Semester 2 2015

2nd Place

Madeline Medkeff – Griffith Univerity, Gold Coast

madeline medkeff

This photo is the best way I can describe my time in Australia. One of my biggest fears is heights, and when I discovered that high ropes were on the agenda during adventure weekend I almost backed out. However, then I thought about getting on that plane back in July, not knowing anyone on this study abroad program; and flying half way across the world to live and learn for 4 months; I was able to climb up in some trees. My time here in Oz has been a roller coaster, from truly learning to be on my own, making new friends, navigating a very different university, making independent decisions to explore a new country, and enjoying the unique beauty it has to offer. I can remember climbing up that shaky ladder for the high ropes course and thinking I couldn’t reach the next step. Then I heard voices which were my new friends below, cheer me on. That really offered me the boost of confidence I needed. Just as when I first arrived in Australia, the first night I was in my dorm room thinking about how I was going to live here for the next 4 months. I was missing my familiar bed, friends, and family. I had to make a choice to decide to live in the moment and embrace the change and all the new experiences that were about to come my way. I have been doing just that, and I truly love every minute. Although sometimes I may tread into unknown territory, such as that high ropes course, I have proven to myself I can succeed; if I set my mind to it, and am careful and courageous. I keep that photo for just those moments!

3rd Place

Nadine Taghian – University of Melbourne

nadine tagh

I did not know what to expect as the driver pulled into the airport.  The feeling of nervousness filled my heart and my hands started to shake.  My instructor came up to me and said, “Are you Nadine?” I responded barely able to get my words out with a quiet, “yes”. They sat us down to watch a quick video, tightly strapped us into the harness and reviewed techniques and precautions to do.  Eric was my instructor, we exchanged small talk about his experience in the field.  After exchanging a few words, I felt a lot more comfortable with him and his experience; I mean he has done this 12,000 times.  He asks me, “Are you ready?!”, I respond “yes!”, this time very sure of what I was about to do.  He said, “Lets go!”.  I follow him to the small airplane that barely fit 5 people.  We were the last one in the airplane and you know what that means? It means we were the first ones out of the airplane. The airplane door shut behind me so I knew that there was no going back at this point.  The airplane starts the shake and the noise of the engine starts to rumble louder and louder as we take off.  We look down and below us was the crystal blue-green water.  The water It was the most gorgeous site I have ever seen.  The islands looked so small as we got higher in the air.  I was about to skydive over the Great Barrier Reef.  We reached 14,000 feet, I said bye to the rest of the people who were about to skydive after me, and the door opened.  There was a cold wind blowing in my face and I slowly moved my legs down until they were dangling out of the airplane.  Eric secured the straps to make sure we were firmly attached to each other and said, “Are you ready? 1…2….”.  There was no 3.  We were out of the airplane. Wind blowing so fast in my face I could barely breathe, but I was laughing.  It was the most incredible thing I done in my life.  It felt like I was floating on air.  Then Eric signals that he is about to pull his parachute.  My heart drops.  We were skydiving over the beautiful Whitsundays.

Rob Pierce – University of Melbourne

rob pierce

I’ve lived in the same town my entire life. I go to college in my hometown as well. I was both excited and terrified to leave home for this mysterious city across the world. What was I going to do without my family, my friends? I would grow up. I’ve always leaned on people for help, even when I didn’t need it, but in Australia, I became my own person. I shopped for myself, cooked for myself and looked after myself. I made amazing friends along the way, while simultaneously learning about what kind of person I am. Australia has widened my horizon and been a humbling experience. I am thankful for the extraordinary opportunity and hope to continue to have amazing endeavors for the rest of my time in this country.

Mia Konstantakos – University of Melbourne

 mia k open

When looking into study abroad programs, my best friend and I were planning on going abroad together. Although he went to a different university, we planned that we would be able to go to school together for one semester abroad. We ultimately decided on Australia, and although it was so far away, I wasn’t worried because I knew I had my best friend going along with me.

However, this all changed when we found out when the semester would be starting. He just received an amazing summer internship, and because of that was no longer able to go abroad because he would have to leave right in the middle of his summer. I was already too committed to going abroad, and had no intentions of backing out. But I no longer had the safety blanket of my best friend and that scared me.

Despite being extremely nervous and feeling quite on my own, I have really enjoyed everything about studying abroad. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to make friends on my own, travel and get around the city, and just all around have a good time. But being on my own actually helped me. It got me out of my comfort zone and forced me to meet new people and figure out how to solve problems for myself. I wasn’t depending on someone else to help me figure out how to get around the city, or plan my trips to travel around Australia. I conquered all these tasks by myself, and became a more independent person because of it. Although it wasn’t what I planned, I received the experience of a lifetime; I grew as a person, made lifelong friends, and discovered more about myself.

Sydney Staudt – Flinders University

Sydney Staudt Open

I went to Cairns for two weeks during mid-semester break. The second week, my boyfriend from the United States, Randy, came to visit me. It was our fourth day together when my life was forever changed.

After an amazing day of scuba diving on the outer reef and laying out on the cruise ship, we went back to our hostel to make dinner together. We each had a glass of wine and then took a walk through the night market to buy birthday presents for his siblings. Further strolling to the lagoon area, we sat on the stone wall separating the beach from the sidewalk.

My birthday was only days away, but I had told him not to buy me anything, as I thought he had spent enough money coming to see me. Making me something, though, was acceptable. He had made me a duct-tape rose each month through our first year of dating, one every third month for the second year, and one on each special occasion the third year, so that’s what I knew was coming.

Randy presented me with a hand-written card that I proceeded to read aloud. At one point he had written in “…” to signify a pause before I flipped the page, and I waited until he became so impatient that he kissed me! When I did continue, the card instructed me, complete with doodles, to close my eyes. I did, and when I opened them, a red duct-taped rose awaited me.

I was then presented with another card, and was told this was an “I love you” card, and not a birthday card, so the no-gift-giving rule didn’t apply. The second card was even sweeter than the first, and I was again instructed to close my eyes. When I opened them, Randy was down on one knee, telling me that I was the most amazing girl and that he wanted to spend his life with me. He asked me to marry him, and I was so excited I couldn’t even tell you exactly what I said. It definitely included “yes.”

Abigail Woolf – Griffith University, Nathan

I think I was a very general open observer during my time in Australia. I have done a lot since being here, especially while living on college with other Australian students. I think that is the most valuable thing that I have gotten that not many other IFSA students have. I have participated in dorm sports, from netball to basketball. I have gone to inter-campus footy matches and gone to the college ball. Through these activities I have met Australians that have taught me their ways, and their slangs. I even made it onto the “Humans of Griffith” Facebook page! Ultimately, I started at Griffith not knowing anyone. I have since made friends that I will remember and keep in contact with for years to come. Not only have I made personal connections, but I have also learned a lot academically. I chose to take classes here that do not relate to my majors at home. I took history classes and learned things that I would not have otherwise. I am the first person from my home college to go abroad to Griffith (and I think to use IFSA) but when I return I will definitely advocate for my experiences here.