Category Archives: Living Abroad

Experience

Experience.

It’s necessary for so many aspects of life, work, school, social life, physical activities, love life, video games, coffee brewing, you name it experience makes a difference. I’ve got this odd complex where I know I need experience but get in my own way when acquiring it. The root of this is that I’m usually supremely confident in my own ability and judgement, and I’m nearly always right in this. Its my own personal twist on hubris. Case and point is any form of standardised testing. Strolling into the ACT 15 minutes late eating McDs breakfast is not supposed to be a recipe for a good score. But my scores were just fine, pretty damn good by most standards.

I fancy myself an excellent judge of character, and despite knowing that this is absolutely arrogant, I go on picking up on who people are in a relatively quick fashion. Pin it to my tendency to be observant and analytical. I know that doing this can be judgmental and generally not a good approach, but rarely am I wrong. Hell, I’d love to be proved wrong more often as I tend to be pessimistic in these judgments. Granted, experiences in recent years have tempered this, but it still remains.

Because of these sorts of things I’ve developed my personal hubris and often find myself disregarding a need for experience in many pursuits. It’s caused plenty of problems in my young life and may well be my greatest flaw. The experience gained in pursuit of one thing can yield many positive externalities that I sometimes miss out on.

Though this is still one of my flaws, living abroad and travelling have done much to rectify this. Especially my time in Melbourne. The people who I met there were of wildly different types, but all shared a common trait. Each person was comfortable and assured of themselves and open to just about anything and everything. New foods, ridiculous adventures, introspective talks, odd cultural events, walking along roads to wherever. Always seeking some new knowledge or experience, it didn’t matter what, they were up for it. Even in their flaws they were comfortable and open. Many of my own flaws were rectified during my time spent down under, and a large part of this was due to them. Though my hubris remains, it has been reduced to what I would call a much more manageable level. I find myself always open to experiences of most any kind. I’m damn grateful of what these travels have brought, they’ve tempered me.

 

On a somewhat tangential note, I’ve always thought the Myers Briggs tests to be a bit of crap. Every time I took a test for it, it spat back some 4 letter type that really didn’t fit for me. But then I ran across a blog analyser for it that takes in your blog and determines the authors type. Seeing as how I express myself better in writing than on multiple choice test, I gave it a shot and found the results actually accurate this time around. I’ve been tagged as an INTJ by the handy Typealyzer tool. See here for a detailed description, which sounds an awful lot like me. Of particular note is the famous people section.

Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Gates, Dwight Eisenhower, Alan Greenspan, Ulysses S. Grant, Stephen Hawking, John Maynard Keynes, Ayn Rand, Isaac Asimov, Lewis Carroll, Cormac McCarthy, and Sir Isaac Newton.

Asmiov and Rand are two authors who I’ve quite enjoyed reading, Keynes is an economic mastermind who I’ve studied frequently, Ulysses S. Grant is an unequivocal badass and American icon, Newton and Hawking are more or less self explanatory, Eisenhower falls into a similar category as Grant. In short, most of these are people I take inspiration on one form or another from.

Popular hobbies for the INTJ include reading, cultural events, taking classes, appreciating art, computers and video games, and independent sports such as swimming, backpacking, or running marathons.

Well, I do like all of those things. And the other good news is that INTJs are

  • One of two types with highest college GPA
  • Among types with highest income

Can’t complain about either of those.

Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ’s Achilles heel. While they are capable of caring deeply for others (usually a select few), and are willing to spend a great deal of time and effort on a relationship, the knowledge and self-confidence that make them so successful in other areas can suddenly abandon or mislead them in interpersonal situations.

Well, that fits the bill as well for better or worse.

 

There’s rumors that us Fulbright applicants will hear back tomorrow as to if we made it through the first round of screening. But these are rumours only as of yet, the official date still says the 30th. I want so badly for this to pan out, but whether or not it does, it has been a growing experience and has in helped me define my next steps.

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Pursuit of Purpose

The last three years were a direct result of a sudden shock and subsequent change to initial plans for college. Once it became clear that what I had envisioned my college years as was not to be and I pulled myself back to my feet after taking some shots, I began to plan what the years to follow would entail.

Having such a focus and a plan to move forward was immensely gratifying and really helped me stand back up and re define myself.

Early spring semester of freshman year I for some reason took notice of the words inscribed on the statue of Charles C. Chapman for the first time: “For no ship ever sailed the seas but had to face the storm…If you are strong in faith, clear headed, honest, trusting for divine guidance and with a character built on the solid rock, you will meet all troubles in your life victoriously.” As I turned away, my eyes alit on a sign for a study abroad information session. There seemed no better way to build my ship than this.

What followed has led me here. The course I began plotting then I have since navigated with only a few minor route adjustments. It has truly defined my college experience, my personal development, and as I am coming to realize, the path forward.

Coming home this summer and returning to Chapman this fall, it seemed quite likely that my walkabout was ending and that the definition of my life was to become school, work, and social as is the standard. This past semester was great, it was ‘college’ as I envisioned it before. For once, I could allow myself to be a normal college kid, go to class, hang out, have a good social life, and work a solid internship. I’m glad to have had it, and it has taught me about myself in a different light.

But alas, it seems what makes me tick is something slightly different. Before long I found myself restless, fighting inner turmoil, and losing some motivation and drive despite most things going well in my life. Much of my time over the summer was spent working on my Fulbright application to work as an ETA in Taiwan. I was encouraged to apply for it by a family friend who also happens to coordinate Chapman’s Fulbright applications. I undertook it because I thought why not, nothing better to do over the summer. I did not expect it to really align with future goals at the time. Fall semester began and I enjoyed it, but I found myself signed up for a travel course to Vietnam over spring break by November. It seemed that I could not help but pursue any opportunity to go abroad.

I have always known that any career path or life choice I make has to fit certain criteria. I struggle with work that has little meaning or significance. I want to always be learning, to be gaining knowledge that lights my brain up. I need that. I live for that. It must be more than a four letter word or a means to an end. If I am going going to devote most of my time to something I must be invested in it. And I have come to realize that it must have an international aspect to it.

With these in mind, I set out to determine what ticked all these boxes as I looked over the horizon to graduation and life post college. Software development? Logistics? Writing? Coaching? None seemed to engage me. So I began to look at what might.

And I stumbled upon the Foreign Service, gave it a look, got excited. Slept on it. Did more research over the next few weeks, thought about it, read a book on it, read blogs, slept some more, read some more, and found that my excitement waxed rather than waned. Mayhaps this is exactly what I am seeking.

With this in mind, I begun plotting the course to it in the same way I plotted a course for my college experience early on. I will likely need a master’s in International Relations, internships in the field, learn a language, pass the FSOT and then the rest of the process. The Fulbright is actually run by the State Department, being awarded that is a huge honor, give opportunities for living abroad, and language immersion in a Super Critical Needs Language (Mandarin). If I happen to be awarded the Fulbright, it will be a huge boost and will fall perfectly in line with my rough plan. I’ll know if I was recommended by the end of this month and then know if I receive the grant sometime between March and May. If it comes off, the plan would be to undertake that and then pursue a masters in IR the following year, I like the look of Johns Hopkins SAIS program, internships while in grad school, and then hopefully entry into the FS. It looks a long, potentially frustrating road that will almost certainly takes at least a half decade. But it sure seems that it will be worth it.

I’ve begun to put this plan into motion and damn it feels good to have this purpose again.

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Free

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My worn black high top all stars crunched across the gravel on a crisp May morning, the path wending me out of The Assistens Kierkegaard, and to the end of what had been of a grand bit of life. The journey was over, the return was imminent, my journal complete, legs tired, and soul filled. I had written a concluding post for the journey, as I naturally expected too with the previous being titled penultimate. But through a fitting bit of coincidence it fell astray and there was to be no conclusion to it all.

“The end is nothing, the road is all”

– Willa Cather

Months before I stepped out on the journey I noted that every person I met who had lived abroad seemed a much better person for it. As if they carried something with them that gave them a bit more joy for life. I didn’t know what it was, but I was inspired to go find it. At the end of a long walkabout, I believe I understand it now. They had come to know what gave them life and filled their soul.

The beauty and addiction of living abroad sprouts from a removal of reference. Most everything you have centred yourself and life around is now gone. No social strata and system to fit yourself into, no cultural norms that you have assumed for truth your whole life. The people who had surrounded and informed your life are no longer anything but suspended memories. Without any reference points, your perspective must center on yourself. Because of this, it is inevitable that you come to know yourself better. What and who you really are separates from what isn’t. It is undeniably freeing and terrifying, the terror fades, the freedom remains. You know what gives joy to your life and what fills your soul. And this, is what reflect out to those you meet. This is what I had set out to find.
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Suddenly you find yourself laughing into the wind atop a mountain pass in New Zealand, free falling out of the sky over the great barrier reef, perched on a ledge in the cathedral ranges of Australia, tracing your fingers along alleyways of street art, atop a rotating bar in Singapore, sprinting to catch a flight, hiking miles through jungle to reach a secluded beach in Thailand, celebrating fourth of July in Bangkok, at a karaoke bar in New York, wandering through London, singing in a pub, dancing on rooftops, alone on the cliffs of Wales, drinking sangria in the sunshine and staying out until 6am in Barcelona, being enthralled by the trad musicians in a tiny pub in Dublin, lost in the fog in Edinburgh, sharing a meal in Manchester, sitting on the banks of the river Mersey discussing life, at Notre Dame for Easter mass, watching the sun set from the top if the Spanish steps in Rome, bottle of wine in hand, playing soccer on the banks of the Arno in Florence, getting lost and rained on high above Cinque Terre, drinking wine under the archways of Venice, breakfast in the legendary cafes of Vienna, downing litres of weissenbier and singing songs atop tables at  Frühlingsfest in Munich, on top of Jungfraujoch, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery,  hiking along ancient castle walls in Salzburg, writing at a cafe in Bratislava, napping on a hill in Prague, laughing with joy through the neighbourhoods of East Berlin, exploring the counter culture in Copenhagen, and you come to know, that you are free.

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Undertake the Uncomfortable

Part of doing something like going abroad, and life in general is about being able to look at yourself and evaluate the ways in which you can improve. It is always possible for you to reason and justify nearly any behavior, tendency, or viewpoint of your own. It is not the natural inclination to criticize oneself.

Hubris, as it were. I am guilty of this many times over. It is less about that which you do well, and more about building up those parts of yourself that are not so strong. I read my previous post and am assaulted by the hubris of it. My complaints are of no fault but my own. I have not made the fullest effort to reach out. I have failed to push outside of the path more traveled. I have not had the courage to undertake the uncomfortable.

And that is so crucial to why I take it upon myself to cross both oceans, to three continents. To undertake the uncomfortable. And yet, I fail in this now, I preach on about how simple this is for one such as me, with oh, so much experience and wisdom. Ha, I genuinely hope that somewhere someone has had a good laugh at me for this. What sort of accomplishment is it to be a medium sized fish in a small pond? No one brags about beating a video game on easy.

Now, I must push myself forward. I have to remember that first step into the LAX terminal last February and what growth came of that. I must undertake the uncomfortable.

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Wander & Rest

Woke up in London today.

It felt appropriate to take a bit of time here before posting, didn’t want to just spew thoughts and emotions, wanted to digest and process things before reflecting on it so far. 

This time around has not started with a free fall. Rather it’s a constant buzz. This not so much exciting as it is enlivening. Feet on the street figuring out the beat of this city. I’m getting to wander again, I love it. Turns out wandering about and getting a bit lost is a handy skill to have in a new city. It helps with getting oriented. And I seem to have picked that skill up pretty well. I find that I have a much better understanding of how to settle and take care of myself and all of the logistics, hassles, and everything else that comes with this. I’m also finding that I handle many of the things that caused some stress last time around, the benefits of experience foster a calmness that I have a feeling will serve me very well.

Then again, it is undoubtedly a different experience from last time. When you’re in a city as large and international as London, at a Uni that has over 50% international students, and already speak the language, there is a lack of challenge. As I’ve been abroad I’ve come to appreciate being American more in a number of different ways. But honestly, when you decide to spend a semester abroad and end up nearly always being around Americans, you run into people you went to high school with, it grates a bit. Look, seeing other Americans is always fun, seeing old classmates is interesting, but I’m pretty sure those things were not high on my list of motivations and things to be excited about. In terms of going abroad, London is certainly the road most traveled. So with that comes a list of pros and cons, and I’ve gotten both. It makes adjustment simpler, but part of me would rather be in a different country, South Africa or Brazil. Yes, I’m complaining about these things as I’m sitting here in London. Yes I know I’m being somewhat entitled and whatnot. If I’m being honest, I don’t think my frustrations have much to do with my setting. It has more to do with the people I am around. I have not met the same type of people as were present in Melbourne. I can distinctly recall the first night at Gilligan’s Hostel in Cairns and the conversation that was had in our room before going out for the night. Religion, spirituality, what are these to you and what do you see them as? And the conversation on the first night here was about fraternities and sororities. A telling difference there. I felt that I was around people with a thirst for life and an excitement and that they would make me a better person. I don’t find that here. It’s hard to say why the difference but it is there. I still know that there are people around me who are every bit worth knowing and will challenge me to grow in new ways. I must take some fault in this for being somewhat arrogant in assuming I know what I am doing from my past experiences, and this results in myself not always being open to others. So I must understand this and move myself forward, this time I can be the impetus in these conversations rather than swimming along with the current. 

On a more day to day note, everyone gripes on the weather and cold, but I have actually enjoyed the crispness, the busy streets, green spaces, squares, parks, haphazard streets, every building being older that the very oldest back home, the sun flitting through barren tree branches down and over the facade of enchanting Victorian facades that have stood many years and give the impression that they will stand many more. Though the very predictable afternoon rain can be frustrating. I’m living in Bloomsbury, Bedford Place. It’s a fantastic location, and a good set up. Hell, there’s a french press here. Gotta have my coffee and instant coffee just won’t cut it for me. I’ve gotten around a good portion of Central London and seen a fair number of sights and attractions. Buses are very convenient and the Tube is impressive. Tower Bridge, Kensingston Palace and Gardens, Portebello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, British Museum, Regent’s Park, Camden, Soho, Westminster and some more as well. I’ll be in Wales for an adventure weekend in two weeks time. Still working out when to take what other trips when. 

I’ve been to three football(soccer) matches already, Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City at White Hart Lane, which may be the highlight of this so far, yes Spurs lost 5-1, but the atmosphere was cracking and I loved it. Saw QPR v Burnley over at Loftus Road, another great atmosphere, 3-3 draw. Went and saw Fulham v Sheffield United at Craven Cottage in an FA Cup match, frankly was a terrible match, with Sheffield needing a 120′ header to win it. And the weather was horrid, but did get to see Clint Dempsey. I’ve got tickets to Spur v Everton this Sunday, Spurs v Dnipro and Spurs v Cardiff City coming up end of this month. 

At the moment I’m a bit tired, its been over three weeks of going pretty constantly in New York or in London. I’ve been fighting a bit of a cold or something and everything looks a bit less rosy when you aren’t feeling 100%. So that taken into account, I reckon a bit of rest can’t hurt, and I figure I’m doing alright over here. 

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The Ordinary Man in the Extraordinary World

“Place nothing above the verdict of your own mind.”
          – Ayn Rand, 
            Atlas Shrugged

So its about to happen again. That thing where I get on a plane and don’t come home for 5 months or so. On to London. Cross the other ocean this time. This is the opening page of the next chapter, I hope your next chapter is everything I expect mine to be. It’s a much different feeling this time around, I’m much more relaxed about the whole process, but in some ways that’s worrying. Maybe I’m not as prepared this time around, or maybe I’m more prepared. No idea really. The one unfortunate consequence of doing it again is that a long building anticipation really isn’t there. I’ll see others posting in the Facebook group for the program with all sorts of questions that are ripe with tones of nervousness, anticipation, and that giddy sort of feeling of what in the hell am I getting myself into? There are questions and blog posts and an air of ‘I am exceptional for taking this journey’, not in a haughty or chest puffing way, in a genuinely naïve and utterly optimistic way. Many of these posts focus on what to pack, how to do something, where the author is, what they have done, ‘first I did this, then I went there, and I ate this and saw that and then…’. I can’t help but get frustrated upon reading these posts. They miss so much of what this is. Yes, it is good to be prepared and to document. But this is not a journey of things you already know, this is not about what is in your bag or which website has the best power adapters or which cell phone plan to use. This is not about the list of things you saw and did. It is about what you are, what you will become, what you will change, what you will understand. And many of those I see headed abroad are doing so with friends already known. Some journeys are best embarked upon alone. This is not a journey upon which you bring what you already know. This is a journey of unknowns.

It is about the ordinary man venturing into the extraordinary world.

This is a concerto conducted by seven billion pairs of hands. You will dance to its chorus and crash to its cymbals. Float on the melody, march with the drums.  Breath with the flutter of the harp. You will play many a note on many an instrument, each with meaning, some more, some less. And with each note struck by your hands, you will know that much better the owner of those hands.

The measure by which an ordinary man is deemed extraordinary is the extent of extraordinary he experiences and contributes to this world.

So please, go, play the concerto, know the unknown, be a part of this, this extraordinary world.

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Walking

gertrudesSaddleCAFlag“It means something to walk with someone” – Dr. Aaron Bruce

The quote above comes from Dr. Aaron Bruce, speaker at the Lessons from Abroad conference I attended recently. And damn if it didn’t resonate with me. He spoke of what it means when you walk with someone. To walk with someone is to truly be with them, walking allows immersion in the world around, and connection with those you journey with or pass along the way.

Since coming home from the wonderful land of Oz, I’ve been contemplating the experience and putting all of the memories and lessons into some semblance of order. And I keep coming back to one central point.

You see, the beauty of living abroad, and being way out in an entirely new place, is that it frees you. When you are oceans away and know not a single soul, those little boxes you fit into, the labels you wear, the person you have contrived yourself to be, they all crumble away. Daunting to say the least. There is no choice but to express yourself in the truest ways you can, to be free from any preconceptions that shape others opinions of you. Way out with nothing but yourself, any constructed identities hold no water and are quickly discarded. Growth begins.

It can be likened to a potted plant. Life is good, life is safe in the pot. The boundaries are known and life is more or less assured. But growth restricted. And then the plant is moved from the pot to the earth. Boundaries removed, the plant thrives upon the open connection with the soil, expands its being beyond the boundaries of the pot that now seem so arbitrary and limiting. Roots entangle with a myriad of foreign plants, creatures and other things unknown. At first, such contact brings apprehension. But the plant begins to realize not all that is foreign bears malevolent intent. And the plant expands it’s roots seeking, encountering new and illuminating entities and stories all the while. Learning each new sun that by and large the land is populated with bright souls. Before long, the plant finds itself rooted not only to the soil, but intrinsically entangled with others, to the extent that where one ended and another began became rather obscure.

When you get way out, on your own, the walls crumble, the pot is removed and connection happens. These connections are some of the best you will make. Born of a mutual openness and desire to explore. Born by walking in foreign lands with souls previously unknown. The title of “Gone Walkabout” seems ever more prescient with such connections forged walking with others from all parts of the world. To walk with another, it means a mutual openness, an understanding, a willingness to explore, to be well and truly lost, to place faith and trust in a foreign soul.

I suppose this represents the closing of the first chapter of my experiences in the world. And there could be no more fitting title than “Gone Walkabout”, so I implore you to walk, to walk in a strange place with a strange soul. And with this, I begin to look towards the next chapter, a pair of tickets in hand.

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Eyes Open

The last solid memory I have is hugging my family at the airport and then the feeling of anxious excitement. What the hell I had just gotten myself into?

Everything from that point until now does not feel real. It was as if I got on the plane and have been have the most intense vivid dream. Down the rabbit hole as it were, all kinds of unique and amazing experiences with people who may or may not have been real, and now I can see the end of it. The Alice and Wonderland metaphor is strangely fitting, it is a wonderland, but in a strange and frightening way just as much as it is a in a beautiful way. I have made some incredible memories with some people I can truly call some of my best friends, people I know I will stay close with through life. That is if they are even real. This has not been what I expected, these are not the people I saw coming, but it has been and will be wonderful in my eyes. I’m the last one standing as it were, most everyone had left already, I can feel part of myself leaving with them. The person I am here fades bit by bit as they leave and the reality that my time here is measured in days and hours, not weeks and months sets in. I don’t know how this all happened. I don’t know how I was able to keep myself together and survive all the things I did. Have I been here for years or hours? I really don’t have a grasp on the time I’ve spent here. I’m not sure I care. LAX feels so long ago. I feel a local, I feel I live here, in Melbourne, at least in this alternate life I do. I’ve been here all my life, this is me, at least for now. 

One day baby we’ll be old, oh baby we’ll be old, think of all the stories that we could have told. 

As soon as I get home I’ll spend the next few days sleeping, I’m not even kidding. I really will. And then I’ll wake up back in the reality I have always known, and the person I am in this moment and have been for the last five months will begin to take a back seat, fading away back across the Pacific. It is simply inevitable. I’ll be out of wonderland. And I won’t ever be able to explain it to those who were not with me every step of the way. I want to share this all so badly, but I just won’t be able to convey it all. I have pictures and stories, but those are less substantial than smoke really. This wonderland I stumbled into and wandered through will stay with me and those who have been through it with me. 

 

I’m exhausted and worn down in a way that isn’t exactly physical and isn’t exactly mental either. Being abroad puts a different kind of wear on you, at some point you hit a wall. I’ve hit a wall. I’m tired.

But I am so happy and so blessed to have been here at all. As of a few hours ago I am done. Exams are over. Finally. I am at the Airport for my flight to Perth, then onto Singapore to meet my brother for a bit of adventure. Headed to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Koh Phangan island in Thailand and then Bangkok before flying back to Melbourne for just a few hours, grabbing my bags and boarding the flight home to LAX. I can’t give the end of this experience the fully fleshed out post I would like to, my brain is a bit too worn out for that and I’ll need a bit of hindsight to understand what it has all been and what it all means to me. So I’ll likely have a final post on this semester in a few weeks when I’m home and rested. I will miss this dearly I know that much, and it will always stay with me. It doesn’t register that it is actually over yet. It probably won’t until I see the California coastline as the sun rises and my plane flys in on July 7.

My eyes are open today. In so many ways my view is wider, my gaze deeper, and my eyes see so much more. Today, and everyday I am blessed. That much I know.

And with that, the walkabout enters its final chapter. Somehow, someway I am still walking. Love you all.

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40

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 

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Normal

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. 

 

Oh…and it looks like the world’s greatest brother is heading out to meet me in Singapore and Thailand in a month. Damn this is gonna be awesome.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

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