The University of Iowa

Let's find some beautiful place to get lost

April 4th, 2015

By Madison Voss*

One of the most significant aspects of studying abroad is seeing everything you possibly can, while learning and growing every step of the way. After getting settled into my new life at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, I was quickly ready to get out there and begin seeing all the things I had spent months pinning on Pinterest. After all, my parents were beginning to wonder what exactly I was getting out of spending day after day at the beach.

I’d imagine the first place most Americans think to go when in the Land Down Under is Sydney, and I was definitely no different. Although it is just a three-hour train ride away from my new home, I was lucky enough to meet a great friend from Australia who has family in Sydney, oh, and did I mention a car?

Our view from the beach house we stayed at.

I couldn’t have been more excited.

I also couldn’t believe all of the Australians I had told about the trip failed to mention how beautiful the drive was. I guess when you’re surrounded by such an environment your whole life it becomes pretty easy to get used to. As I was gazing out the window, somewhere between being lost in the music and the insane views of the ocean we now have, the car stopped. My friend got out of the car at a beautiful beach house with unimaginable views of the ocean.

That’s when I realized – this is actually where we will be staying for the next few days.

Was it just me, or did she completely leave out that her grandma lived in million dollar beach house? I can’t quite describe the feeling of being in the presence of a sweet grandma, in a cozy (and insanely beautiful) home after being away in a foreign country for nearly a month. We relaxed, had some home cooked meals, and enjoyed some of the best few days not only since I’d been here, but quite possibly in my life.

Our next stop was going to take on a very different theme – we would be staying in her brother’s place right outside of the hustle and bustle of the city and attending the Mardi Gras parade in the heart of Sydney that evening.

A colorful Mardi Gras festival in Sydney.

I had never appreciated my hometown in good ol’ Des Moines, Iowa more than the moment we got off the freeway in downtown Sydney. It was complete and utter chaos. So many people, and even more roundabouts. What people don’t tell you about leaving the U.S. is that not every country is mapped out on a relatively simple grid like it is back home. Sydney basically consists of loops and hills, some more loops, and oh yes, another roundabout. Even my friend who had been there dozens of times before was nearly on the verge of tears.

After finally making it and getting settled, we were off into the city. As the floats from the parade and the people roared in front of me, I glanced up and saw the beautiful Sydney skyline, and even a few stars out shining bright. It was simply perfect. For a moment I felt like a young girl who moves to a big city for the first time, amid a childlike sense of wonder at all the beauty around me.

*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.