The University of Iowa

The Space Between: on how I spent my time abroad

May 22nd, 2015

By Madison Voss*

Before I left for my five months in Australia, I was constantly trying to envision what my new life was about to be like.

I spent every ounce of my free time reading blogs online, and quickly realized how different each and every persons experience is. I always ended up with the same image in my mind: me doing very outdoorsy things in beautiful places as my outlook on life is miraculously changed- very cliché, very Pinterest-esque.

The most beautiful harbor in the world

What I wasn’t accounting for was the fact that every second of my time here would not be spent traveling; it’s simply unrealistic in a country this large. I hadn’t realized that Australia is actually very close to the size of the continental U.S., so casual weekend trips to an entirely new city aren’t as plausible as it would be in places like Europe. Perhaps with a CEO’s salary it could have been, but my college student budget just wasn’t going to allow for it to happen. It took me a while to come to this conclusion, but I now can confidently say that it is just fine this way.

Celebrating my 21st birthday down under

I have been fortunate enough to live in this amazing country for over 3 months already, and thankfully still have almost 2 months left. I have been to Sydney multiple times, Melbourne, down the east coast of Australia, and to my friend’s home near the outback. I have been able to see so much of Australia, and my bank account is very much reflecting that. My trip down the coast took a hefty shot at my budget (it was a two week trip) as did my recent trip to Sydney to celebrate my twenty first birthday.

So here I am in Newcastle where I live, recovering from the damage. I remember the first week I got here there were already American students booking their trips to south-east Asia (it’s very close), to New Zealand, and all around Australia. I was still unpacking my bags, and they were booking flights. At first, I found this pretty difficult to handle. I admittedly have a severe case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and just wanted to do what everyone else was doing.

I had to take into account that first of all, we all had very different budgets. Secondly, we all had different goals, with different journey’s to take in order to meet them. The only person I knew coming here was purely set on seeing everything he absolutely could, and getting out of Newcastle every chance he had. While I too wanted to see and experience a lot of different places, it was also important for me to really experience the life in my home base for the semester as well. By doing this, I have fostered life-long friendships with people on campus who were strangers just months ago, and also have been a part of some very fun university activities, experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world. 

There is really no right or wrong way for going about the study abroad experience. Everyone here has come on different circumstances, with different likes, dislikes, goals, and dreams. It is important that each person’s journey reflect these differences, differences that make us who we are. This has been one of the most significant lessons I have learned here, and one that not only applies to being abroad, but also life in general. To conclude, I will share a quote that sums up this lesson more beautifully than I ever could: 

“Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers.
The right road for one is the wrong road for another. The journey of life is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rock path through the wilderness.” –M. Scott Peck 

Downtown Sydney

*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.