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Voices from Abroad

My Byron Bay Bucket List

MBA student Cara Witt-Landefeld shares her experiences studying abroad at Melbourne Business School.

My pre-finals, weekend trip to Byron Bay stole my heart and had me checking items off my bucket list almost instantly. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and surfed in allegedly shark-infested waters. This lush, hippy town exudes an infectious quirky, laidback vibe. I felt like I’d been transported back to the ’60s - no Starbucks, no chain fast food restaurants, no big business for miles and miles. This one-of-a-kind town sits mid-way on Australia’s east coast.
 
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Along my trip down the east coast, I started talking to another woman in the hostel where I was staying at about the idea of skydiving while in Australia. Deciding there’s no time like the present and with the nervous knot in the pit of our stomachs already growing, we went to the front desk to sign up for the next day skydive at Byron Bay. Nothing I can say can recreate the anxious excitement I felt as the plane flew to 14,000 feet teasing us by dangling the plane over the deep blue open waters. I’m happy to be here typing this blog post, having lived to tell the story.
 
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Coming off the adrenaline high, I knew I still needed squeeze in a lot on my weekend trip to be back in time for class. Next on the bucket list: surfing. I signed up for a surfing class the next day. Though frightened from the stories of shark attacks on the news, I was reassured that my chances of getting bit by a shark are significantly less than getting hit by a car. I suppose that was consoling to hear at the time. Before I knew it, I was standing up on the board riding waves. There were even dolphins swimming by us, probably getting a kick out of the beginner surfers all collapsing into the water.
 
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After a whirlwind of adventure packed into one weekend, I was back in class. After all the fear-inducing activities from my trip, I was even more inspired to work on my business venture idea in my Innovation course. Having been energized by many entrepreneurs I met in my travels around Australia, I realized there’s no better time than now to get started. With the help of a bit of salesmanship, my group embraced the concept. All week long, we worked on collecting market research and coming up with our go-to market approach. At the end of the week, we had a chance to pitch to a couple of very accomplished professionals in the field to gain feedback on our business venture. This real-world approach to learning was simultaneously very challenging and incredibly motivating.
 
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Although I knew that studying abroad would provide me with a greater understanding of other cultures, I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d learn about my own culture – the way others view it. Hearing my professor reference the United States and American culture in class has been tremendously impactful on developing my worldview.
 
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When you’re sitting in a classroom in the US, it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude to which other countries look to the US. The same goes for our politics – being here throughout the election has been both a blessing and a curse. If people pick up on my American accent, they are eager to start asking my opinion on the outcome.
 
One thing is for sure: I certainly didn’t expect the time to go by so quickly. Each day goes by quicker and quicker as I’ve begun to acclimate. While I’ve done a lot, there’s still so much I want to do and see – and my bucket list just keeps getting longer!
 
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