If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me over the course of the last nine months “why choose Hutchinson, Kansas of all places?” I would be one very rich Australian living in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Choosing to make my way halfway across the world to Hutchinson Community College to play basketball clearly seems a random decision to some, but for me, it was a no brainer. My home in the sunny city of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia is a far cry from this small city in the middle of ‘woop woop’ (that’s Australian for ‘middle of nowhere’), so I was expecting nothing short of an adventure, and an exciting one at that. Now, as my year at HutchCC comes to an end, I can give you a list of the things that surprised me about this little adventure of mine.

Not going to lie, I am not a country girl, and this is the absolute closest I have ever come to ‘country living’. The lifestyle in Hutch is completely different to mine in the big city. People walk slowly, strangers greet you on the street and there are always at least two tractors parked in every supermarket parking lot.

I must say this slower paced lifestyle was hard to adjust to, and early on in the fall I struggled to fill my weekends. If you know me at all, I am always on the go and struggle to be bored, so I decided to fill these blank spaces in my schedule with long walks to get coffee. It was here that a tradition was born, and I came to look at my weekend strolls as my opportunity to explore the area. One thing I love about Hutch are all the hidden treasures dotted around the place. I make it my mission to find beauty everywhere I go, and even though at first glance Hutchinson may seem devoid of it (especially in the dead of winter) I have managed to find it everywhere. The spray painted hearts sprinkled around town that I count, the school’s very own butterfly garden in the fall, the murals on main street now take up my camera roll. If there is one thing I have learnt here, it is to appreciate the little joys in life.

One other thing that I can sing high praise of about Hutch is that the locals I’ve met have got to be some of the nicest people on the planet. I am the first one to say that I stick out like a sore thumb here – it’s not everyday you come across a 6-foot-3 red headed Australian walking around in central Kansas. This being said, everywhere I go and every time I open my mouth, I am hardly inconspicuous and the combination of a chatty Victoria and the chatty Hutch locals is nothing short of a match made in heaven.

I have spoken to so many wonderful people, all asking for tidbits about my trek from the land Down Under, and each time I have felt they had genuine interest in what I was saying. I have made more friends with people double my age here than I have ever in my life, and many days of mine have been made by saying a quick good morning to the custodians at the dorms or exchanging laughs with the cafeteria staff. So many people here have made me smile and feel at home when the woes and stress of being an international student came creeping up on me, and they all hold a special place in my heart.

It is very strange to me that I am coming up to my last week living in Hutch. It will certainly be a bittersweet goodbye returning home and no doubt some tears will be shed. I would definitely like to think that I will be leaving a mark on Hutchinson Community College, because I know that it has most definitely left a mark on me.

Victoria Lewis is a Brisbane, Australia sophomore studying journalism

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