Flying out of JFK was very surreal to me. About 2 hours into the plane ride everything started to hit me. This was all happening, I was actually leaving everything for four months. Up until that point it didn’t feel real. Yes, I packed, registered for classes, said my goodbyes, but it didn’t seem final. Two hours into that plane ride I wasn’t sure how to feel. So I sat there, not even able to communicate with my seat neighbors who only spoke mandarin, and wondered what I had gotten myself into. 30 hours of travel later and I finally landed in Cairns, Australia. There was no huge culture shock. The language is the same and the country is very westernized which I think actually made me seek out differences more. I felt excited to discover all the ways in which Australia was different than the US.
I’m studying through a program called The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) which gave me 140 other students to form a communita with right off the bat. We spent a week together before meeting any other students at Bond. I enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to adjust to my new environment with people going through the exact same experience as me. Slimbach’s description of communitas as double-edged was very apparent though. I came over here knowing 5 girls, but none of us roomed together in order to try to meet new people. Right off the bat some people from TEAN became cliquey. People who came from the same schools immediately closed themselves off as groups with very little interest in branching out. It showed the negative effects of people in a communita, they closed themselves off from the rest of their experience and relying solely on each other.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far is communicating with back home. Staying in touch with my family is extremely important for me, but the time difference makes it extremely difficult. If I sleep in late or go to bed early, I can end up going the whole day without talking to anyone from home. This clearly isn’t the end of the world, but everything over here is still so new that I like to talk about people from home about it. As more time goes by I’m figuring out how best to keep in touch with people from home, but it’s going to take time to figure out a schedule.
Because of my living situation, a hotel 20 minutes off campus, I’m going to have to put in an effort to meet Bond students. I’m not living with any students outside of TEAN and I only have classes on campus twice a week. This puts me at a huge disadvantage to meeting international students. To try to overcome this I’m planning on joining some sort of club that will allow me to spend time doing an activity I enjoy but also meet new faces.
The picture above is from the white water rafting trip I embarked on during my fifth day in Australia. I think this picture pretty accurately describes how I feel so far in my journey. Everything is so new and exciting so I’m looking forward to it. Yet, at the same time it can be overwhelming at times. As Slimbach says, “But for all her preparedness, Hanna isn’t ready for what she’s about to experience” (Slimbach). No matter how much I prepared for Australia or learned about their culture, nothing will compare to actually being there and experiencing it. The important thing though is that I will get through the wave or obstacle that blocks my path and I’ll come out on the other side.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.