Mark Pittman is a senior studying Economics, International Business and Political Science at the University of Utah. He is currently participating in an internship in Melbourne, Australia through the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
A sudden drop in altitude was my wakeup call in the 747 I was flying on as it quickly approached the Australian mainland. The captain explained that the tropical weather was prone to creating periodic turbulences. The plane landed and I immediately felt the rush of warmth and humidity as the cabin doors were opened at Sydney International Airport. I stepped off the plane and saw the wide expanses of runway, above which were a clear blue sky and a radiating sun. I had arrived in paradise. A short connecting flight put me into Melbourne, and I had already met three people on the plane who lived in the area and had volunteered to help guide me through the airport. They made sure to leave their phone numbers and told me to call if I needed anything at all. I soon learned that this experience is not unique. The friendliness and warm hospitality of the Australian people is what had me contemplating what it would be like to stay and make a life in Australia, and I was actually considering it after only two days in the city.
My most exciting adventure came during my second weekend. I had been invited to go on a camping trip to Wilson’s Promontory National Park, the southern-most tip of the Australian continent. We arrived after work on Friday, pitched our tents, set up camp and soon after called it a night. The next day I awoke to the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan, and sure enough breakfast was served. We spent the day hiking Mount Oberon, lying on the sunny white beaches, and enjoying the Kangaroo steaks and cold beers of an Aussie barbie (BBQ) while we watched the sun set over the ocean. That night we ran into wombats, possums and all manner of Australian birds. None of them seemed to care we were there – they were just looking for some scraps. The next morning, we discovered that there was a broken container on the ground and the birthday cake from one of our campers had vanished. The next day was warmer, and after getting a good sunburn on the beach, we took an afternoon hike and then broke camp before heading home. On our way home, we stopped for some Aussie fish and chips. It was the perfect weekend in paradise, and my only problem is that Australia has a paradise on every corner. My internship was facilitated through the Hinckley Institute of Politics but would not have been possible without the support of the University of Utah Study Abroad Office and a contribution from the student fee scholarship. Australia has become an amazing and defining experience in my life, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone.