I cannot say enough good things about my experience studying abroad in Sydney, Australia last semester. From the amazing people I met to the incredible places I explored and unbelievable experiences I had, my time down under was everything I hoped it would be and so much more, and my decision to study abroad was one of the best I have ever made. Before embarking last July, I had never even stepped foot in the southern hemisphere, so Australia was a giant leap beyond any adventure I had ever lived before. I knew little about the culture, the geography, or really anything about the country for that matter beyond what I had heard about kangaroos, koalas, and surfing paradises. So when I hopped off the plane in Sydney, I was ready for anything. Meeting my program mates at the airport, driving through the center of Sydney on the way to University of Sydney's campus, and an amazing harbor cruise later, within just a few short hours I felt like I had already gotten to know Sydney, and it already felt like home. The first few weeks were spent exploring everything Sydney has to offer, and it didn't disappoint. From lazy beach days at Bondi and Manly to thrift shopping in Chinatown and experiencing Sydney's incredible nightlife, it didn't take long for me to fall in love with a city I had only dreamt of a month earlier. IES organized hikes for us in the Blue Mountains and Royal National Park, allowing us to get a glimpse of the stunning scenery and landscapes set just miles outside of the contrasting concrete jungle of Sydney's downtown. Once we had settled in to our new home and gotten in to a rhythm with our classes, it was time to venture beyond and explore what the rest of Australia had to offer! Our first big weekend trip of the semester was to Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, a true tropical paradise that makes for a relaxing weekend of pristine beaches and unwinding. Not to mention we got to hold a Koala, something you can't do in most parts of Australia! This first trip started a run of weekends on the go, from the amazing landscapes and hiking in Tasmania to learning (somewhat) how to surf in Woolongong and ending up in Fiji for mid-semester break. Fiji was the kind of place I had always heard about and I thought it would be super cool to go there, but the thought never even crossed my mind that I would actually go there. So to be jumping off the rooftop of Cloud 9 into the crystal clear Pacific Ocean only 2 months after arriving down under was one of the most surreal experiences I have been lucky enough to ever have. After returning back from Fiji, it was really nice to be able to have a few weeks back in Sydney. I found that no matter where we traveled, I always looked forward to being back in Sydney and being able to make the most of my time there. Walking around Circular Quay, taking the ferry to Watson's Bay, stopping through the Botanical gardens: there really is anything available to you that you could want. Next up was a trip to Melbourne for the weekend, an equally unreal city, and a viewing of the Melbourne soccer derby between Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory. We unknowingly purchased tickets for the Melbourne City away section, but ended up making the right decision as City came out with a hard fought victory (no pun intended). With the weeks flying by, and our trip to Melbourne complete, before we knew it classes were over and Study Vacation rolled around, which we used, instead of gearing up with finals, to road trip around New Zealand's South Island for the week. And believe me when I tell you there is no more beautiful place in the world than New Zealand. We had planned out the destinations we wanted to hit, but just the driving there was in some ways more amazing. Rolling hills set against towering mountains in the distance turned into serene glacial lakes and dense forests. Hiking to the top of tall peaks in Wanaka and checking out the nightlife in Queenstown, we saw as much as we could in our short time there, and before long it was back to Sydney for exams. Studying hard for the next few days, I didn't really have time to reflect much on my semester, but once I walked out of my last exam, it hit me that my time abroad was coming to an end. I had seen so much, yet it felt like it had gone by in the blink of an eye. In my last few days, as I started saying goodbye to the people I had grown so close to over the past few months, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness that I would have to leave my favorite place. But as I prepared to depart back to the US, I left a piece of myself on campus, in the sands of Bondi, and everywhere that I was lucky enough to call home for those few months. As sad as I was to leave, and as much as I miss Australia every single day, I know someday I'll be back, and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to Study Abroad. I would encourage absolutely anyone to make the same choice I did, as there really is no other experience like it. It was the adventure of my lifetime, and it could be for you, too.