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June 12, 2017

For the first half of the semester, I was doing my best to never go somewhere twice. I did this because I wanted to experience as much of Sydney as possible. But now, as the time winds down, I am pretty much only going to places I’ve been before. You could say the first half of the semester was about finding myself in Sydney and finding my niche; whereas in the second half of the semester, it’s about how easy it was for someone to find me in Sydney.

Mondays are with Gigi. You can find me at Kingston on Mondays for lunch because it’s the best steak sandwich in Sydney and Gigi is the nicest bartender I’ve met, always giving me an additional discount on top of the lunch deal and student discounts – Thanks Gigi. Sundays are travel days – you can find me at the Macdonaldtown train station. Unlimited travel for $2.50 is music to my ears in this city, so I always hop on a few trains and ferries to travel the city. Most recently I’ve gone to Chatswood, Cronulla, and the Sydney Olympic Park.

The rest of the week doesn’t have assignments to days, but I always find a way to fit it in. My TCU friend, Adam (I’ll come back to that later) and I always go to Bavarian once a week with one of our Penn State friends. It doesn’t matter who or when, this is always a highlight of my week. And of course, you can find me at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair weekly, sometimes more frequently than that. For those that don’t know Sydney geography well, the Opera House is on the top left corner of the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Macquarie’s Chair is on the top right corner of the gardens. And there is nothing between the Chair and the House except for water, so this is the best backdrop for reading, journaling, and watching the sunset with the Harbor Bridge in the back, adding to the immaculate view.

Studying abroad is more than physical location though. These are the geographic locations you can find me if you happened to be in Sydney (holla, let’s grab a meal), but what about where I can find myself? That’s not a physical, geographic thing. I mentioned my TCU friends earlier – I convinced two friends to come with me and that’s really helped me feel comfortable in this city. But at the same time, I’m 9,000 miles away and 15 ahead of my best friends, all my other friends, my home, my brother, and everything I’ve known for the first 20.5 years of my life.

I’ve had a lot of alone time while abroad. I’m not used to spending entire days by myself. This isn’t like TCU where I am in constant communication with people and social life is the cornerstone of your college career. A number of days here are spent independently, exploring the city and discovering it and yourself. I know this may sound corny, but I’ve really been able to find myself and learn who I am in Sydney. My goals when coming to college as a freshman were threefold. First, understand myself. Second, understand other people. Third, understand how I work with other people. I’ve put a lot of work into all three of those goals this semester, particularly the first one. Studying abroad is amazing for two main reasons. Not only do you get to live in another country, experiencing all the sights, sounds, and activities with your new friends; but you also get to learn so much about yourself because you are travelling off to another country by yourself, leaving almost everything and everyone you know behind.

Is it scary? Yeah of course it’s scary. But the best things in life don’t come easy.

One of the books I read last fall was The Last Lecture X Randy Pausch (S/O to Garrett for letting me borrow it from his personal library). The book is about Randy Pausch, a professor who is terminally ill, and the last lecture he ever gave. This was essentially life advice he had amassed throughout his lifetime.

The most piercing advice for me was related to the best things in life not coming easy. “Walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” So if you’re trying to decide if study abroad (or something else, this is very over-arching advice) is right for you, acknowledge that it won’t be easy. Then answer this question – how badly do you want it?

This blog was inspired by Kaitlyn Callaghan – she is studying in Cape Town, South Africa, which is amazing and tougher than studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. She’s doing amazing things there and blogging about it too, so check that out.

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