One of the most important lessons I learned while studying abroad is to break out of your comfort zone, to push yourself to try new things. I got to Australia in the middle of July, and to be perfectly honest, it was terrifying. I knew I should be excited to be in a new place, but all I could think about was how I would be here an entire year, and nostalgia took over.
It was summer in America but it was winter here, and even though Australia’s winter is not nearly as cold as Pennsylvania’s, it was still cold. And I hated it. I hated the time difference too. I would stay up all night just so I could talk to my friends on Viber when they would wake up. But I would usually fall asleep mid-conversation and wake up to a bunch of missed messages.
I felt like a bad daughter and a bad sister because I wasn’t going to be spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family. I felt like a bad friend because I wouldn’t be able to go out and celebrate with my friends for any of our 21st birthdays. I felt like I was missing out on everything happening back home and at school. Needless to say, the first few weeks were really rough. I just wanted my comfort zone back. I wanted my close group of friends, my small campus, and Netflix. (How do they survive here without Netflix!?) I just wanted to get on a plane and come home.
I missed being able to see everyone every time I’d walk through The Commons. I missed the lame parties my friends and I would go to every weekend at Towers. I missed sitting in the Landman Library until it closed at two in the morning because I procrastinated writing a paper. I missed watching the leaves change colors as autumn came, and bundling up for sweater weather and everything being pumpkin flavoured. I missed my crappy old car, and being able to drive wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I missed 24 hour diners and Walmarts, and I missed dollar stores. I missed half apps at Applebees, and being able to do my laundry for free. I missed all the stupid little things, the things you wouldn’t expect yourself to miss.
But as time went by, I started missing home less and less. I started building up new traditions, new little things that I would end up missing when I had to go home. Sure, I can’t go to Dunkin Donuts for a pumpkin coffee, but I can get an iced mocha with ice cream at pretty much any coffee shop. I can go sit on the fake beach of Brisbane or take a train to the Gold Coast instead of sitting on “Beaver Beach” or going the Jersey shore. Instead of partying over at Towers, I spend my weekends at Ric’s in The Valley. And we don’t drink cheap beer, we drink “goon” (cheap, boxed wine). We also have TimTams here, the most delicious chocolate “biscuit” (cookie) to exist in the world. I’m starting to pick up on some of their slang too, like “heaps” for “a lot” and “thongs” for “flip flips”.
I may not have my beaten up old car, but I can rely on public transportation, and sometimes I even get to take a ferry. There is no Michael’s Diner but Pancake Manor is 24/7 too, and nothing tastes better than Pancakes and wedges at two in the morning. I learned how to wash my own clothes in my sink so I don’t have to spend money on laundry. I’ve tried sandboarding and surfing. I got to hold a koala and cuddle a kangaroo. I’ve been doing so much traveling to some of the most beautiful places around Australia. And even though no one can ever replace my family or my friends, there is always room for more.
I am making new friends, some who also go to Arcadia, some from Australia, and some who are from different places around the world. Since pretty much everyone else is going home before Thanksgiving, some of my Australian friends agreed to celebrate it with me. It may not have anything to do with their culture, but who could say no to a holiday where you eat tons of food? We’re also going to celebrate Halloween the American way.
They have some of their own really fun traditions too. The Brisbane Festival just happened, and there were tons of live musicians, a light show on the river, and heaps of other cool events. They also recently celebrated the Ekka, which was like a giant state fair with tons of animals, food, wine, and free entertainment. And pretty soon is Oktoberfest, which is actually a German tradition, but Brisbane was nominated as one of the Top 10 Oktoberfests around the world, so I can’t wait to experience this for myself.
I am learning a new culture, and I am sharing my own. I am becoming accustomed to new ways of life. I am finally stepping out of my comfort zone, and maybe even building a new one. And for those days I still feel nostalgic, there is a 7-eleven right up the street. Sometimes all you need is a Slurpee to feel like you’re back at home.