Term Two Reflections

7 February 2019

After a long Christmas break, Natalia looks back on her year abroad in Australia so far.

natalia blog 3

Since my last blog post in November, a lot has been happening. Unlike in the UK, summer holidays in Australia happen over Christmas time, so I seemed to get a lot more time off university than all of my friends in the northern hemisphere. By December, my exams were finished and I had until February to travel around as much as I possibly could. I went on a road trip with my friends, and then went home
for Christmas. 

I am very lucky that I was able to go home (even for the short amount of time that I did), but I was really ready to see my family after six months. I saw a lot of my extended family too, and of course they were all very interested to listen to my stories and see all of the photos I had taken. It can be quite strange leaving home for so long, and realising that people you’re used to seeing regularly no longer know what you get up to on a daily basis. I had to explain to a few bemused uncles that I do, in fact, still do university! My photo presentation perhaps gave them a warped view of what I get up to: I certainly take more pictures of beach sunsets than I do of evenings spent in the library (who could blame me though?). Something I do get asked a lot is about all the Australians that I meet, but unfortunately the answer is that I don’t actually know that many! In my classes, I get to meet real Aussies, but it’s much easier to get to know other exchange students, because we all have the same agenda — to explore Australia. Many Australian students have jobs on the side of uni, and a large proportion live at home. That means that I do have a very international group of friends (although I must say, I’ve made an effort not to stick with Brits, because it doesn’t make sense to leave the UK but stay in a British bubble). However, having said that, after Christmas I brought my sister over which was really exciting. She came over for five weeks, and together we went to a few places in Australia that I hadn’t been to, and then to New Zealand. 

New Zealand

I did show her around Brisbane too, so that she got an idea of what my life here is like. It was a big trip for us, which certainly wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t on my Year Abroad, and so I’m really grateful that we managed to arrange a time that we were both free in our busy lives to travel together. And now back to the busy life back in Brisbane. I really have been having the time of my life here in Australia, but if a person considering going abroad is reading this, they may be more interested to hear about the hard parts of a year abroad. For me, the most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with so far is the fact that many of my friends from last semester left at Christmas. Most British universities offer a full year abroad programme, but other universities are more likely to offer just a single semester abroad. That means that many of the wonderful people I’ve met have gone back home, and because they live far away from both Australia and the UK, it might be a long time before we meet up again. The other side of that coin, however, is that I know I have friends in all sorts of places, and I’ve been hit with a travel bug that I can’t get rid of!

One final thought: a friend of mine considering doing a year abroad messaged me recently. He had been offered a place at a university he hadn’t applied to, and didn’t really fancy the sound of it. He asked me if I thought it was worth doing or not. I can’t speak for him, because each experience is different, but I know that I personally have grown so much this year. I wouldn’t have made the friends that I have, and this year has shown me a new side of myself, and I would do it again without a doubt.

By Natalia Abell