A student stands proud on top of the Harbour Bridge after climbing to the top during TEAN Orientation in Sydney
Climbing the Harbour Bridge during TEAN Orientation in Sydney

Classes are underway at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, and I’ve been reflecting on the journey I’ve taken to arrive in Australia. I’ve been asked many times “Why Australia?” for study abroad, and to even begin answering this question, I have to go back to the awkward days of middle school. This is my story.

Students sit on a sunny quad on University of Queensland's campus
The beautiful and sunny University of Queensland campus

Arriving at LAX and looking around at the 30+ students from Quinnipiac that I was heading to Australia with, my observant nature noted that I was the only person of color AND female. This stood out to me for several reasons. I am first generation Ghanaian-American as well as the first in my family to attend college. These two distinctions about myself are among the qualities that I hold on to.  I’ve been told, “Being both a first generation Ghanaian-American and first in your family to attend college makes you part of two often under represented groups in study abroad.”

My journey to Quinnipiac and Australia began seven years ago in New York City at the Trevor Day School with the Oliver Scholars Program. Oliver came into my life at a time when I thought I did not measure up for the New York City public school system. Oliver showed me that it was not that I did not ‘measure up’ but rather I thought differently and I was seeking a lot more in the classroom than such a school system could offer to me.

The summer before eighth grade marked the start of my journey to independent school as I was selected to move on to the application process after an academically rigorous five-week program, which challenged me on every front of academia.

My mother wanted me to go to day school but I knew that day school did not fit and so I fought for boarding school and I won. I spent my four years of high school at the Saint Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts.

An outdoor meeting area and corridor leading to buildings at St. Mark's School
St. Mark’s School

As I worked through Saint Mark’s, I knew that I was well on my way to completing the first leg of what would propel me to the place that I ultimately wanted to be, which was college – something that my parents had never had the opportunity to experience and so among the sole reasons they came to this country was so that their children would have the opportunities available to them that they did not have back home in Ghana.

Students stand with local children on a service site in Ghana
With my volunteer group after an afternoon of building on our trip to Ghana

While at St. Mark’s, I took advantage of the many opportunities I had to fulfill my wanderlust. I went to Romania and Ghana, two of the greatest service trips I’ve ever embarked on, and France and Italy on choir tours during my sophomore and senior year.

A woman smiles in front of the famous cliffside architecture on the Amalfi Coast in Italy
After rehearsals for an evening performance on the Amalfi Coast in Italy

My time at St Mark’s was no different than any high schooler; my days were filled with good and bad, ups and down and a boatload of memories. Throughout my college process and senior spring, my House head repeatedly told me that no matter what happened in my pursuit of a nursing degree, find a way to study abroad as it would one of the best decisions I would make in my four years of college.

She was right.

As a first generation Ghanaian-American and the first in my family to attend college, I make it my mission to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way as I see it as an investment in myself. The decisions that I make today will determine the quality of life that I will have in the next decade to come.

I chose to study abroad because I know that there is always something bigger and better out in the world. My choice to leave my home and all the things that I am most familiar with was to pursue another form of happiness and to do the unthinkable. I am doing the unexpected, I am shocking people, I am gauging interest so that I too can push others to embark on the trip such as my own but with their own agenda.

We all take different paths and go at different paces to reach different pinnacle points in this life.

This semester that I am spending abroad is another opportunity to enlighten myself on the differences between the West and the rest of the world. It is a different palette that I have before me and I know that with my own experiences and the people that I will meet, I will be able to give a lot rather than take.

 Stephanie Osei is a student at Quinnipiac University and a TEAN Featured Blogger. You can also read her blog, Asanteba’s World: Life & Livin’ It while she is studying abroad with TEAN in Brisbane, Australia.