Traveling to Australia was a life-changing experience full of excitement, knowledge, and realization. When I was only 13 years old, I traveled to the Land Down Under for 17 days where I became a more mature and cultured young girl. I traveled to Australia without my family, but with fellow boys and girls from People to People, a student ambassador program.
Just graduating Junior High, I said goodbye to my parents and traveled to the airport with the other students in our uniforms that consisted of vibrant red People to People polos and straight khakis. We left the airport and traveled to Australia on a 22 hour flight.
Our first stop was Cairns at the coast of East Australia. After being in a new, unfamiliar place, I started to become homesick. This was the first time that I had ever traveled without my parents, and being on the other side of the world didn’t help relieve my sadness.
The next day we visited one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, The Great Barrier Reef and what a wonder it was. Swimming around in the Reef, I saw giant sea turtles calmly passing by. I saw corals of different color and fish half the size of my 5’4 body. My amazing experience had just begun and the feeling of being away for my parents slowly dissipated.
One of my favorite times in Cairns was the day we visited a Butterfly Sanctuary and the Rainforest Station. Arriving at the Sanctuary in the brightest clothes I had, hoping to attract some butterflies, we went into a greenhouse filled with butterflies of different size and color.
After we left the sanctuary, I learned how to play a didgeridoo. In order to play this unusually long instrument, you must stick your mouth down the hollow instrument and vibrate your lips hoping to make a low pitched, eerie sound. I played horribly and left the playing to the Aborigines who created it. The day ended with a trip to the Rainforest Station. A place where Kangaroos roamed the grounds and Koalas hid in the Eucalyptus trees. Never in my life had I thought I would personally get to see Emus or a Dingo, and I especially never imagined holding a Koala or interacting with Kangaroos.
Our next destination after Cairns was the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park. In the Park we spent most of our time at Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock was a beautiful reddish-orange rock formation. After traveling to Alice Springs and Kings Canyon, our last stop was Sydney.
Sydney was by far the best place that we stayed. In Sydney we visited the Olympic Stadium, the Harbor, and Sydney Opera House. The design of the Opera House was magnificent. Its tall, white triangular peaks reminded me of the sails of many boats connecting to create a whole. I have never seen a building more remarkable; lying in the harbor with the backdrop of the beautiful city.
After the last night in Sydney, I was very sad to go home. Traveling to Australia gave me the opportunity to mature and become more cultured about the world that we live in. The experience of going to Australia at only 13 gave me an advantage over other 13 year olds because I became a self-reliant and independent girl that was given the opportunity to live and learn with a very cultured and different land. I am grateful to have gone and even though my adventure happened 3 years ago, the memories are as vivid as if they had happened yesterday.
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