So this is my first post-program blog post. I literally cannot believe how three months flew past so quickly. As I look back on my program, I am honestly so proud of how much I’ve accomplished and done. I was a little bummed out at how much left there was to do, and there is so much more of Sydney I want to explore. I realize now that there is no way I could have done everything I wanted to do in a short three months without absolute burnout. I would need another year here at least!

I think I’ve really made the most of my program, and this will be my rightfully deserved little bragging section:

I’ve managed to do a lot of traveling on weekends: Port Stephens, Dubbo, New Zealand, Cairns, Melbourne, and Canberra. Within these mini trips, I jam-packed the schedule with stuff every day. From sand-duning to canyoning, luging, scuba diving, snorkeling, and seeing the most touristy-of-tourist sights…I am exhausted just listing it all out!

I decided to continue some of my hobbies from back home and sought out clubs to join. I reached out to my current frisbee team, Rogue, back in November asking for late tryouts (their season starts in December). I attended my first practice with them less than 24 hours after touching down in Sydney back in January, and we just wrapped up a successful season at Nationals a couple weekends ago! I made so many wonderful friends on this team and I know I’ll always have a couch to crash on when I come back. I’m going to miss them the most. I also joined a rock climbing club at a local university. It was intimidating going the first couple times and not knowing anyone, but now I feel like such a welcomed member of this amazing group of strong and inspiring climbers and people.

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I can’t believe I made such fast and genuine friendships with so many people. It is quite amazing that I could find so many people from across the world, a different culture, different upbringings, etc, that I could still relate to and have so much in common with. I definitely saw the most growth in my personal life while abroad. I learned how to manage my time extremely well, and take some days to do things independently. I found myself needing people less. This sounds bad, but I definitely needed to develop this part of myself. I was able to just get up and go do exactly what I wanted to do, on my own time and at my own pace. Traveling with large groups is hard and frustrating, as everyone has a different idea of what they want to do. I needed some days to break away and go sit at the park I liked or go to the markets I’ve been meaning to check out. It gave me more confidence, and made the idea of packing up and moving to a new country alone seem more feasible. I had to juggle personal life with my courses and internship, and I found this hard at times. Classes were very quiet the first couple months, and then all of a sudden it was April and everything was due at the same time. The last couple weeks in Sydney was just me stressing and frantically trying to finish everything that I was assigned on the first day…. I got it done, but now I know it’s better to chip away at things little by little and definitely not wait until the last minute. Although in my defense, the beautiful weather and literally unlimited things to do in Sydney made my classes a low priority.

My internship has been an amazing experience. Ultimately, I’m glad I did it, but I think the hours were far too many. To complete 240 hours at an unpaid internship while doing classes and trying to explore a new city is unrealistic. That being said, this was such a valuable experience for my professional development. Starting a new job is always intimidating, as most people there already have formed bonds and relationships and you’re just the new kid. It took me a while to truly get comfortable at my internship, but it was all worth it after hearing everyone tell me that they will miss having me around and that I was the best intern they’ve ever had! I’ve never really considered going into marketing research before, and I think after this experience I could consider looking for jobs in this field. It was interesting seeing how companies run in Australia in comparison to America, and now I can honestly see myself moving back to Sydney and working for a couple years at least.

As I go back to Pittsburgh, I’m coming home with a lot more than just the souvenirs I picked up here. I am bringing back a new-found confidence and independence. I am bringing back a curiosity and eagerness to explore my surroundings. I am bringing back an openness to meeting new people and making new friends and acquaintances. I am bringing back a love for Sydney that will probably never disappear. Most importantly, I am bringing back an optimism to face every opportunity and make the most out of it, no matter how intimidating it might seem. I almost didn’t apply for study abroad because I was worried about going abroad for so long…now it doesn’t seem long enough. What an unforgettable experience.