My time in Australia has flown by. After spending eight wonderful weeks here it is finally time for me to return home. I would like to thank Georgia and my exchange family for making my time here so amazing.
While I was over, I had the chance to go on the Outward Bound camp, a ten-day trek across the Australian outback. Over the course of our trip, my camp group travelled over 70 km on foot while each carrying over 50 pounds on our backs. We slept under a tarp strung between two trees, known as a bivvy, and cooked all our own meals. Hiking was very tough because most of the time there were no paths, so we had to make our own and this was called “bush-bashing” because the people in the front were literally breaking branches and bushes so that we could all get through.
We spent a lot of time on our hikes taking long detours to avoid gullies because supposedly a bunch of bulls had escaped from a farm nearby and now they were wild and liked to stay in the gullies where it was cooler. No one laughed when our instructor told us on the last night of camp how there were actually no bulls in the gully and it was all just a joke like gully-bull, gullible. Another time we spent about an hour making stick pyramid traps for the elusive hoop snake, an Australian snake that rolls like a wheel instead of slithering (it didn’t exist either). Throughout the trip, our camp group really bonded. We would sing songs together while we were hiking to pass the time and play fun games like Camouflage (extreme hide-and-seek) after lunch.
The purpose of the trip was to challenge us, take us out of our comfort zones, and also to make us better leaders. The instructors encouraged us to do everything by ourselves. They helped us out on the first few days, but by Day 4, we were on our own. They only intervened if we were in danger, like if we were heading too close to a blister bush. They didn’t even tell us if we were walking in the wrong direction, which we were, because at one point we navigated to the edge of a cliff instead of our campsite. Oops.
One of the days we went to these beautiful rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. Our instructors took away our watches and split us up for solo time. We each got a different spot to sit overlooking the ocean and spent approximately three hours sitting there in silence. They didn’t give us our watches back until the following night so for the whole next day we had the opportunity to experience life without time. Though Outward Bound was very challenging, it was definitely worth it. This experience made me so much more confident in my abilities and I also feel that I am a much stronger leader because of it. It also made me appreciate the little things more like running water, clean clothes, non-powdered milk, and showers.
As for going on exchange, it is without a doubt one of the best choices I have made. I really encourage other students to give it a try next year. I’ve learned so much and had so many new experiences. I’ve made some great friends who I hope to see again sometime. I’m certain that the memories I’ve made here will stay with me forever.-Alexandra Gardilcic ’16