Danielle Rennard- Culture Editor
It has been said that you cannot truly understand a culture until you are fully submerged in it. This past summer, I spent a month in Australia and it was the trip of a lifetime and one that I will never forget.
Last semester, a representative from the organization International Student Volunteer (ISV), came to one of my classes and gave a speech about the organization. She explained that the program consisted of two weeks of volunteering and then two weeks of exploring and adventure in Australia, Costa Rica, Thailand, South Africa or the Dominican Republic. I was immediately interested in such an adventurous sounding trip, so after some thought, I decided to travel to Australia, and I couldn’t wait.
I spent my first two weeks volunteering in a wildlife park called “Walkabout Park,” which is located in the southeastern part of Australia. Myself and 11 other students from across the United States were about to be spending every moment of the next month together and we were all super excited. Kangaroos and emus roamed the park freely, the park rangers gave boomerang-throwing lessons and we were able to help the rangers out by completing tasks such as building animal cages. What’s cooler than that?
Our group leader, Stephanie McLeod, had a huge impact on our trip as well. She was responsible for making sure the Americans didn’t cause too much chaos or do anything we would regret. She gave us lessons on things, such as how to handle snake and spider bites, and even how to order ham at a grocery store, since they don’t use pounds. It was awesome having her as a leader because she is from New Zealand, but travels as an ISV leader in order to gain experience in environmental science. We not only learned about the Australian culture, but New Zealand as well.
Volunteering in the park was not only awesome (I mean, who wouldn’t want to pet a Dingo?) but also extremely educational. Each day I learned something new, whether it was about Australian animals, culture, the bush environment and even Aussie slang words.
The next two weeks of the trip consisted of traveling up to Cairns, which is in the northeastern region of Australia, and then making our way down the east coast. We stopped at Cairns, Airlie Beach, Fraser Island, Byron Bay and Sydney. For this part of the adventure we had a new tour leader, Trys Eddy. He always watched out for us and could answer any question, whether it was about smart ways to spend our money or what the best bar in town was.
One of the best parts of the trip was getting to spend it with strangers who became my best friends. We were able to experience amazing things together ranging from skydiving, bungee jumping, white water rafting, snorkeling the great barrier reef, trying new foods and overnight bus trips. I still keep in contact with all of them and have visited parts of the United States I have never been, just to see them. The submersion in a culture so opposite to your own, even when you don’t expect it to be, is something that everyone should experience if the opportunity presents itself.