"That was one of the things that was the best part of traveling; we would talk to pretty much everyone we came in contact with." (Taylor, Episode 46)
Just like last episode, this episode's guest was referred to me by someone I know. My mom's long-time work friend, an auntie of mine named Ms. Yvette, texted me back in July saying that her godddaughter/niece Taylor Jones was coming from Alabama to Detroit to visit her for a few days. Ms. Yvette really wanted me and Taylor to meet because we're close in age and she thought we would get along well. And she also mentioned that Taylor previously spent some time in Australia! She got Taylor interested in doing an interview with me and then gave me Taylor's number, and that weekend saw me, Taylor, Ms. Yvette, and my mom sitting in Ms. Yvette's living room together. We chatted for a bit, ate for a bit, and then I got my recording equipment out to talk to Taylor one-on-one (with a couple spirited interjections from Ms. Yvette, of course).
Taylor went to Australia in 2015, but she actually had her sights set on going there all the way back in elementary school, when she had to do a project focusing on a country of her choice. She chose Australia, and decided that she wanted to go one day and hug a koala bear. When she got a little older she tried to go to Australia through People to People, but she was a bit too young, and so then in 5th grade she went on a People to People trip to France and England. That was in 2005. She and her group did a lot of sight-seeing and also had occasional lectures and meetings with diplomats and government officials. Taylor enjoyed England more because she could understand the language better, and she recalled the exciting novelty of riding in a taxi and getting stitches at a British hospital when she accidentally got injured by a chair.
Ten years later in 2015, Taylor was closing out her junior year at the University of Alabama. On a whim, she went to check out the study abroad fair that she heard was taking place on campus. Taylor was a student athlete and an exercise science major, and while she'd always wanted to study abroad, she didn't think she'd get the chance because sports-related programs didn't seem to exist. Thankfully, at the fair she met reps from a study abroad company who told her she could study sports in Australia, but she had to apply right away in order to go that summer because the deadline was approaching. She did, and come June she was off to Australia for three weeks with a cohort of fellow American university students (including a sizable chunk of students who were from the South just like her). While the group spent much of their time together, each student also had their own research project that they were meant to work on while Down Under. For hers, Taylor investigated the options one has for becoming a professional athlete in Australia, focusing particularly on the realms of football and basketball.
Taylor's group went to four cities during that three-week time span. They spent the first week in Melbourne, where they interviewed athletes and other sports experts in addition to familiarizing themselves with Melbourne's coffee culture. Then they spent the second week in Canberra, home of the University of Canberra, which was the partner institution administering their study abroad program. They stayed at the Olympic training center there and took classes, watched athletes train, spoke to sports scientists, and continued to work on their individual projects. From Canberra they spent a couple days in Sydney just to say they went, and then continued on to Cairns, where they participated in adventure activities like white-water rafting and had a lot of down time. Taylor took out time on one particular morning to go skydiving, which she now recommends to everyone because afterward she felt exhilarated and ready to face whatever the day had in store.
"When I go back, I'm not leaving."
It's a given that Taylor made a number of sports and health-related observations. These included the scarcity of commercials for medications that aired on TV, and the greater tendency for athletes and people in general to go directly to a doctor or specialist even for minor sprains and injuries. But Taylor made plenty of discoveries outside of her studies as well. She recognized Australian food for being "like American food with an accent", and tasted unique items including beet burgers, Tim Tam cookies, and Vegemite spread (she took a particularly strong liking to Tim Tams). Taylor was also impressed by the kindness she regularly witnessed from strangers, and on one occasion she and some of her fellows got to enjoy an Australian football game from a skybox and eat free food, all thanks to the generosity of some Aussies they'd just met.
After earning her Bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama, Taylor went on to earn her Master's degree in sports management, with the aim of becoming a strength and conditioning coach for college or professional athletes. Speaking of Australia, Taylor declared Melbourne as her favorite city by far, so much so that she hopes to live there in the future. But she wants to be absolutely sure she can leave everything and everyone in the States behind, explaining to me that, "I can't go back [to Australia] anytime soon, because when I go back, I'm not leaving." In the meantime, she wants to go to the UAE to ride the fastest rollercoaster in the world, and she's eager to visit Thailand, Iceland, China, Japan, at least one country in Africa, and almost anywhere else opportunity invites her to go. Taylor can be found on her personal Instagram account (@black.sunflower_), or her tea company's Instagram account (@justbeteaco).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "Tim Tams, Sports, & Some Good Strangers (AUSTRALIA)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!
Danielle G. is the creator and host of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.