And so the journey begins: greeting life outside my comfort zone

By Madison Voss*

“The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything.”
-Jon Krakauer


My first time at the beach!

I have been at the University of Newcastle, in New South Wales, Australia for nearly three weeks already, and yet I continue to wake up most mornings in awe that this is actually my life.  I prepared for this journey for quite some time; making and saving money, meeting deadlines for paperwork, and doing lots of research. To finally be here, literally on the other side of the world, can at times be hard to grasp.

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that truly believed in the importance of travel. Since a very young age, my parents were taking my brother and I on all kinds of trips. From traveling across Europe, to seeing all 50 states before I reached 16, I was able to foster a deep sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around me. In 2012, when I began my freshman year at the University of Iowa, I took that fascination with me and quickly knew I was in for some of the best years of my life. My best friends from high school were there as well, keeping me comforted through the significant period of change every new college student goes through.

I fell in love with Iowa City, the parties, (even the studying), and pretty much every aspect of being out on my own. As everyone warned me, time truly flies by, and before I knew it I was a junior. I was suddenly unhappy – realizing I had fallen into this sort of routine with the same people I had grown up with and the same comfort zone I formed my freshman year. I knew it was time for a change, so when I heard about a friend’s experience studying abroad in Australia, I immediately jumped on board.

Through this experience, I am looking to step outside of my comfort zone, and the shell I formed around myself back home. I want to meet new people; people that challenge my existing beliefs and force me to find alternative perspectives about the world. I would also like to meet people that turn into lifelong friends, or should I say, “mates.” Whether they are from different parts of the U.S., or from this beautiful country I get to call home for the next few months, fostering meaningful relationships is a very important aspect of my time here for me. Furthermore, while this may seem quite obvious, I want to explore Australia inside and out (and its surrounding countries) whilst continuing to learn and grow a long the way. From the Great Barrier Reef to Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand, and much more, there are a lot of places to see and a lot of things to do.


My new home in the dorms on campus.

Because being so far from home, especially in a foreign country, can at times be quite stressful and overwhelming, I am also hoping to better learn how to relax and go with the flow. I am definitely the type of person who likes structure, so I am looking forward to “finding my chill,” and I can’t quite think of a better country to do it in. 

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I would like to use this journey as an opportunity to find myself. Through immersing myself into the present moment (versus my iPhone), meeting people from all walks of life, and gaining experiences that I will take with me for the rest of my existence, I believe I will be able to not only grow as an individual, but also discover my true passions, dreams, and desires.

Since coming here, I am hopeful that I am already well on my way to achieving these things. I may have missed a few buses, cried while I was lost, and ultimately sweat through my whole suitcase of clothes (summer in Australia, enough said) – but I couldn’t be happier. After all, if everything were easy, what would I learn?

Side note: The verdict is still out on vegemite; however, Tim Tams are life changing. 

*Madison Voss is a junior from Ankeny, Iowa, majoring in communication studies with an entrepreneurial certificate at the University of Iowa. She is currently studying abroad on the Regents Exchange Program in Newcastle, Australia.

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