My Study Abroad Experience and What Came After

This incredible story of adventure in the Outback comes to you from Zachary Renner, a Study Abroad and Towson University alumnus. This is part one of two installments about Zachary’s adventures abroad.

Zachary Renner
Studied Abroad Sophomore Year
The University of The Sunshine Coast, Australia
Graphic Design Major
Graduated from Towson Spring 2010

I studied abroad at the University of The Sunshine Coast in Australia. Right from the start it was a new and exciting experience. Before this trip I had only seen parts of the east coast of the United States.

The adventure started right away when I found out that my standby plane ticket only took me as far as Sydney. Once in Sydney, I hunted down a bus to Brisbane, then a second bus to the Sunshine Coast. I was loving the feeling of adventure and freedom right away. It was a new culture, new people, new animals and new landscape.

The university was very nice, located within the Mooloolah River National Park. We were also 15 minutes from the beach. There were kangaroos and exotic birds literally everywhere on campus. My teachers were all very nice and the classes were interesting. I made sure to get my assignment finished quickly so I would have plenty of time to meet new people and see as much of the country and culture as possible.

Kangaroos in front of a classroom in Australia

Kangaroos in front of a classroom in Australia

I befriended people from all over the world. My roommates were two girls from Japan. They loved to cook for me and listen to my surf adventures over dinner. I went on camping trips with my German friends, and surf trips all over with my best friend Rocco from South Africa. One camping trip we arranged was for a boat to drop us off on an outer island of the great barrier reef for 7 days. We brought only water, a tent, food, and snorkel gear. This is still one of my favorite weeks of my life.

Camping with my German friends in Australia

Camping with my German friends in Australia

It was absolutely eye opening to hear about all of the traveling that my friends had done even before college. Many had lived with host families in other countries for a few months during, or just after high school. All of my German friends spoke perfect English. I met other people at hostels that were just traveling and making the money they needed as they went. That really sticks out in my mind. The idea of just bouncing around with very few possessions, no plan, work when you need money, relax when you don’t.

As soon as my exams were over I went down to Sydney to see my girlfriend, Kate. She studied abroad in the same semester. We rented a car and drove the Great Ocean Road, 150 miles of beautiful rocky cliffs along the coast in Victoria, Australia. It was surfing heaven. We camped every night and woke up every day to beautiful coastlines and exotic animals.

Once we were back in the States, I was consumed by dreams of more traveling. My experience in Australia taught me that this whole idea of school, career, house, kids, retire… was really just one option of many.