Updated: Feb 3, 2022
"A reasonless love for Australia" is what my high school ex-boyfriend called my seemingly random obsession with the land down under, and he wasn't wrong. I wish I remembered what sparked this love; maybe it was a popular Disney cartoon set in the Outback, maybe it was a short story read in elementary school, or maybe it was something else, something that drew me to this place without me fully knowing why.
I do know that this obsession continued from childhood into college, and when the opportunity came for me to study abroad during my junior year, the choice was easy: I was finally going to Australia.
Much like every other Australia-related decision I have made in my life (and there have been many), I spent approximately thirty seconds Googling the available universities that did exchange programs with Chapman and landed on James Cook University in northern Queensland. I packed my bags, said goodbye to my friends, cried my eyes out at the airport, and then off I was, on a plane, hurtling towards my dream at 500 miles per hour.
The culture shock I felt upon landing was jarring. Here I was, the furthest away from home I'd ever been, in a seemingly identical country to the US, or so I thought, and yet everything was different. The electrical outlets were diagonal. Paper money was waterproof and came in dayglow colors. I was driving on the left side of the road from the right side of the car.
Despite everything being "the same," I had never felt more out of my element.
But there comes a moment for every traveler, I think, when things suddenly click in a way that they haven't before, and for me, that was two months into my trip, on a weekend excursion to nearby Magnetic Island, off the coast of Townsville. My friends and I loaded our backpacks with boxed wine and bathing suits and took the ferry across the channel to Nelly Bay, where a Full Moon Party was happening. We danced under the tropical night sky and swam in the ocean 'til morning, where I watched my first sunrise, ever, from the Coral Sea.
And that was when it clicked for me: this was exactly where I was meant to be. My love for Australia was no longer reasonless. I had a place and a purpose, and it was right here.
I rode back on the ferry the following morning, sleep deprived, but happy. I was finally living my Australian dream, and knew that the long journey there, both literally and figuratively, had been worth it.