Maria Burdick, a recipient of the Dara J. Kaufman Memorial Scholarship, attended the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia during the spring of 2010. Dara Kaufman ’05, who spent a year studying in Seville, Spain, was killed in 2006 during a camping trip. The scholarship, honoring Dara’s love of learning, travel and adventure, was established to support USM students wishing to study abroad.
When I reflect on my experience of studying abroad, I think of the Dara J. Kaufman Memorial Scholarship award notification as the turning point that made my dream a reality. It was then that I knew I would be able to spend the last semester of my undergraduate degree abroad. Looking back on my time in Australia and the University of Queensland, I view my experience as both a wonderful gift and the learning experience of a lifetime.
I have always been interested in traveling. As a high school senior, I graduated early from the Greeley class of 2005 in order to embark on one of those life changing events; a month long outdoor camping and kayaking trip along the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico through the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) program. This was an experience I believed helped shaped my future in the real world by learning to be independent and working hard in ways that seemed unattainable in the classroom. Like high school, when I went to college I wasted no time, always working at least part-time, volunteering regularly, playing sports and staying active, all while being a full-time honors student.
Maria Burdick, Cairns, Australia
While at USM, I found out about the Dara J. Kaufman Memorial Scholarship Program. I applied not having any sense of my chances of being awarded the scholarship. It was a hope I hung onto and thought about daily until the very end when I was notified. I knew that if I was honored with the award, I would approach my experience as not only fulfilling and exciting but as a unique educational gift, in honor of Dara Kaufman’s memory.
I attended the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia on a full-scholarship, one of the most reputable and challenging schools in Australia. Since I had already finished classes in my major (Psychology), I decided to take a variety of classes that were always of interest to me, from Food Science to Contemporary Australia. My classes were full of students from all over the world and my large group of local Australian friends made my experience all the more educational. At first I found it challenging to understand my teachers who had strong Australian or other foreign accents (four out of eight) as my teachers were from other countries, not just Australia. Once I quickly adjusted to the Australian accent and my teachers, I found great enjoyment in all my classes.
The Australian culture was very inviting and I rarely found myself lost in our cultural differences. From the beautiful weather, to the fresh produce, exotic animals, multicultural policies and phenomenal landscape, I would recommend traveling to Australia to anyone.
Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles, Victoria
When first arriving in a foreign country, it is easy to only make friendships with other expats, especially from the U.S. I tried not to do this which enriched my experience. I continue to keep in touch with my friends from abroad and look forward to welcoming them to the United States of America when they come to visit, especially Australians since they are among the most frequent travelers in the world.
While in Australia, I wanted to see as much as I could in the little time I had given the massive geography of the country. Through the friends I made I was able to see Cairns (Great Barrier Reef), Byron Bay, Fraser Island (largest sand island in the world), Melbourne, Sydney, the Great Ocean Road, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Each place was beautiful and unique in its own way. One of my favorite parts of traveling in Australia was the diversity of people. I always found Australians to be helpful; no matter where I was. Australia is a multicultural country and when traveling there I met people from all over the world with the most fascinating stories about traveling, life and what brought them to Australia. To me, Australia is probably one of the most travel friendly places to go and I would recommend to anyone to take their time to travel there because the country is a lot bigger than it seems. Meeting so many people from around the world opens up vast new opportunities.
Glass House Mountains, Sunshine Coast, Australia
Once finished with school, I was given two more great opportunities, traveling to Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, China) and New Zealand, where I continued to learn about the world and the many cultures that enrich it. Today, I am living in Boulder, Colorado where I continue to volunteer in the community and build my professional career.
More to come…Cheers!