Australian Odyssey: How the Land Down Under Made Me Start to Really Care

Clara Albacete '19, Arts and Entertainment Editor

One of the key slogans of People to People International is “create life changing experiences.” After a 20-day trip with PTPI to Australia, I can say that I did, in fact, have a life changing experience.  We traveled in a group of forty-four; forty students and four leaders. The ages of the students ranged from twelve to nineteen and we all came from different parts of the United States. Being the only one in the group coming from Pittsburgh, I didn’t really know what to expect. Would there be students my age? Would a lot of people come from the same area? The answer to both of those questions was yes. But even though many of the students had met before the trip, because they lived close to each other, everyone was very friendly and I made close bonds throughout the three weeks. In all honesty, the other students shocked me at first. Their lives were completely different from mine, their way of thinking, their experiences, everything. I realized how much I live in a bubble, with people that have similar lives to mine and think the way I do. This was an opportunity to broaden my narrow perspective and see that the world isn’t just in shades of gray- it’s in shades of blue, yellow, and red too!

Moving on to the actual continent…what is there to say? Australia is beautiful. I fell in love with it and its people. Everyone was so cheerful all the time, the Aussie accent was music to my ears, and the country itself was a gem (specifically an opal). One thing, however, that really caught my attention, was the strong connection with nature. Kangaroos are the deer of Australia, and just how you won’t find deer roaming around the city; you won’t find kangaroos there either. But beyond the city? We stayed at a farm for two nights and on the way there, we spotted tons of kangaroos-easily thirty of them. Australia has many wildlife spots, all of them in different environments because Australia itself has a wide range of environments. We visited a wildlife sanctuary where kangaroos jumped wherever they pleased, a sanctuary in a dome on top of a casino, the rainforest, a crocodile farm, and an island that is part resort and part national park. I’m going to focus on the island, because that is what stuck with me the most.

The island itself is called Moreton Island and is the second largest sand island in the world. The resort part of the island is called Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort. What is so special about Tangalooma is that around dinner time everyday, a pod of wild dolphins voluntarily swims into the bay to be fed by visitors. I got the golden opportunity of feeding a dolphin named Tangles. She was so beautiful and just to be that close to a dolphin, to feel her snap up the fish in my hand was wonderful. I was absolutely thrilled. As part of our stay in Tangalooma, we helped the park workers record the behavior of the dolphins as they swam into the bay. Then the man in charge gave us a presentation about marine life and the dolphins in Tangalooma. That was when I realized just how badly humans treat the ocean and marine animals. That was when I realized I wanted to help the animals; they deserve better than how we treat them. Those dolphins that swim into the bay every night- that is good. If they don’t want to come, the rangers take note, but don’t go searching for them. If the dolphins do come, that’s terrific. Animals should be respected and they should not be forced to live a specific way because of humans. I realized in Tangalooma, and later on as we learned about the Great Barrier Reef (sadly we didn’t get to go to the reef because it was raining and the ocean was too choppy), that marine life is in huge danger, and people pollute beaches very heavily. If people picked up their own trash at the beach, ocean pollution would reduce dramatically.

Overall, Australia was wonderful. It broadened my view of people and the world and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. But most importantly, Australia opened my eyes to the problems the ocean environment is facing and now I want to do whatever I can to help. My plan for this coming summer is to volunteer to help save sea turtles, and looking into the future, I hope to do everything I can to protect marine life. It really was a life changing experience.