“Gypsy blood! That’s what’s in you, Hun!” My grandmother teased when I told her that, once again, I was off on an adventure. This time my destination was the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. I can never stay in one place for too long. I blame it on the fact that I come from a family of nomads. My cousins are spread out across continents; my parents have lived in eight states. It is no wonder why, after spending two years in Glenside, I began to feel that familiar feeling of itchy feet. I had a longing to see things that I have never seen before and go places that I had never been.
Luckily, Arcadia’s study abroad program offered me a window which I practically hurled myself through. For months I prepared myself for life in Australia. I filled out documents left and right. I did hours of research. I even took a seminar on Australian film and literature hoping that I would sound like a cultured “Aussie.” Some called me obsessed and crazy. I preferred to think of myself as being organized. What I learned upon my arrival here was that nothing can actually prepare you for living alone in a different country. On top of that, I was living in the heart of Brisbane- the third largest city in Australia. Coming from a small island (ironically called “The Big Island”) in Hawaii, city living was not exactly my forte. Thankfully, this country has welcomed me with open arms and I have been able to stand on my own two feet.
I have learned many tips and tricks while living in Australia. First, get a bus pass. Second, wear plenty of sunscreen. Finally, and this is the most important, say “yes” to everything. Back in “the States” I am a professional excuse maker. Most nights I prefer to stay in drinking tea and pinning things on Pinterest for the wedding not in my foreseeable future, the dinner parties I will never throw, and the children that I do not yet have. When invited to do things my initial reaction is to throw out excuses, such as: I have work to do, I’m sick cough cough, I need to help my roommate’s friend’s grandmother move her baby grand piano. Did I really have work to do? Yes, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to do it. Was I sick? I haven’t been sick in months. Did I really need to help move a baby grand piano? No. No, I most definitely did not. Being in Australia has rid me of my bad habit of what I like to call “pre-mature old lady-ness.” By saying yes to things I would normally have an excuse for, I have been able to create some truly unforgettable moments. I have had the privilege of working backstage at fashion shows, seeing amazing bands (for free!), and discovering that the best place to get a cheap $5 lunch in the city was a literal underground bar only accessible by walking down a dead-end alley and cutting through a dingy bakery. That last one was a huge gamble, but one I am glad that I took!
The most useful thing I’ve learned while studying abroad is that I could not afford to be afraid. I couldn’t be afraid to go places alone. I couldn’t be afraid of the public transportation system (this fear took me weeks to overcome). I especially couldn’t be afraid to explore and try new things. Once I made these realizations, I have been able to really enjoy everything that life abroad has to offer.
Australia has done much more than just quench my thirst to travel. This country has taught me more about myself than any other place I have been. It has truly become my home away from home. With the motivation from my “gypsy” family and the support of my new Australian friends, I have grown and changed- for the better. I have slowly gained a new outlook on life and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.
Photo Credit: Syauqee Mohamad. Photo used under Creative Commons license