Winners of 2011 photo competition
James Scully, Exchange to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, USA
Photo: Monument Valley
Experiencing an exchange program has been the best time of my life! It gave me so many opportunities to see amazing places and the chance to meet people who have become very close friends and whom I’ll always remember. I was accepted into California State Polytechnic University and instead of flying directly to Los Angeles, my adventure started with a stop over in South America. Here I was able to travel through Argentina, which gave me the chance to see some family I had never met before, and Bolivia, where I was able to experience the life of La Paz, one of the highest cities in the world and the beautiful salt flats of Uyuni.
After a month in South America, I flew into LA and headed straight for Hollywood. I spent six days over New Years, exploring Los Angeles and all the sites it has to see. What happened next was the best 6 months of my life! I made my way to my new home and University where I was welcomed by people who became very close friends to me. I was staying in an apartment with three other guys where I had to learn quickly to cook and clean, and to do so without the help of my mother! This time away from home has proved to be very valuable as I learnt to become very independent and it has helped me realise things our parents do for us everyday that we take for granted.
Throughout the two quarters at Cal Poly, I had to learn to organise what spare time I had. As the workload there was much more intense than I was used to and with my new found responsibilities of living without a mum, time management was crucial. Once I was settled I was able to really enjoy my time there, meeting new people all the time who were fascinated by the Australian accent and whom just wanted to hear you speak! After organising my classes to be done by mid week, I was able to have long weekends giving me the time to travel and see America. From California I was able to Utah, Arizona and Nevada by car, including places such as the Hoover Damn, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and the Valley of Fire. I then did some trips to the east coast where I visited Miami and Orlando, Florida. I was also able to visit the windy city of Chicago where I went to my first baseball game and ate the delicious deep-dish pizza. Another trip was taken to Seattle where I then crossed the border and spent some time in British Columbia, Canada. A few other places visited included Palm Springs, San Diego, Tijuana and Ensenada (both in Mexico). And yes, it wasn’t all hard work and time spent travelling, the college life itself was amazing. I was so surprised by how involved everyone is within the University, especially the way the Fraternities and Sororities contributed to not only the school but also the community around them. I expected them to just party all the time, although they did still have their fair share of amazing parties. Another highlight was definitely Spring Break, where thousands of us travelled to Lake Havasu, Arizona, for a chance to wind down and enjoy the sun. To just try and fit the last 8 months I spent overseas into a few paragraphs is impossible so I’ll summarise the rest.
After the 6 months at college were over and the teary goodbyes were said I once again thought why fly directly home when I could do another stop over in South America. So this time I flew into Peru, where I visited some of the nicest cities I’ve seen including Cusco and Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Inca’s! I travelled through Peru and into Chile by bus and all the way down the coast to Santiago. Here I was able to ski in the Andes, which had some breathtaking views! Then after a total of 8 months, my adventure had unfortunately come to an end and it was time for me to head home and back to reality. If I had not decided to go on the exchange program, I don’t know when I would have had the opportunity to travel and experience so many places. Going on exchange was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made and I’m grateful such a fantastic program is offered.[Next: 2nd Prize]