By Tyler Sherman
In first grade, my vision of Australia was somewhat limited. I knew where it was on a map, that kangaroos and koalas lived there, and that it was known as the country “down under,” but basically, that was all. Thanks to my father who was relocated there for business, I have had the opportunity to broaden my perspective of the beautiful “land down under.” Initially, I was upset and scared when my parents broke the news to my brother, sister, and me that we would be relocating to Australia for two years. But quickly this far away country became my second home.
At first, I was frightened. Up to this point in my life, I had only lived in one house, in one small town in Westchester County, New York. It was the only town I had ever lived in, and it was all I had ever known. My house, school, friends, and family were always only a short commute away. By moving to Australia, I was forced to leave everything I knew behind and move halfway around the world to a country that was completely unfamiliar to me. I was moving to a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. A new house and a new school were only two of the many unknowns that awaited me. I was more than frightened, to say the least, but quicker than I could ever have imagined, these unknowns became knowns and Australia became my second home.
On my first day of school, I reluctantly put on a blue button-down shirt, a black and gold tie, gray khaki shorts and black leather dress shoes. Wearing a uniform, I couldn’t help but be leery of what other regulations lay ahead. To my surprise, I was welcomed into my new school by extraordinarily friendly classmates and teachers who were eager to help me feel comfortable. Far from uptight, my new school had a relaxed environment that mandated uniforms to remove the materialistic competition that often exists among youth and teenagers. My new mates came from a variety of nationalities and during classroom discussions, I had the chance to hear about some of their experiences in their native countries. Knowing them and hearing their stories and experiences gave me a perspective on the world that no textbook could ever teach. This experience has greatly helped me to better connect with and understand people with backgrounds completely different from my own.
Throughout our two years in Australia, we tried to do and see as much as possible. My family and I got to experience and visit many amazing wonders, from the Great Ocean Road and the twelve apostles, to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House; sporting events like Australian Rules Football and the Australian Tennis Open; and of course, multiple visits to see the many indigenous animals of Australia.
My experience in Australia has been life changing for me. My life is now richer and fuller. I learned to became more independent, organized, and to improve my communication skills. While in Australia, I stayed in contact with my friends in New York so that I would feel connected when I moved back home and now, I remain in contact with my friends in Australia.
As a result of my move, I am eager to embrace new places, people and ideas. Australia taught me about accepting change, personal growth and welcoming cultural differences, all qualities that I believe lead to an enriched and fulfilling life.
Tyler Sherman is a freshman at Horace Greeley High School.