicycles. It’s home. But here, everything is relaxed. When you go out to dinner, it takes a little longer to get your food, and people walk at a normal pace. At first, these things bothered me. Then one night at dinner, I was growing impatient within 5 minutes of ordering my meal (as usual), and then I stopped and looked around. I was surrounded by my friends, and some great music, and even better scenery. I began to appreciate what was around me and I really started to see the beauty in taking things a little slower.
This is the stuff all college kids really want to hear about. Whether you like drinking (which is legal at 18 here) or not, the Gold Coast night life is pretty spectacular. I’m not sure about other schools around here, but at Bond, there’s a bunch of bars and restaurants within walking distance and a casino a bus ride away. Then, at Broadbeach and Surfer’s Paradise, about 15 and 20 minutes away, respectively, there are seemingly endless options for clubs and bars- and the best part? They’re on the beach. Partying with a view! If you’re not into drinking, go anyways! The atmosphere is so much fun and you don’t need alcohol to make it that way. Seriously. You’re on a beach.