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Last week was the mid-semester break for USYD, which served as a wonderful opportunity for exchange students like myself to travel outside of Sydney and explore other parts of Australia! I went to Tasmania with a group of friends, where we rented two cars and did a road trip through the eastern and central parts of the large island.

We travelled through many popular tourist areas, including Hobart, Port Arthur, Coles Bay, Bay of Fires, Launceston, Cradle Bay, and Queenstown. We stayed in a new hostel nearly each night, some without any cell service or WiFi, which allowed for us to really appreciate each other’s company and hang out as one big family. On the road, we made sure to jam out to fun music, learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures, and admire the natural beauty surrounding our cars at all moments. We all have an appreciation for nature, and with that, dedicated most of our time towards hiking through difficult trails, soaking up the sun on beaches, and educating ourselves about Tasmanian wildlife, including the famous Tasmanian devils and the cute little wombats (my personal favorites).

On one of the last days of our trip, we set out to climb Cradle Mountain to its summit point—something I thought I was physically incapable of doing! This hike started as any hike would, with both flat areas and steep hills on the trail. Naturally, we made sure to stop along the way and take pictures of the breathtaking scenery around us. The last two hours of the hike were definitely the most challenging, though, as it was more of a “climb” than a “hike.” The dirt path ended, and suddenly transformed into one giant stack of large rocks and boulders. The only way to reach the peak of the mountain was to climb the rocks, so that’s just what we did! One by one, hands weak and legs shaking, we conquered each boulder as we exchanged words of encouragement.

There are no words to describe the sight we saw once we reached the summit. We embraced the 360-panoramic view as we caught our breath and celebrated our accomplishment. Though it was an incredibly strenuous hike, the view was worth every second of the struggle. And, of course, having such wonderful friends by my side through the hike made the experience that much more worthwhile. Every day in Tasmania, we faced new challenges and saw new scenery, but if there was anything that stayed consistent throughout the trip, it was the big smiles that couldn’t be wiped from our faces!

Studying abroad grants the opportunity to learn by doing and experience through exploration. One takeaway from my break is that learning happens outside of the classroom just as much as it does in the classroom. Although I didn’t spend time physically studying or writing essays while in Tasmania, I learned a lot about Tasmanian wildlife, cross-cultural communication, and even discovered new things about myself that I never realized. All in all, it was truly the best break I could have asked for, and I look forward to what the coming weeks back at uni have in store!