After flying for 13 hours and losing a day in transit, I arrived at the Sydney Airport in Australia to start my study abroad program feeling excited, nervous and just a little disoriented.
After a discussion with my taxi driver about the state of the American economy, I arrived at my room. That’s when the realization finally hit me: I did not know a single person in the entire country, let alone the entire southern hemisphere. For the first time, I was more than a 45-minute drive away from my parents. But after a shower and some re-evaluation I decided that I needed to view this as a chance to learn about myself.
The way the university is set up is definitely different from Geneseo. Since there is no limit on the number of people that can be in one class, the administration just adds more tutorial sections if necessary. The focus is on learning outside of the lecture – there may be a one two-hour class a week and a lot more reading to do outside the classroom. I took this new structure as more than just a chance to learn in a foreign country, but also as an opportunity to learn about being independent.
While I have lived away from home for the past three years of college, I still had the safety net of my parents being able to visit if I ever needed them. Now I only call my parents once every week or so since international phone calls are expensive and the 14-hour time difference makes it hard to catch them. It is invigorating to know that I can move somewhere new, not know anyone else, and be able to meet people and adapt to a new city.
This is the first time I’ve lived in an urban area. Sydney is the biggest city in the world in terms of landmass, so while I live within the city it is not crowded and there are trees and tropical flowers around every turn. I wake up to see parrots sitting in the trees outside my bedroom and a warm breeze coming in through the window. I’ve been here for two months now and sometimes I still can’t believe I live here.
The other day I went to see a play at the opera house, and when I went outside there was a fireworks display on the harbor. I have opportunities like visiting Great Barrier Reef in Cairns (North Australia) where I not only get to snorkel but also go white water rafting and on a hot air balloon ride.
This experience has not always been easy; Sometimes I get homesick and miss luxuries like Wegman’s or being able to drive my own car, but I would not trade it for anything. I have done more new and different things here in the past two months than I had thought possible, and I still have three months left. If I have learned one thing it is to not say “no” to anything – embrace every new experience and try everything once!