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.