Finding My Home in Australia in 29 Short Days

From February 20th to March 18th, I was taken on a journey that can only be described as “God-Sent.”

I moved across the world to Melbourne, Australia to find a home in a place that was 10,117 miles away.

When I landed, I had no intention of making “life-long friends” like some previous “study-abroaders” had told me I would, I had no thoughts of becoming part of a community filled with Jesus-Loving individuals, and I definitely did not see myself actually becoming comfortable with my decision to abandon every single comfort zone I had created in the previous year.

Until I did.

Front of Campus at Deakin University
Front of Campus at Deakin University
Week #1
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia: Welcome Trip Week #1
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia: Welcome Trip Week #1
Picture: Deakin Leader

When I was boarding my plane to Australia I was looking
122 days
16 weeks
175,680 minutes
10,540,800 seconds
Right in the eyes
Ready to tackle the biggest journey of Faith I could’ve chosen for 2020.

I had Jesus by my side in full force. And I did it. I walked onto the plane that was about to sore over the USA, over the Pacific, and finally into Melbourne, Australia.

When I first arrived, over one of many FaceTime calls, my partner told me “this is YOUR journey. Not anyone else’s. You get to decide how you want it to look, how you want it to be, and what you want to do.” I held that with me throughout my entire time in the “Land Down Under.”

Every day I woke up with an urge in my heart to go EXPLORE, to go SEE, and to go DO.

It was like every morning was Christmas and I had presents waiting to be unwrapped.

The Pancake Parlour Melbourne, Australia
The Pancake Parlour Melbourne, Australia
Week #3
Picture: Ved
Brighton Beach, Bathing Boxes Brighton, Victoria, Australia
Brighton Beach, Bathing Boxes Brighton, Victoria, Australia
Week #3
Picture: Ved

Week One in Straya (“Australia”, look at me knowing the slang!) consisted of getting corrected repeatedly on my pronunciation of Melbourne. Who knew “ourne” was supposed to be said as “bin”! So yes people, it is pronounced “Mel-BIN” not “Mel-BURN.” Just a tip if you do not want to stick out as a tourist from day 1.

That aside, week one took me 4 hours away to a place called Warrnambool (try pronouncing that 3 times fast). Surfing was first on the agenda! Since I was a child I have loved the beach and the waves; however, these were Australian waves mind you and it seemed as if they were not too fond of an American coming in and stirring up the sand.

I was smacked around for a constant hour as I “learned” how to surf. It was more of a “how fast can I dodge the incoming wave” than it was “let me go ahead and paddle into shore to ride this one.”

Jokes aside, I was finally able to do something on my bucket list! I was in awe the entire time and will never forget riding my first wave (on my knees, ha!).

In the next weeks, I had Brekky for the first time with some of my mates, made friends with some wild and domesticated Roos, and had a go at Lawn Bowling! Not to brag, but the man teaching us called me a “Bowling Star.” Guess I have a knack for the game!

Moonlit Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia
Moonlit Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia
Week #3
Picture: Joshua Groenewaldt
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Week #1
Picture: Isabella Omann

I saw views I thought I would only be able to see painted on a canvas, hung in museums, or fantastically cropped into an Instagram post.

Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia
Week #1
Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, Australia
Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, Australia Week #3
Picture: Lily Sessom

I not only had the chance of meeting some friendly Roos, but I got to meet the famous, Gumnut (pictured below)! As you can see, she was just as excited to meet me as I was her!

Moonlit Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia
Moonlit Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia
Week #3
Picture: Stacey Liechti

I was looking through my prayer box last night. I started reading through all of my prayers I had made since January 1st, 2020.

One almost brought me to tears:

February 10th, 2020
“Lord, I pray for you to bring me love in the form of a friendship…”

Jesus delivered.
10,117 miles away I met some of the most beautiful humans I now have the joy of calling my friends. Alongside them, I have the best memories I could’ve made on the other side of the world.

From Tosties at Maccas to becomings Mates with the Roos at Moonlit Sanctuary
From having brekky at Burwood One to having a robot serve us frozen yogurt
From blaring “Down Under” on the way to Wilson’s Prom to staying up for 27 hours straight the day before the plane took us away…
The memories I have in Australia will never cease to amaze my heart.

Docklands, Melbourne, Australia
Docklands, Melbourne, Australia
Week #3
Study abroad students in Melbourne, Australia celebrate last night in Deakin Residential halls
Deakin Residential Melbourne, Australia Last Night
Picture: Anhad Chugh

I remember standing in the ice-cold water of the Pacific Ocean with two of my close friends. We risked our warmth for the chance to swim in the waters of Australia, just to say we did. One of them had mentioned she wished she had her phone to take a photograph of the scene we all had in front of our eyes. I agreed and contemplated running on shore to grab my phone.

Our other friend turned to us and said
let this one be for you.”

In that moment it hit me: I was experiencing my absolute dream.

I flew over to Melbourne, a bright-eyed, ambitious, curious, 20-year old ready to live out her first independent adventure.

I came back captivated by the creation God made for us to explore; ready to get on another plane that has the ability to take me anywhere in the world. I give it full permission to take me on another adventure, another one for the books.

My 122 days shortly became 29 days.

In those 29 days I lived for me and it was beautiful.

The home I found in Australia is one I will forever have the comfort of knowing, the love for a place I found in Australia filled my heart like no single geographic location has, and the lessons I learned during my time there the classroom would wish to have the capability of.

USAC student at the Melbourne airport during study abroad
Melbourne, Australia Airport Melbourne, Australia
Last Goodbye
Picture: Lily Sessom

Madison Casner studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia during the Spring 2020 semester. You can read Madison’s original post on her blog.