Aussie Adventure: Lauren McKiernan ’10 cherishes her semester Down Under

Lauren McKiernan ’10 (Parkersburg, W.V.) had never traveled by herself before, so the thought of spending a semester in Australia was a little daunting at first.

“The hardest part about living in Australia was making the transition in the very beginning,” McKiernan said. “I didn’t know anyone on the entire continent and had never traveled alone before.”

McKiernan was one of 36 Marietta students who studied abroad during the 2008-09 academic year in locations like Germany, Brazil and China.

McKiernan quickly became assimilated when she went to orientation and made friends who all helped each other get settled into their flat for the first few days. Her new friends, from places like Australia, India, Singapore and Zimbabwe, were also her schoolmates at Murdoch University on the Western Coast of Australia in Perth. She immersed herself in the local culture as she took strolls along the streets of the port city, which had a laidback downtown area with houses, and open-air market, and “cappuccino strip,” which was filled with restaurants, outdoor seating and street performers.

She quickly noticed the differences between America and Australia but she welcomed those differences as remarkable and thrilling.

“Australia is very different from living in the U.S.,” McKiernan said. “Aussies have a very different attitude toward school, work, and life in general. They are not as worried about school as people in the states are, most of them are not worried about making a lot of money, and most are very happy with their lives and work in jobs that they truly enjoy."

However amazing living in a big city by the ocean and meeting lots of new people from around the world, McKiernan’s favorite part of the trip was a 10-day outback expedition.

“We traveled all around the northwest part of Western Australia,” she said. “We got to go snorkeling on the Ningaloo Reef climb down into canyons to get fresh water at a national park, see kangaroos and dingos in their natural habitat, and cliff jump into beautiful clear water. We saw poisonous spiders as big as our hands, traveled endless red dirt roads through the outback and camped under the stars. We walked on shell beaches, saw many small towns in rural Australia, and saw the world famous stromatolites —the first living organism on Earth.”

McKiernan was more than acclimated to not only the Australian culture but other cultures as well by the end of the trip.

“Camping in itself was an adventure—riding 2,000 miles with a group of people will help you to bond over shared stories and iPod playlists,” McKiernan said. “At the end of our trip as we rolled back into the parking lot, the entire group was singing along to our theme song which our Australian bus driver and guide had introduced us to.”