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Australia, Nova Scotia and the mindful lifestyle

By Zach Cihlar

Section: Features

August 25, 2017

Early in the summer, Ethan Saal ’19 deplaned in Sydney, Australia, to begin a six-week study abroad program complete with a course, an internship experience and, of course, a ton of outdoor adventures.

Saal lived in a hotel in the heart of Sydney provided by Arcadia University, the institution belonging to the abroad program. Throughout his time in Australia, Saal got to experience the urban life of Sydney and explore the terrain and wildlife on its outskirts.

At the start of the program’s orientation, the presenters led the students through a brief description of the wildlife that is unique to Australia, including insects, koalas and kangaroos. An outdoorsy and adventurous person himself, Saal was drawn to Australia by the scenic, picturesque landscape, possibility for exploration and the interesting (and frequently dangerous) wildlife. “During orientation,” he recalled, “they told us that if we ever see anything that crawls, it can probably kill you.”

For the first few weeks of the program, Saal took a course that focused on the economic relationship between Asia and Australia. “It was about how the two nations worked through difficulties to build the strong relationship they currently have,” he said of the course. Though interesting and highly informative, he described the coursework as a damper to some of the other adventures he went on while abroad.

Though the class was not a highlight, the internship portion of the program proved to be one of Saal’s favorite things about his time in Sydney. A member of the Brandeis men’s tennis team, Saal was able to incorporate his love of tennis into his internship experience at City Community Tennis Project in Sydney. Besides working directly with youth, he also redesigned the organization’s website, gaining new skills while also refining those that he had already established.

Paired with an avid yoga and meditation practitioner like himself, Saal and his boss, Sylvia DeAngelis, worked to establish after-school tennis programs for underprivileged youth in Sydney. Saal gained experience in marketing for the program as well as working directly with the youth the program aimed to serve. He expressed great appreciation for the staff he worked with, especially DeAngelis.

Saal’s program ended in mid-July, leaving a month left of summer that he intended to use as more time to explore. Once home, he quickly set off abroad again, this time with his two siblings. Saal and his older brother and sister set off to Nova Scotia, where he spent ten days cycling through a significant portion of the province. The idea occurred after the three of them collectively decided a sibling trip was necessary in light of the transitional times each of them were experiencing during the summer.

With just their bikes and the help of the Internet, Saal and his siblings set off through a “picturesque terrain, eating freshly picked blueberries and plums from a local farm” and stopping to talk to the locals along the way.

As an athlete, Saal was prepared to travel between 40 and 50 miles on a bike everyday; however, it daunted his siblings, who he admits always turned to him to ask about physical activity and healthy habits. Acting as a “motivational personal trainer,” Saal led the way. The three of them took to the bike lanes, carrying packs holding muscle-recovery gear and a great attitude, Saal said.

The two experiences meshed perfectly for Saal. From experiencing Australian culture and food to living off packs and bicycles, the junior learned that it doesn’t take much to live a happy life. “I grew up around people that always want more and more: the latest technological
gadget, the healthiest super food, the newest car models,” Saal said. “In Nova Scotia I noticed
the beautiful simplicity of all the towns and lifestyles of those that lived there.”

Going into his junior year, Saal said that the greatest lessons were those he learned with people he loved and the experiences he lived outside the classroom. Besides calling breakfast “brekkie” and using a bike more often, Saal is determined “to make an effort to live a less fast-paced lifestyle,” such as that of Nova Scotia, and incorporate it into his daily life.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle at school,” he said. “However, I believe
my best self comes out when I slow things down and live a more mindful life. The culture
in Australia and Canada served as a great example of the type of life I’d like to lead.”

Saal’s summer traveling granted him a new perspective on life which he hopes to maintain at Brandeis. Through his study abroad experience in Australia, he will return with new skills and connections that will help him both in and out of the classroom.

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