Emma Alquist recently returned to Morgantown after spending a semester in Australia.
What do you miss most about your host country?
Everything. Honestly, it’s hard to narrow down the one thing I miss most about Australia. I think some of the predominant things I miss most are my friends, the weather, city life and, of course, the beaches!
I came back to the states at the very end of December to 20° weather after leaving Sydney when it was 90°. My friends are still there relaxing on the beaches enjoying the summer sun while I’m praying we don’t get any snow.
It’s also been tough seeing my friends on social media still enjoying the city life in Sydney. Living in the city was something I was getting used to. It was nice being able to take the train in to meet with friends or go to a new restaurant or bar each night.
Did anything surprise you about returning to the U.S.?
I knew I was going to miss Australia, but I didn’t realize just how much. My first week was tough because I couldn’t find motivation to get on the right sleep schedule and start getting ready to head back to school. I was extremely excited to be back with my friends and family, but I kept wishing I could be back in Sydney and continuing my easy life there.
I was also surprised how much of my life at home remained the same. I don’t know what I was anticipating to come home to after six months away, but I imagined everyone and everything being very different. This, however, was not the case. I think I am thankful for this, though, because I came back to a place that felt comfortable and it wasn’t just another puzzle for me to try to fit into.
What is your favorite memory from studying abroad?
There were so many exciting things I was able to do abroad, but one of my favorite memories was traveling down to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup with two of my friends I met in Sydney. The Melbourne Cup is essentially the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby in the U.S. After a 10-hour bus ride, we made it to Melbourne, which was such a unique and cool city. The following day we got dressed up and spent the day betting on the horses and enjoying the race day culture. It might not sound too eventful, but the two girls I was with made it such a laugh and it is a day I will never forget.
Were there any negatives to studying abroad?
Not really. Towards the end of my travels I was running low on money, but this was my fault as I splurged out in my previous travels and didn’t budget it out very well. I have no regrets about this, though, as I was able to travel everywhere I wished to go and do the things I wanted to do.
What other countries did you visit while you were abroad, if any?
Unlike Europe, Australia is a continent consisting of just one country, so traveling to other places is a bit of a journey. Luckily I was able to visit Indonesia and New Zealand during my stay.
I visited Bali, Indonesia, which was such an amazing experience. Here I spent 10 days solo-traveling across the island. I was able to explore the rice fields and temples of Ubud, go to the Monkey Forest, take a surf lesson, and spend a few days in the Gili Islands where I got to swim with turtles. Solo-traveling allowed me to meet new people and navigate around to explore this unique culture.
In New Zealand, I met up with my boyfriend, my sister and her boyfriend. We stayed in Auckland in the North Island and explored from there. We did a vineyard tour in Waiheke Island as well as drive to Cathedral Cove, which were both very scenic. I think the most exciting part of being in New Zealand was going to Hobbiton! We were able to tour the set where the Hobbit and parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy were filmed and it was absolutely beautiful.
If you could give any advice to students wanting to study abroad, what would it be?
Do it! So many people think studying abroad is impossible with their majors or is too expensive, but there are so many ways to make it work. I made sure to have the course contracts figured out so I was gaining valuable credits towards my major. I also spent a lot of time applying for scholarships to help me fund the six months abroad, which definitely paid off. It was an experience that I wish for everyone to give a try. I became so much more independent, met so many great people and had the adventure of a lifetime.