This is the year of racking up miles and boarding passes. I explored Namibia for ten days through Rollins’ summer field study program and delivered my collaborative research on African textiles in Minnesota. Now, I am about to embark on a cross-continental journey yet again. My days will consist of unlimited sunlight, warm yet breezy weather, and surfer-bro slang in the birth country of one of my favorite celebrities, Chris Hemsworth. For five months, Sydney, Australia will be my home.
Even as my 15+ hour flight quickly approaches, I still cannot comprehend how I gathered enough courage to challenge myself in this way. Growing up, traveling as far as Puerto Rico or New York was a big deal for my mom and I; long, exotic summer vacations were reserved for my better-off friends and family members. I guess that this unsatisfied wanderlust helped shape me into the adventurous, bold person that I am today.
Before traveling to Namibia, I have never taken connecting flights nor left America/the Caribbean. I have never been in one destination without my mom or dad. My few trips to Puerto Rico were spent with my mom at my grandparents’ house; my month-long trips to New Jersey and New York were spent with my dad, who lives there. That unforgettable field study certainly prepared me to do all of the above for a significantly longer amount of time, and without a group of Rollins students by my side 24/7.
This time, I will have to plan my own activities. I will have to make peace with spending some days watching Netflix in-between the activity-filled days that leave me exhausted by dinnertime. I want to find local friends to explore the city with, finding free activities that only Sydneysiders would know about, from private art gallery showings to free morning yoga sessions.
Most importantly, I want to build enough confidence to be perfectly content with doing things on my own. I have always struggled with being comfortable alone and practicing self-love in-general. I recognize that, during my semesters at Rollins, I am quick to seek the company of others when times get tough. (Finals season, I’m looking at you.) I dream of walking down the streets of Sydney with blacked-out sunglasses and sport leggings on, returning to my apartment after a sunrise run and farmers market trip by the Opera House, strutting like Beyoncé in her music video for “Hold Up”–minus the vandalism.
Beyond these grand goals of finding myself and adulting successfully, I am overcome with excitement by the long list of activities that will only be a bus or train ride away from me. Going to college in Florida has its perks, but easy, cheap, and reliable transportation is definitely not one of them. When I learned that the state of New South Wales, which encompasses Sydney, has its own app for buses, trains, and ferries, I automatically downloaded it without even touching down in Australia yet.
Studying abroad in Sydney will give me the best of both worlds: The Carrie Bradshaw life that I yearn for, and the outdoorsy culture that I admire and want to dabble into. The opportunity to walk to class surrounded by beautiful parks and other public works, juxtaposed by constant honking and chattering, invigorates me. With a plethora of zoos and aquariums at my disposal–unlike in Central Florida–I will be on a semester-long hunt to take pictures with as many koalas and quokkas as possible. Not to mention, the beautiful Bondi to Coogee Beach Coastal Walk will be my bi-weekly stomping ground.
I look forward to creating memories (and envious Instagram posts) in a city that some people pay thousands of dollars to visit for only one week. Adios, Winter Park!
Images from left: Airport in Windhoek, Namibia; sunset at the Independence Museum in Windhoek