My study abroad in Melbourne, Australia was a life changing experience that I will never forget.  I attended La Trobe University, which was located in a suburb called Bundoora around 45 minutes away from the city.  One of the highlights of my study abroad experience happened almost immediately after my arrival in the country.  I signed up for a Pre-Orientation trip through a tour company called Extreme Adventures, who set up a tour for only international students who were going to La Trobe to help get acquainted with each other and be able to explore Melbourne together.  There were 50 of us on this tour for the weekend, and I was able to meet college students from all around the world.  We stayed in a small town called Lorne and we went on a scenic hike, went to the famous Bells beach, and drove the Great Ocean Road.  The Great Ocean Road was a place I had researched about before arriving in Australia and I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, two of my favorite places I saw in Australia now looking back at the whole experience.  This was the start to life-long friendships and memories I will always cherish.  The majority of these people I met on this trip remained my friends throughout my time in Australia and we already have plans to all visit each other in the near future.

A lot of my memories from my time abroad consist of the people I met in the dorms and living on campus.  Our dorm always had many events every week, which allowed us to intermingle between the colleges and it was a very different dorm life experience than what I had at the University of Oregon.  One night in particular that I think of very fondly was when I was able to be apart of hundreds of thousands of people in the city for White Night, which was a night where everyone went to the city from 7pm to 7am.  They light up Flinders Train Station with amazing graphics of neon changing lights with projectors.  It was a sight to see with live music and performers all throughout the streets and it was a great experience being able to be apart of something so big.

I was also fortunate to take my exploring out of Melbourne and I was able to travel to Sydney and Brisbane with some international friends.  In Sydney, I toured the Blue Mountains, went to the famous Bondi Beach, went to the Sydney Opera House to see the movie Gladiators live with the Sydney Symphony, and went on a boat cruise around the Sydney Harbor.  This city is by far one of my favorite cities that I’ve ever gone to, and it is a dream of mines to be able to live in Sydney for a year or two.  Brisbane was another cool city and reminded me of Melbourne but smaller.  We went to a fresh food and craft market as well as exploring the different parts of the city travelling by ferry.  Something that really intrigued me about Australia was that it was such a huge country, but every single city is so unique and different from one another, just like how it is here in the United States.

My list of highlights could continue on, but my final highlight that I would like to share was seeing the Great Barrier Reef.  Whenever I thought of Australia, I dreamed of one day being able to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef and I’m proud to say that I checked that off my bucket list.  Being from Hawaii, I wondered how the reef would compare and if I would be disappointed because the reefs here in Hawaii are so beautiful as well.  But the Great Barrier Reef definitely exceeded my expectations and it is a place one would have to see to believe.  This wonder of the world was so full of life and even though the tour guides said the reef is slowly getting bleached and damaged, I didn’t waste a second while I was down there and a part of that underwater world.  Studying abroad in Australia was one of the best decisions I ever made and if I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat to continue my travels around the country.

Julia Tom, Bundoora, Australia