Conversations while stuck at McDonalds

Through a combination of laziness, my Mac Book having issues, getting access to One Tree Hill reruns, etc., I haven’t blogged in awhile. However, the notes app in my phone is flowing with thoughts I jotted down to remember to post later.

I have intentions to eventually make a post reflecting on each of the places I visited, especially because I’m doing this for an assignment, but for now I’m just posting my current thoughts.


Today is Sunday, May 4, and I’m on a 2.5 hour bus ride home from the Gold Coast with 3 of my Minnesotan friends: Lexi, Shawna, and Bre. Last week, the girls heard about this “Neon Run”, a 5K race taking place in the Gold Coast Saturday night. I didn’t really feel like going through the trouble to book it, especially since I’ll be traveling for the next month, so I declined the invitation.


Friday night, I got this bizarre feeling telling me to go. At this point, the girls had already registered for the race, booked their bus rides (round trip) and made arrangements to stay at a friend’s house in the Gold Coast after the race. At around midnight, I got curious and looked up bus tickets and entry fees for the run. Both were open- so I went for it… and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.


The bus from Lismore to the Gold Coast was scheduled at 3 am, so we had a taxi pick us up from our school at 2:20 am. I had less than 2 hours to shower and pack so sleeping obviously wasn’t an option. After very minimal sleep on the bus, we finally arrived in the Gold Coast at about 5:15 am… it was dark- and cold. And we had no place to go…


After aimlessly walking through the streets of Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast, we found a few places to take shelter (ATM lobby of a bank, Hungry Jack’s [Burger King with a different name]) until we walked over to the beach to see the sunrise.

The sunrise was amazing but it was still way too cold out to stay on the beach that early in the morning.


Luckily, we found accommodation in a McDonalds (or as the Aussie’s call it, “Macca’s), but we had several hours to kill before the sun was strong enough to bear the cold outside.


So anyone who knows me knows that when sitting in a group I often throw out random survey-type questions to stir interesting conversation, such as making everyone say their peak and their pit after a night out or an adventure. I think I get that from my dad or my brother, who always toss out “Would you rather” type questions at Ponzio’s for dinner.


So 4 of us girls are sitting around a table in McDonald’s, all of our bags spread on the ground just trying to kill time, and we start reflecting on our study abroad experience. Pondering the subject internally, I throw out the question “How do you think you’ve changed since you’ve studied abroad?”


I couldn’t even answer the question myself, and I was the one who asked it. I studied abroad for all the wrong reasons. That’s okay, though. Because the desire for warm weather, a new adventure, and getting away from Scranton for a semester brought me to this. And “this” is so much more than that.


I can’t even begin to explain how I’ve changed. Before you study abroad, everyone tells you how “life changing” it is, or how much you’re going to love it. I wish I could put into words how much of an understatement that is.


I’ve always been one to roll my eyes at the cheesy cliché phrases such as “It’s about the journey not the destination”


There is so much truth behind that statement.


This is my idea of the journey.


The journey is finding luxury in McDonalds.

The journey is the feeling you get when you discover free WiFi.

The journey is appreciating a clean public bathroom or shower.

The journey is appreciating the fact that you get to shower at all. (Living in the Outback for 7 days does that to you)

The journey is not depending on a straightener or curling iron, and learning to appreciate what you look like naturally.

The journey is learning to do whatever it takes to avoid paying luggage fees, whether it be wearing 15 layers of clothing through security or leaving “essentials” like the blow dryer at home.

The journey is depending on the kindness of strangers when asking them for help or directions… or to take a picture for you

The journey is meeting people from all over the world and after just knowing them just a few months, you feel closer to them than people you’ve known for years

The journey is living without a car and depending on locals to drive you everywhere- or learning the local bus schedule and relying on that to get anywhere

The journey is giving yourself “5 minutes of complaining time” with Donna and Synthia

The journey is learning not to expect things to come immediately- tipping isn’t a thing in Australia, so food servers have less of an incentive to bring your food in in a timely manner… and theres nothing you can do about it

The journey is the realization that driving on the left side suddenly feels… normal. And you don’t know how you feel about that

The journey is sitting alone in a restaurant alone without your phone. You learn so much about yourself in these situations- where you choose to sit, the way you treat the waiter, what you order, and where you draw your attention while waiting for your food- because people watching is the only thing you have

The journey is living with four (basically 5) Australian boys who you want to strangle most of the time- but often think about how you can’t imagine how your life is going to be without them

The journey is the unexplainable embarrassment at the realization that the world is much bigger than the Tri-state area… I can’t believe what a bubble I lived in before

The journey is learning to laugh when the train you’re supposed to ride is closed or that you forgot to pack socks

The journey is accidentally breaking a strangers laptop and being able to laugh videos of it

The journey is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

The journey is trying to navigate in an unfamiliar place with 10 people… and learning that patience is undoubtedly and absolutely a virtue.

The journey is realizing that other people aren’t saying it the wrong way- they were just raised to pronounce it differently (the ADIDAS/”addidus” argument will never get old)

The journey is realizing that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and spending it being homesick is a waste of your money and time

The journey is knowing that the decision to study abroad was the best decision I’ll ever make, as long as I live.


I could go on forever… But I know that list is infinite, especially because I plan to go back to Sydney, then to Cairns, Bali, and New Zealand in the next 5 weeks.



I am so lucky to be having this experience and couldn’t imagine my journey being any different.


I was just reminded of a quote from one of the Study Abroad presentations at Scranton last semester… “If you want to remain exactly the same, don’t study abroad.”


Until next time xo