This study abroad program has largely been about stepping outside of my comfort zone. On my last day in Australia, I took the plunge and signed up to jump out of a plane, skydiving thousands of feet over Cairns.
While heights have always made me squeamish, it was the idea of falling so fast or the parachute not opening that frightened me most. I was more excited to skydive than anything. The weather was perfect – sunny and warm. Truthfully, the “this is absolutely insane” thought did not enter my mind until my tandem skydiving pro told me to put my feet outside of the plane.
After jumping, I fell 10,000 feet in 60 seconds before the tandem opened the parachute. It was the biggest rush of adrenaline I’ve ever experienced. My years of riding roller coasters had nothing on this rush.
During my free fall, my eyes (protected by ridiculously face-constraining goggles) took in the Australian rainforest, mountains and Pacific Ocean all at once. The Great Barrier Reef could be seen in the far distance. It was a windy day dream. I could barely think, but managed to pose for the GoPro camera attached to my tandem.
I then floated for another 4,000 feet before touching down in a sugar cane field safely. I had lived through my first skydive! Popping ears and a tight harness were the only discomforts.
My positive attitude definitely made this a pleasant experience that I’ll have to repeat! Tom Petty, a Gainesville native, would definitely be proud of my study abroad “free fallin.’”