Alden Caroline Easter, popularly known as “Ace,” took a trip down under to fulfill a childhood dream of studying abroad. After spending six months across the globe in Sydney, Australia, she considers the place a third home. It was her nature to gravitate to the sand, sun and ocean, but these new beaches were nothing like those back in America.
From a young age, Ace was known as the “wild child.” “I would always be found climbing the tallest tree” or “swimming out as deep as I could in the ocean.”
Her curiosity spiked nine years ago as her family moved from Austin, Texas to Seaside, Florida. From here, her famed ‘aceatthebeach’ Instagram account began. Ace gained popularity from her photographs that beautifully captured the joys of living beachside.
Before long, Ace was in college at the University of Mississippi and felt the painful withdrawals of finding herself landlocked. She craved the adventure she associated with water, and decided to explore studying abroad.
In the spring semester of her junior year, Ace boarded a Sydney-bound plane. She had partnered with IES Abroad to admit her to the University of Sydney as a temporary student.
As an integrated marketing and communications major, she enrolled in three marketing classes and an additional course called Australian culture. This class allowed her to “[attend] different sporting events and [learn] about Australian culture through their [sports].”
A major university perk was her weekly class schedule. She attended lectures three days weekly and found PLENTY of ways to keep herself busy. Whether out surfing with her new friends, finding a hidden coffee shop, or trying a local Thai restaurant, she was exploring her new home.
Ace smiled as she reminisced about the weekend adventures she and her friends embarked on while overseas. The time was never spent in the same way. Some weekends focused on surfing competitions, others on concerts, and some were spent with friends on Manly Beach. One of her favorites was when a French Festival came to town, “[filling] the entire venue with all things French.”
Sometimes, even more extravagant vacations became available to students studying abroad. Ace’s favorite was her trip to the Great Barrier Reef, a place she had only imagined going one day. A close second was her visit to Uluru, a national park that represents the aboriginal culture in Aussie.
As her days in class winded down, Ace was not ready to leave behind a place that had become a piece of her heart. So, she didn’t.
She was hired working for IES Abroad as an assistant and an resident adviser. She now mentors incoming students through their summer programs, to “get [them] settled in,” and help them “find their way around the city,” she said. This allowed her to give tours around Sydney.
Ace also enjoys the animal culture in Australia. “One day I will die by trying to pet something I shouldn’t,” she joked.
Her fascination with sharks is proven each year when she watches the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” marathon, but it’s also evident in the rings she wears. She said her adoration for animals is one of the main factors that drew her to Australia.
After a total of six months abroad, Ace returned to her home in Seaside, Florida and began to adapt again to an American lifestyle. She said there’s a large gap between Australian and American culture, and she reflected on the diversity down under. Though “America has a lot of different cultures integrated into our country, Australia adopted and really loved all the different types of people in their country.”
Jake Evans, another University of Mississippi student who studied in Australia, seconded Ace’s comments on the inclusive nature of the people abroad. “Australians are not so split on topics and debates like we are here in America,” he said. “They are just down there having a good time and staying together as a country.”
Ace also recognized workforce differences. She said “no one starts work until 9 a.m.,” and “[they] take the ferry or train to work everyday.” She said residents worry less about their work than Americans.
When asked if she could bring anything from Australian culture back to America, Ace said “food.” She wished for healthier food in our groceries and restaurants, craving a “food industry…more focused on health rather than convenience.”
She said she didn’t miss too many things about the American lifestyle when she was abroad. She updated her friends, family and nearly 30,000 Instagram followers along her journey with posts on her blog and photographs available on Instagram.
Ace said she made some of her fondest memories there and encourages all Ole Miss students to consider going abroad. Those months were “the most amazing experiences,” fostering independence and unprecedented joy. She recognized the cultural differences between the two countries yet fondly calls both of them home.