(Winner of Concordia 2016 Study Abroad Video Contest)

Growing up in North America, Australia always seemed like this exotic land living deep within the pages of a 19th century fairy tale. The idea of a crimson-hued desert landscape where large bounding mammals routinely hold boxing matches in the streets and grey lumps of fur sleep their days away in the forest canopy seemed stranger than fiction. Combined with the fact that it hosts one of the world’s oldest continually practiced aboriginal cultures, there’s little doubt as to why the island continent held the top position on my bucket list for decades. Last year, with support from the Concordia University Student Exchange Program, I was able to travel halfway across the world to realize my childhood dream.

Based in the metropolitan hub of Sydney, Australia, the University of New South Wales stood out as a place where there was just as much involvement in the community as there was in academic prowess. While there, I was lucky to work alongside some truly inspirational people at one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. Living on campus gave me the opportunity to meet many like-minded exchange students whom I travelled with and learned from. Who would have thought that in one year I would go from having never set foot in the ocean to swimming alongside a green sea turtle 40m below the surface!

Studying in Australia also allowed me to explore the vast ecological and urban richness the country had to offer. From the lone desert outpost of Alice Springs in the Red Centre, the Top End tropical paradise of Darwin, and South Australia’s sleepy capital of Adelaide, the diversity of the landscape and the people who live there was proudly on display. Gazing upon ancient depictions of long extinct animals on sandstone walls and spearfishing stingray with a modern-day aboriginal turtle hunter now remain deeply etched into who I am.

I am truly lucky to have been given the opportunity to study and travel in a place where the endless landscapes and immense diversity of wildlife could only be matched by the conjurings of my wildest imagination. The things I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and the stories I’ve gathered will be with me for the rest of my life. I sincerely hope that many other students from Concordia University will look outside their North American sphere and apply for a student exchange in the Land Down Under – I guarantee it will change your life!