I am sitting here on the plane home from Australia writing my final blog, trying to find the words to sum up my experience (and not cry all at the same time). Turns out, summing up the most amazing seven weeks of my life is not easy. I could dive into detail about every adventure, learning curve, and experience I have partaken in, but I just don’t think there is enough space to do so.
To officially say I am coming home has my stomach churning. I am so happy that it happened but sad to have it go. The relationships I’ve made will last a lifetime and the Aussies have positively influenced me in ways that have opened my eyes to so much more the world has to offer. Meaning, my bucket list may or may not have been getting longer from all the new adventures I want to take now. Although, I am incredibly grateful to have been given the experience to study abroad, when so many others are not able to do so. Once in a lifetime opportunities do not come around that often, therefore, I wanted to say thank you to the University of Pittsburgh for helping me create one of the greatest experiences yet for me.
Interning in the Disability Inclusion sector with Sports NSW (New South Wales) has opened my eyes to an entire career path that might be worth pursuing in my future. I fell in love working with all the different types of children experiencing disabilities – intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, vision impairment, brain injuries and physical disabilities. I learned how to incorporate sports into their learning practices to improve their motor skills, all while trying to put the biggest smiles on their adorable faces at the same time. Fun fact: Around 20% of the Australian population identifies as having a disability. This is around 4 million Australians in New South Wales alone. Studies have found that sport has the power to change these individuals lives – through involvement in sport, people are able to gain confidence, learn new skills, connect and integrate socially and grow in ways far beyond just shooting a ball into a net.
Also, Sports NSW taught me the administrative side of planning events; for example, the Annual NSW Community Sports Volunteer Awards held at the Parliament House in downtown Sydney. What an experience seeing the entire night come together with weeks of preparation in front of it; quite spectacular I might add! Australians are known for being kind and friendly inside AND outside the office. Lucky for me, I was able to spend my 22ndbirthday in the office, where my boss, his coworkers, and the CEO of the company bought me a cake, flowers, and a card to celebrate my special day. This made me feel right at home, which is just what I needed. I cannot thank this team enough for everything they have done and taught me. Once again, so happy I could experience what a true Australian company looks like, but sad to have to leave it.
I continue to ask myself, “How could study abroad have been that much fun? Wasn’t I suppose to be dreading work and class?”. We all know that was not the case at all. Taking Operations Management (OM) abroad with the notorious University of Pittsburgh professor, GG, was a million times better than taking it in a giant lecture hall like any other business core class. GG made going to class everyday more enjoyable then the previous class. All the jokes and stories led to countless laughs in the classroom. Interesting enough about GG, he teaches undergrad and graduate business classes at the University of Pittsburgh. This was his second time teaching a summer course in Sydney, because once was just not enough for him. I do not blame the guy, I would travel back to this beautiful country every summer too. The class consisted of six students in total, all from the University of Pittsburgh. With such a small class, you could imagine how close each of us became with one another. We would go on adventures after class, explore the city, or even grab a coffee or bite to eat just to chill and talk after. Fingers crossed I have a class or two with some of these crazy people when we go back to Pitt for the fall semester. In OM, we learned the intricate processes behind making a product from beginning to end, all while minimizing cost and maximizing efficiency. We dissected the process Tesla uses through the different car models, to even taking a field trip down to one of our professor’s friends processing plant not far from Sydney. There are many steps that undergo making just a small 2×2 inch steal mold product. Even if the product is 1/15 mm off, it is not precise enough and must be redone to exact ramifications. It is a good thing I did not go into engineering. I normally free-hand everything I need to do and if it looks close enough to what I want, then it is good enough. Out of all my courses in college OM has definitely been my favorite, due to having such an outstanding professor and an upbeat and fun environment.
I believe the two things I will miss most about leaving Sydney is the ease of the public transportation services and a community filled with physically active and fit individuals. Somehow I wish to formulate a plan to make public transportation that simple yet intricate back in the States. Even though, it does take a bit longer in terms of getting to and from work, we are saving the earth one less car at a time. There is also something about the ease of walking to and from the train station every morning/evening that I enjoyed greatly. What continued to catch me off guard was the amount of fitness activities residents of the city were involved in. One second, you see a father and his daughter riding bikes down the sidewalk, and the next you pass a park filled with dogs playing with their owners. Everybody is up and moving all the time. The norm is not to just “Netflix & Chill” all day. In regards, it does help that the weather is gorgeous 24/7, 365 days of the year.
My advice: For all the individuals that still have not been to Australia, GO! Take that adventure, step out of your comfort zone, and GO make memories of a lifetime. I dedicate this quote to my cousin, Jamie Kalivoda! It’s the perfect way to sum up all the crazy, happy, and sad feelings I have churning in my stomach.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”
Thank you Sydney for all the great memories I will cherish for a lifetime. Although, this is only a goodbye for now. To all the readers out there, thank you for keeping in tune with my Australia (Oh! And New Zealand for a short time) adventures. I hope you enjoyed all the stories!