Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad… It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” by Mitchell McGowan. Gold Coast, Australia


Life on the Gold Coast can be slightly different than the lives we are used to in the United States. Since the first day I arrived here, I have been waking up early and walking around my neighborhood, Broadbeach. The Gold Coast is massive, and goes as far as the eyes can see in both directions. While I am acclimated to my neighborhood, I wanted to see an area called Surfer’s Paradise, which is a 40-minute walk to the North. I followed my usual path that goes along the beach, watching and scanning the area around me.

The heat was beating down on me, and I could feel a sunburn quickly developing. As I looked to my right, there were little paths that led to such a clear and clean beach. The gentle wind would sweep over the ocean and bring that salt-water smell, giving me a refreshed feeling as I walked along the path.

The most interesting thing for me during the walk was watching the locals. The biggest things for me are steps seven and nine. They call for us to pay attention to “social etiquette” and the “do’s and don’ts”. The culture and social norms are incredibly different here compared to the United States. Most stores besides the restaurants and bars close around five o’clock, but people start flocking to the bars much earlier. People passing me on the beach were ranging in multiple different social cultures. Men and women of all ages were carrying a surfboard, with a majority of them being much older than one would expect. I have also noticed that people aren’t as self-conscious as we are in America. Everyone walks around with confidence and little care for what people think about them. People have long hair, multiple tattoos and body piercings. It is something that would be considered a rebellious or challenging a social norm.

I feel as though walking down the streets did teach me a lot. I watched how the locals didn’t care about what they were doing, or how they appeared to others. They did what made them happy. I know that is something that is preached in the United States, but out on the streets everyone is actually conscious of what is going on. Here in Australia, you just do what makes you happy, and not worry about everything happening around you.

The walks have also taught me different aspects to Australian life like where to be on a beach. Because of rips, currents and sharks, the beaches here are set up so the lifeguards to watch over everyone. Walking around, I’ve found that you need to stay swimming in between these red flags so the lifeguards can see you. Outside of those flags are the surfers, who have to stay away because a crash can hurt someone. It has also helped me adjust to how they drive on the other side of the road, and which way to look when we cross the street. While these all seem like minor details, it can really flip your world upside-down when you are in a new country.

Walking around the city every morning is something that is very important to me. As I walk, I start to feel as though I understand the people a little bit more each time. I’m not going to learn what it is like to be Australian just by sitting in a classroom, I need to be out there and experiencing their world. A common and cliché phrase one will often here is “You need to walk in someone else’s shoes.” I feel as though me getting up and trying to immerse myself in local culture is the closest thing to walking in the locals’ shoes.



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