I have been on the continent of Australia for about nine days now, and I have found that the more time you give yourself; the more accustomed you become to your new environment. When I started, I felt as though I had been flying for around two months. The group I flew with was tired of flights and layovers; it just felt as though it was all made up. Even when we arrived at Cairns, which was where our orientation was being held, it was very difficult to understand we on the complete opposite side of the world. The money, accents, and styles were just small reminders that we were not in New England anymore. As time went on, I was able to adjust and realize where I was and the journey I was going on. I found myself just walking down the streets and listening to the people shout in the bars while families walked by with their kids. This was solidified for me when we finally arrived in the Gold Coast. During our orientation, we were kept on a pretty close leash. Our program always had us doing something, which helped make it all feel like an educational vacation. When we arrived at the Gold Coast, the program basically let us loose, and we had to find our own way. We started finding the best beaches, places to buy groceries, how to use the public transportation, and navigate the massive city that is the Gold Coast by ourselves. We developed routines that helped us realize that we are living here in Australia for the next four months, to the point were I feel completely aware. Now that I feel at home here and the Gold Coast, I share a sentiment with many of the other students I have met here. We think that Australia is such a big and beautiful place, that we don’t know if we can accomplish all of our goals in see all of the sights in just four months.
A communitas is a vital part of the study abroad experience in my opinion. A communitas is a group of like-minded individuals in the liminal state who are joining together to accomplish goals and complete challenges. To me, communitas have been the most vital asset so far in the study abroad experience. I met a group of friends in Logan Airport as we were leaving for Australia. We all boarded our flights together, watched each other’s backs, and even spent most of our orientation together. Having that group for orientation was important to me because having friends that I was close with changed how I would have treated the process. If they were not there, I would not have gotten out and explored the beautiful city of Cairns. They act as a support group that allows one to go out and find these experiences while offering one a sense of comfort and safety. Slimbach discusses this by saying, “The underlying assumption is that if we know some basic facts about our new circumstances we will feel more positively inclined to adapt ourselves to them.” (Slimbach Loc 3348). The only weakness I find with a communitas is if the group has conflicting goals. Having some people just wanting to party, while others might want to travel and see the country can create rifts and destroy that sense of comfort the communitas typically brings.
The biggest challenge I think I have acknowledged would be finding something to do at all times. I never wanted to have a time were I was just sitting in my room. To fight this, I have found fun places in the area that I can explore, and have learned how to surf. I think that doing something like surfing, which is so important to the culture here. It will keep me busy while teaching me something that is culturally important here.
The picture I chose to include is one of our plane landing in Cairns. The land is so green and beautiful, which to me symbolizes a rich amount of knowledge and growth we will be exposed to when we finally land. There is a lot of clouds and fog surrounding the land, which can symbolize things like doubt or mystery. To me, it was telling me that I won’t know what is on the ground below, but once I touched down I saw how much Australia had to offer me.
Slimbach, R. (2010). Becoming world wise: a guide to global learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC. LOC3348