This weekend, three of my friends and I flew to Avalon, a tiny airport outside Melbourne, to drive the Great Ocean Road. Although we had carefully planned the week before, the trip felt spontaneous and exciting. It’s definitely not something I would have done back at school. We left Thursday morning around 4:30 AM and drove all day along the coast. (Side note: Arcadia does not recommend driving on study abroad. This makes sense!! Luckily, one of our friends has extensive experience driving on the wrong left side of the road).
The views scattered across the cliffs were stunning. We stopped at lighthouses, ruins, and green overlooks. We hiked in the rainforest, spotted wild birds and koalas, and even saw a volcano. We ended at sunset at the 12 Apostles, one of the prettiest sights I’ve caught in Australia.
Although our hostel wasn’t the coziest experience, sleeping there was fun in the way camping with your family is when you are a kid. It was also SO cheap. After driving, we arrived in Melbourne, sun-spent and exhausted.
The next morning, we explored the Fitzroy neighborhood of Melbourne. Arcadia took us to Melbourne for orientation, but I 100% recommend going back. This city is incredible. Delicious food, great street art, and amazing people watching. And the coffee. I could write tomes about the array of caffeinated products here. The bar scene is also tons of fun in Melbourne. It’s way less club-y than Sydney, with lots of hole in the wall pubs and live music to check out.
Writing this, it may seem like I should have studied abroad in Melbs rather than Sydney. But I don’t regret my city choice for a second. For me, Sydney is better for a study abroad experience. There are so many international students and tourist attractions; I feel like I’m right in the thick of things. I also love my friends at USyd and I wouldn’t trade them for a second.
But upon further reflection, Melbourne is the city I would choose if I were to live in Australia long term. That’s the great thing about studying abroad—you’re forced to really learn a lot about yourself. No matter how hard I try, I’m just not a cool surfer chick who can fit in on Bondi Beach. Honestly, I gravitate more to dreary, bookish neighborhoods with heaps of charm. Most days, I would take a good flat white over a fancy cocktail. And I love street art more than famous monuments. And I think that’s okay.
Exploring Melbourne, I realized the diversity of this country. Australia has so many dimensions; it can’t be reduced to its biggest city. This weekend made my study abroad experience feel bigger, more urgent. There’s so much of this country to see, and so much more about myself to find out. Thanks for sticking with me.