It’s been six days since I landed in Australia on Sunday morning and somehow I survived. The journey was 21 hours from my home town in Boston, Massachusetts. I flew on Virgin Australia with three of my college mates: Matt, Mikhail, and Harry. After a particularly sleepless flight, our first journey was to a small eatery just outside of Stradbroke Island— nicknamed by locals, Straddie— where we had a cup of tea and snacks. Then, we took a ferry towards Straddie. It was amazing to see a whole ship carry a bus. Yes— to take all our belongings along and by the nature of Australia’s nonexistent beaches between mainland and island, it was now I see, a real necessity. That was perhaps the first thing that I noticed: the lack of bridges. Taking the ferry to the Straddie Island, I noticed the clouds seem to shift away and the blue skies started to overtake us as the ferry moved eastward towards the island. We also saw a pod of inland dolphins breach the water near Straddie, though they were just far enough to just make out. It was nevertheless quite a sight, combining a slight breeze, deep blue skies, and a feeling of openness stretching out for miles.
Since Sunday afternoon, the Hobart and William Smith College/Union College group has completed the sort of tasks that are needed for a semester together. We bonded over icebreaker activities—“speed-dating” and bingo with Australian slang. I also began to appreciate Australian’s morning tea time, which is the time after breakfast and before lunch, and their hankering for sweets in all varieties. Through sand and mud flat field work, trudging through chest-height level water, and learning the Australian sport cricket, I think a lot of changes in my life have taken place in the form of learning new activities and games.
I miss very much my comforts of my home; knowing where everything is and having everything organized and in one place in my bedroom. In my first few days, everything has been on the whim. Packing for excursions, getting ready for class, and using what precious free time we have to try to work together cohesively.
I am anxious about not being prepared. I am afraid of missing out because of not having an essential piece of item, whether physical or mental. I can tell you that I am not trying to control what cultural experiences I have or making it the utmost perfect study abroad experience ever, but it is such a vast undertaking, that it is almost overwhelming.
I can say I had this kind of realization going away 358 miles away by car from home in Boston to Hobart College in New York. But look, that was going to a new place in the same country. I could pinpoint exactly what I might expect culturally or what I may expect from the majority of other students. However, in Australia, most of the people I will come across will not be from a college town. My host family will have their own ways of living that they have developed through the years and I will be expected to conform to some extent.
And there are many more examples of my small anxieties.
1). Being prepared for week-long academic excursions to islands, national forests, and the outback.
2). Walking around in an Australian city.
3). Meeting people that could be speaking in a completely different vernacular.
Though, this is the reason why study abroad exists. There is no way around these feelings unless you immerse yourself in the experience.
I like to play tennis, run cross country, and try out new things. Moreover, I like to make it a challenge— challenge to beat what is exhausting, but in the end an accomplishment I can be proud of.
I believe that I still have a lot more room left to grow, and my first few days have shown me there is much more to discover in Brisbane.