Studying abroad not only allows students to discover the world outside of Millersville University but it changes lives and helps students to discover people places and cultures that begin to feel like home. Hunter McBryde, one of our past participants who studied at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, has made the move across the Pacific and started a life in the Land Down Under. Check out his letter to Global Education (which we loved) and see what he’s been up to since his experience abroad!
September 21, 2014
In 2010 I was accepted into study abroad program for the University of the Sunshine Coast. After a whole lot of planning and packing I landed in Australia on February 8, 2011. I knew right then and there that Australia was more than just a place to study.
I had some incredible adventures, met some amazing people and made some unforgettable memories. I applied to extend my stay for another semester and everything worked out! I was ecstatic!
That winter I began volunteering at Australia Zoo and in two months I was hired into the Koala department. It was a dream come true, and I worked, studied and adventured for the next six months. But then my visa ended and I returned to the states.
The next six months I spent devoted to getting back to Australia. I worked as hard as I could, sold everything I could and finally arrived back in Australia.
I started again at the Zoo, back with the Koalas but I soon moved to the work with the Elephants and eventually to the department I had wanted to work in since 1994: Reptiles.
I worked with animals I had always longed to see, Komodo Dragons, Fijian Crested iguanas, perenties, reticulated pythons and so much more. My dreams had come true…but they were not to last as long as I wanted. My visa was ending swiftly but I met this absolutely incredible woman in the meantime.
I returned to the states again, determined Australia was going to be home. It took me eight months of working 7 days a week to make it back, again.
Australia Zoo offered to sponsor me and for six months we waited for the paperwork to finalise. When it did I knew that Australia was home.
Earlier this month I married the woman had been dating before I left. We have a beautiful home with some incredible animals, I’m now the Exotic Reptiles Coordinator at the Australia Zoo.
I’m sending you this email to say thank you so much for allowing me to come over here. When I applied for the study abroad program I had no earthly idea that I would make my life in Australia. Without the opportunity of Millersville’s study abroad program, my life would be so incredibly different than it is. The program changes lives and opens so many opportunities for so many people.
I’m so thankful for the opportunities that have happened. I have an incredible blessed life. Thank you so much.
Hunter J McBryde
Questions & Answer
Hometown: Lancaster, PA
Field of Study: Political Science
Initially, what made you want to study abroad in Australia?
I decided to study abroad because I had reached a point in my life where I knew I had to experience this life for all that it was worth. I had lived in the same area for ten years and felt like I had seen and done so much within that area and I needed more. I wanted to throw a bit more exoticism in my every day.
Would you change anything about your experience while abroad?
Not a thing. Every experience over here, good and bad, has added up into this incredible adventure that’s now my life. Please don’t misunderstand me there are times when living so far away from everyone and everything you’ve known for the majority of your life is not always easy. While I’ve been here I’ve lost my Grandfathers from both my Mom and Dad’s side and two dogs who had been with me for 14 years and its incredibly difficult, sometimes impossible, to make it home in time to say goodbye. In saying that, they were proud of me for following my dream and that gave me solace while saying goodbye in my own way.
What was an adjustment you had to make when you were studying abroad that you look back on now as being “normal?”
The biggest adjustment was probably driving. It’s now harder to me to switch back to the right side of the road when I visit family in the states than it is for me to drive in Australia.
I see myself owning a home overlooking the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains, raising a family with my beautiful wife and working at Australia Zoo.
Would you have imagined yourself living in Australia while you were still studying at Millersville University? What motivated you go back?
If you had asked me six years ago where you thought I would be I probably would have replied a history teacher somewhere in PA, now I’m a zookeeper in Australia. It’s astounding the avenues life takes you when you least expect it. When I got back to Pennsylvania after my time in Australia I just knew home wasn’t among the green fields and rolling hills of Lancaster County any more…the Sunburned Country beckoned.
Can you tell us a bit about what you do and what you enjoy about it?
I work with reptiles of all descriptions, giant reticulated and Burmese pythons, endangered woma pythons, komodo dragons, saltwater crocs, American alligators and so many more. Childhood dreams should never be underestimated…if you had asked me what I wanted to be back in elementary school I would have told you “a zookeeper working with Steve Irwin.” I find enjoyment bettering the lives of the animals I work with but also knowing I accomplished a lifelong dream.
What are some of the coolest things you’ve seen or experienced since living in Australia?
Where do I begin!?! I’ve been in search of the deadliest snake on the planet deep in the outback of Australia (check out: http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/tag/hunter-mcbryde/), fallen asleep under the stars that stretched from horizon to horizon in the middle of nowhere, found the largest lizard in Australia, I’ve made lifelong friendships with people from all around the world, worked at a place I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid and found an incredible woman I get to spend the rest of my life with! Australia has been pretty amazing to me.
Is there anything you miss about living in the United States?
I miss my family most of all. I’ve made a promise to see them every year but it certainly isn’t easy to do. I’m so blessed that they are so supportive in following my dreams.
Studying abroad changes lives. It’s that simple. Before I came to Australia the first time I wrote an essay for a scholarship offered for the very first time for the University of the Sunshine Coast (excerpt):
Wade Davis, anthropologist and ethnobotanist, summed up the experience of travel as succulently as possible in his work, Light at the Edge of the World. He wrote: “It was possible to fling oneself upon the benevolence of the world and emerge not only unscathed, but transformed” (18). It is in fact possible to rely on strangers for help, for a lesson, even for a smile. Each of those experiences, each of those new people one may meet along the way is an opportunity to grow. That is the occasion at hand, to go out into the world and come back transformed. With each new life experience comes the chance to gain a new perspective, to increase my ability to understand the world around me. The opportunity to study at the University of the Sunshine Coast is a unique chance to do just that.
During my senior year in high school, I was having breakfast with members of my wrestling team and my coach asked me what I was going to do after I graduated. I told him “Well… I’ll probably stay local, HACC and then Millersville.” He stopped eating, and looked at me with concerned and knowing eyes, took a breath and let me have it. He told me I need to go away, need to see different things and experience life outside of Lancaster. He knew from his experiences the necessity of a broader world view. At the time I took it for what it was: good advice from a knowing mentor. But for some reason I did not heed it. After nearly three years, I learned he was absolutely right.
Australia has changed my life completely and for that I am so grateful. I live in an amazing place but I would have never had the opportunity if Millersville had not offered to opportunity to study in such an amazing place. I would tell the President all of my stories and memories from traveling throughout this great continent and I would thank him for the opening the doors to such an amazing country.