My Aussie Quest
One-hundred-and-forty-two days. That’s how long I spent living in Newcastle, Australia. It was more than enough time but not enough. It is difficult to describe how a place came to have such an effect on me in only that time. The people, the landscapes, the weather, the food, and the experiences all contributed to make my semester abroad one of the best experiences of my life.
I arrived in Newcastle on July 15th after seventeen hours on a plane and a three-hour drive. I was shown to my room in West Tower, one of the dorms on campus, where I would be living with five roommates. Although at first it felt like I did not have much in common with them, I now consider them close friends and am grateful for the memories we made together and the lessons that they taught me. From the countless movie nights to trips to the beach, I treasured every moment with them. I realized that even though I may not have the same opinions and beliefs as others, I can have meaningful discussions and come to see things from their perspectives.
The first few weeks were a blur of getting over jetlag, meeting more people than names I could remember, orientation activities, and getting lost on my way to class. I took a lighter load of classes than I usually do at Iowa, so it did not take very long for me to adjust to the classes. My Dynamics II course covered some material I was already familiar with in the beginning, and both my Guitar and Intro to Aboriginal Studies classes were interesting and fun. It was only my Complex Analysis class that gave me trouble, as it was the most theory-based math course I had ever taken. Although I stressed before the exams and invested a lot of time into the assignments for this class, it was because of its level of difficulty that I approached my professor and got to know him.
Having more free time allowed me to travel and spend time doing once-in-a-lifetime activities. I became more confident as I planned week-long trips on my own and learned to use the bus and train system around New South Wales. Being able to see the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest, Whitsunday Islands, and the majestic mountains of New Zealand really made me appreciate the beauty of this planet. It was an indescribable to feel so small and at the same time so big because I know that I am part of something bigger. I now know that I want to travel as much as possible in the future. I want to see the most beautiful places on Earth and meet people from many cultures.
(Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands)
Newcastle itself, although a smaller and lesser-known city, was full of beautiful places. It’s many beaches were perfect for day trips or study breaks, its green areas perfect for observing the wildlife of Australia. I spent many of my days on campus, which had many winding trails surrounded by tall trees full of unusual birds. I was able to take a surfing lesson and face my fear of drowning. I tried the most delicious milkshakes the size of my face and ate more than my fair share of Tim Tams, an amazing kind of cookie.
(View of Newcastle from the ANZAC Memorial Walk)
Another great opportunity of which I took advantage was in Newcastle was job shadowing at APC Prosthetics. I would like to one day work as a Prosthetics Clinician, and that was my first time seeing first-hand what my future job entails. Everyone at APC was incredibly nice and showed me the different aspects of their daily responsibilities. I learned a lot and became more excited for my future.
Before going to Australia I did not know that it was possible to fall so in love with a place in less than half a year. I did not expect to change as much as I did, and I did not expect the goodbye to be so difficult. Leaving a place where I made amazing memories, formed new relationships, and grew more comfortable with myself was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, especially because I have absolutely no idea of when I will return. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who helped me get there and everyone who made my time there more than I could have ever dream of. Newcastle will forever hold a special place in my heart.
By: Maria Fernanda Larraga Martinez
Major: Biomedical Engineering | Minor: Mathematics
Hometown: Monroe, WI