Stepping off of the plane, I could still hear my parents’ voice in my head saying to take in every moment, never letting a memory slip away. After a 16 hour flight, my body felt such disorientation, that the last thing I wanted to do was take in all of my surroundings. I needed a real bed, yet I knew that I still had a full day ahead of me. After finding out that one of my bags was missing, I was not in the most positive mindset arriving in Sydney. Although this was the case, I knew that I had to let go of what I couldn’t control and keep my mind in the present situation. There was so much going on around me that I couldn’t afford to miss.
My first impression of the city of Sydney was that it was very well-kept, modern, and its inhabitants happened to be some of the nicest people I have ever met. People were more than willing to help out with any directions I needed to get from point A to point B. One Australian even offered to give me a ride to the bus station which was more than generous. Upon staying there for the first week, I also noticed how energy-efficient the entire city was; every plastic is made of recycled materials, and every power outlet even has an on and off switch, which I though was quite interesting, coming from America, where we don’t place efficiency as much of a priority. Also, it is very rare to see a pickup truck on the streets, since they believe in fuel efficiency and low emissions. After realizing these differences, it was clear that I was out of my element, yet willing to be open-minded to these interesting changes.
I would say that mentally I am adapting quickly to these changes, as I have been quite accepting of this foreign culture. When I observe my peers that aren’t as mindful of their cultural transition as I am, I see that they have a harder time adjusting to the Australian society. Naturally, if they experience something that is different, they automatically deal with it as if they were still in the United States. If they take on problems and changes with this mindset, they are going to have a harder time meshing with this unique culture. For example, while eating at a restaurant, my American peers have a hard time that Australia has a strong European influence when it comes to food service, which means it takes longer to receive a meal and eventually receive the check. Because they are accustomed to the American lifestyle, they expect instant gratification. It certainly feels strange that for the first time in my life, I have become the definition of a liminoid, or one who has moved away from their community, and has not found their place in the new community yet. Although this had been somewhat of a scary experience, it is nice that I can share the experience with my communitas (students who are also going through the same change). There are both good and bad aspects of being part of a communitas – one of the benefits, is that as a group, we have a taste of home still with us that we are able to relate to. Although this is comforting, there are some negative aspects as well. The biggest repercussion to being too comfortable with in a communitas is that we can become satisfied with staying in the micro-community. This leads to a lack of involvement in the foreign community. In my opinion, the purpose of challenges in the liminality stage is to learn about yourself, as well as the cultures you are coming from and going to. One of the greatest challenges I have faced since being here is losing many of my belongings that were quite important to me. Although I had the opportunity to lament about this negative experience, I chose to move on, and enjoy this wonderfully adventurous first week nonetheless.
In the words of Slimbach, “To be transformative, our path must necessarily take turns and present obstacles that are, at times, greater than our ability to navigate them” (Slimbach, 155). In the picture attached, it is clear that I have chosen to take a turn that has forced me to let go of all control. Skydiving, as well as many other experiences throughout the week have pushed me to let the transformative process to take over. I believe that in order to change, you have to want to be changed. This is why I threw caution to the wind, and jumped out of a perfectly good plane. Let the changes begin.