Absolutely the perfect song for those studying or living abroad.
Absolutely the perfect song for those studying or living abroad.
40 days till I’m home. My favorite number. It’s biblical, not too much or too little. My old football number. Troy Percival. Etc.
A huge part of study abroad is this idea of “change”, it’s part of my draw to it and same goes for most others. What rarely is mentioned is what kind of change this is. You’d think people would mention it in blogs and social media, but turns out it’s so hard to quantify or explain, so it just gets left out.
I’ll give it a shot.
It scares me. It scares me that I will never be the same person or have the same outlook as I did 4 months ago. I can’t go back, I can’t undo these experiences. Nothing really can be undone in life, but for some reason this carries a much greater magnitude.The difference is so much bigger than anticipated. Something highlighted for me during a recent conversation with my brother planning our upcoming trip to Singapore, Bangkok and other parts of Thailand. Travel doesn’t seem a big deal to me at all now. A six day hike in Tasmania? Spend four days on an island in Thailand living with a Muslim fishing village? Heck yes, how do I make this happen? Four months ago I would have passed and stuck closer to a comfort zone. It’s still a daunting undertaking for him, same as it was for myself a few months back. I just hope I can shift his outlook closer to where I am now as I feel that opening up my eyes to traveling the world in unique ways has been a major positive of this experience.
It’s also scary to see that some of the traits that got me here in the first place have regressed or gone entirely in some cases. These I can fix and recover, and have already begun to do so. Much wear & tear and breakdown is to be expected upon one’s first time abroad, living alone across the pacific for five months after all. What is truly daunting is to see how many flaws and issues I hold within me and. I had thought I was doing things pretty well. But going walkabout has exposed parts of me in bad shape.
But I am beyond grateful for being exposed like this. I needed it so badly. I needed something or someone to call me out, to challenge me to step up, to show me my fleas and destructive behaviors, my vices and weaknesses. I’ve gotten that here without a doubt. And it will make me a better human being for it all.
It’s time to return to what got me here while at the same time rebuilding the parts of me that were simply covered up by some shoddy facades. The last week has been excellent, dinner at a delicious back alley Korean BBQ place and then at Taxi Dining Room, the nicest restaurant in Melbourne and all of Australia. That was a well spent $70, props to a friend for making that happen. A tour of Rod Laver Arena where the Australian Open is played because I would be a terrible Holycross if I missed one of the great tennis sites in the world, bike tours around the city, experiencing Degraves St and all of the other lane ways and coffee shops of this city once more. It’s a fantastic part of study abroad to meet like minded and different minded people. They push you I gotta say,I really have come to love being in this city and feel that it has become a part of me, I’m more hipster now (see the scruffy beard, long hair, beanie and fondness for coffee. And now it’s time to push the bar up higher, pick myself up and get to work in plenty of areas of my life. Learning mandarin anyone?
The final forty begins.
Edit: Tickets to Tasmania for the Great Overland track hike with some good friends, and tickets to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur purchased. Oh, and did I mention I’m meeting my brother in Singapore? Damn this is unreal, too blessed
There’s certainly a part of me that is ready to be home. I suppose that is partially due to the barrage of “school’s out #summer #beach” posts that are flooding my social media while I still have a week of class and then an absurdly long time before exams. Last day of class is May 31. First exam is June 17, then June 19 and finally June 25. Who designed this schedule? They need to be fired. Being home and done for summer would be welcome.
But don’t get me wrong, studying abroad is an exceptional experience. Realizing that it’s almost June already and that the semester is nearly done makes me question where all the time has gone, and how it has gone so quickly. And then looking back makes me realize just how much I have done and it begins to seem forever ago that I was taking off from LAX. I am genuinely a different person in many way, I can’t lay them out on paper per say, but they are there.
To put it simply, I have different levels of normal. Travelling to Southeast Asia for two weeks alone would have been something I saw beyond myself in January. And now, I’m in the midst of planning it and wonder why I ever thought I couldn’t do it. Nothing, or nobody, fits into simple categories anymore, the world I used to paint rather black and white seems varying shades of grey and yet so much clearer.
I set out with an intention to live like a local not a tourist. And I feel I’ve managed to do this. I feel like a local student and resident of Melbourne as much as I could after only four months. I picked up a part time job working in a coffee shop north of the city and what could be more Melbourne than working in a coffee shop? I almost forgot that I’ve only been here four months and not most of my life the other day, seriously the strangest feeling to have to reality check yourself back to where you remember that you haven’t been here your whole life and are leaving soon. Realizing this brings relief, gratitude, and a bit of regret. It will be a relief to be home, to be back to somewhere with Mexican food, which I am desperately missing, In N Out, beaches, beautiful weather, family, friends, familiarity and all of those perks. Relief to be home where I can truly rest and do some serious maintenance on my body and mind after what has been and will be five months of … I don’t really have the right word for this. Gratitude that I have this opportunity at all, that I have been able to do it, that these experiences are mine and the change in me is real and for the better, gratitude for the the hard lessons I have learned as well, gratitude that after such an unreal five months, going home still excites me because it is that good, because my family is that loving and my life at home is simply blessed. Gratitude that I get to do this all again, in a different country, continent, and hemisphere in less than a year. The small bit of regret that I simply do not have the time, money, and resources to see, hear, smell, taste and experience everything available to me here. I could have spent the entire five months in Melbourne CBD alone, not even the surrounding areas and not seen it all. Throw in the constant festivals and events, the surrounding areas, neighborhoods and districts, the rest of Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia and well, many years and many dollars would be needed.
A few things I’ve picked up along the way:
1) Coffee is your best friend. Standard for most college kids, but doubly so while abroad and triply so in a city renowned for it’s coffee culture.
2) Fluctuations, be ready for them, some days you’ll want to do anything and everything and some days you simply want nothing more than to sleep and do nothing.
3) Take easy classes. I made the mistake of taking hard courses and can say that I will be taking easier ones next time around. Easier classes mean less stress, more time to explore and experience. Also, try and get courses that have essay finals or something due at the end of classes, not some that have final exams a full two weeks after class ends. Also, the academic structure will be different so expect to hit a learning curve at first.
4) Make a big list of things to do, and start crossing them off.
5) $10 rule. While traveling, if something will significantly improve your welfare and experience and is about $10, do it, get it whatever. Not paying a premium at the airport for a sandwich because you’re trying to save money will make your flight and subsequently destination miserable because your hungry and tired. Get the sandwich. (got this one here http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/lessons-learned-from-11-years-of-travel/)
I’ve done some seriously cool thing the last month, including seeing Afrika Bambaataa live over in Fitzroy, going to see 2001: A Space Odyssey in the 1930s vintage Astor Theatre in St. Kilda, heading down to Brighton Beach, brewing out own cider that turned out damn good among other things. Now it’s on to the final stretch, planning out the last trips I’ll get to take, preparing for exams and doing my best to make the most of this before returning the land of sunshine, beautiful girls, In N Out and Mexican food.