Down Under: The Final Installment

Australian semesters are scheduled opposite of US semesters. I ended my spring semester (their “fall” semester) on June 22nd, and after a few final days in Canberra, I headed out to the Whitsunday Islands on the northeast coast for what was one of the coolest trips I’ve ever been on. It was warm and sunny- a nice break from Canberra, one of the coldest cities in Australia in the winter. In further detail:

Airlie Beach

I went to Airlie Beach, Queensland, and got to chill for three days. I love exploring new and different places, so being in a small Australian beach town was a ton of fun for me. My days didn’t really consist of much- just eating at random restaurants, walking around the small town, and hanging out at the beaches. I think the most interesting event during this stretch was when a woman in her 40s whistled at me while driving past me in a car. Also, I met up with a friend of mine (Miles- the other Texas guy) on the third night and we went out to a couple of bars, where we ran into some guys who just graduated from Alabama. Of course our first conversation revolved around Colt McCoy’s injury in the 2010 BCS Championship Game… It was fun to hang out with Americans for a bit though. They were just traveling around Australia before joining the real world. Not a bad idea. Overall, the weather in Airlie Beach was great, the people were nice, and I enjoyed all the time I spent there.

One beach in Airlie Beach

Some local Fish ‘n’ Chips- had to try it

Whitsunday Islands

I mentioned meeting up with Miles on the third night- the following morning, Miles, his brother, and I went on a catamaran cruise with 15 others for 2 nights. They have all sorts of cruises like this around Airlie Beach because it’s the mainland city closest to the Whitsunday Islands- home to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. A friend of mine went on one of these 6 months ago and he said it was one of the coolest things he’d ever done in his life. Quite a sell. On this trip, we got to see some awesome beaches, snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, go scuba diving, and even a little stand-up paddleboarding. I only went scuba diving once, but I can definitely say it’s one of the trippiest things I’ve ever done. I knew breathing underwater would feel weird, but actually being down there blew my mind. And on top of that, I’d follow the scuba instructor for a minute, look away and all of a sudden see a huge wall of coral. It was breathtaking and definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Snorkeling was cool as well, just less trippy. My mistake was doing this AFTER scuba diving, so I habitually took my head lower than I should have below the surface and ended up breathing in a gulp of saltwater.

On our second day, we went to Whitehaven Beach- the biggest draw on the Whitsunday Islands, for VERY good reason. I’m pretty sure I’ll never go to a beach that awesome for the rest of my life. The sand was powdery, the water was totally clear, and we could see some interesting wildlife. There’s one sort of inset part of the beach which created a miniature bay where there was a lot of coral. It was really shallow- no deeper than 4 feet where we’d stand around the coral. We walked around this area and saw tons of fish, some small stingrays (about 2 foot wingspans) and even a reef shark. Reef sharks are small and harmless, but it was still cool to see one swimming just ten yards away from me.

Part of Whitehaven Beach

Had some amazing views from the boat

From the lookout at Whitehaven Beach

The people we met were all fun, and the members of the crew on the boat were fun to talk to as well. It was a very entertaining couple of days and I’m in absolute agreement that it’s one of the coolest things a person could do in their life. I DEFINITELY recommend it if you have the opportunity. And keep in mind I went in winter- the weather is more than tolerable the whole year round.

The End

That wraps up my semester abroad. Overall, it was a great adventure and I hope you’ve been enjoying these updates. I can’t express how thankful I am that I got to see and do so much, all while getting a little studying in. I’ve made lifelong friends, seen some amazing sights, and had great times with tons of different fun and exciting people. I’m more than content. They say you always regret the things you don’t do, more than the things you do. I kept that in mind and tried to take in as much as I could given the opportunities I was given. I have to say, especially now, I’m a huge advocate of studying abroad for more reasons than I’d be able to list in a blog post. If any of you reading this have any questions about the whole process in the future, feel free to ask me about it sometime. Cheers, mates!

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