It was ten years ago that I spent a semester abroad in Sydney. I lived with seven other Penn Staters in a house on Beauchamp Road in Maroubra Beach. In Aboriginal language, Maroubra means, Place of Thunder, but in our case, it meant: Place of Filth and Squalor. For the first couple weeks after moving in, none of us geniuses could figure out which day we were supposed to leave the garbage out. Consequently, our unofficial welcome to Australia was a visit from the board of health. They were answering neighbors’ complaints that the home’s new residents were “running an underground youth hostel” and that there were “heaps and heaps of trash” in the front yard. Classy, huh?
So after the eight of us figured out when to take out the garbage, we settled into the routine of foreign students quite well. We all opted for the same classes (my favorite was “The Olympics”) and quickly set up a rotation of attendance so that one or two of us would go to school to take notes while the rest headed to the beach. Oddly enough, I made Dean’s List that semester. But it’s not like we were learning a language (unless you count, (G’day, Mate!”) or enlightening ourselves about 500 year old art and architecture like our friends that opted for European study. I can’t pretend it was anything that refined.
Despite doing really cool stuff (that I probably didn’t appreciate at the time) like riding horses in the Outback, swimming the Great Barrier Reef, and sailing through the Whitsunday Islands, I actually think the greatest eye opening experiences came from the most basic of lessons. Like — if you don’t clean your house you get bugs. Or, if you drink a 12-pack of VB, you pee the bed. The things that broadened our horizons the most were simple concepts functioning members of society know, but at that point, we clearly didn’t. Those six months of living in a foreign city (albeit one in which we could order Pizza Hut) helped us all grow up. A lot.
Here’s to 10 years out!