When I first stepped off the plane in Cairns, Australia, I immediately noticed the extreme temperature change. I had left behind 20°F weather in the states and landed in 80°F weather. I also noticed that different terms were used; instead of using the elevator, an Australian would use a lift. One of the more frightening differences was that the stairs are only used as a fire escape. At the hotel in Cairns I attempted to use to the stairs and found myself trapped in the stairwell. The door I came from locked behind me and all the doors leading to each floor were locked. I began to panic and tried to call my friend to help me. Sadly, I did not have reception in the stairwell. I decided I would try every door to see if one of them miraculously were open. When I finally got to the ground level I found that this door was open and lead to the outside. The stairs are only used incase of a fire, which did not help my fear of elevators.
However, most of the differences were interesting and welcomed. I found that it is common to put ice cream in ice coffees in Australian, a change I was more than excited about. I also found that physically separating from my native culture greatly influenced my separation mentally. Australia has not been dramatically different from the United States; however, I enjoy learning the little differences, as I want to fit into the Australian culture and not be able to be spotted as a foreigner. Although I miss my family and friends, I am very excited to learn more about my new home.
I have found my communitas, a group of people going through the same transition together, very helpful. However, I also found it could be quite cliquey. Many students came to Australian from the same universities and had already established their group of friends before we had arrived. I found these students in particular were not overly interested in making new friends. A communitas can help with the transition; however, one may get so comfortable in their communitas and never branch out of it. Slimbach referred to this on page 160 when he referred to the communitas as double-edged. Although I had some friends from home within my communitas, I also enjoyed branching out and meeting new friends. Most of the other members of my communitas have interacted with this community in a similar fashion. I have enjoyed the friends I have made within my communitas; however, I also want to meet more people from Australia. This task has been particularly difficult, as I have not had many opportunities to do so. Therefore, I plan on joining a club and reaching out to other people I meet on campus when classes start.
One often faces challenges when navigating through the liminal phase. I can often be a more introverted person and enjoy a busy scheduled routine. The TEAN orientation in Cairns satisfied my need for a busy schedule. Our days were tightly packed with activities with little down time. It almost felt as we were on vacation for a week. However, this orientation stretched the introverted aspect of my personality. I learned that even though I am an introverted person, I still am able to branch out and escape my comfort zone. This paid off as I left orientation with some amazing new friends. On page 155, Slimbach stated, ““Someone who is outgoing and ever ready to try something new is likely to fare better in stressful situations than an introverted and culturally cautious perfectionist”. (2010, 155) This quote really stuck with me because I would often categorize myself as the latter description. However, when navigating this study abroad experience I have used strategies that exemplify the first description. I think further developing these qualities will also be useful later in life.
After leaving orientation, our days became much more relaxed lacking structure and routine. This left me with more downtime to sit and think. I’m not used to having much a lot of free time with school, work, friends, and cheerleading. However, I know I could benefit from some more downtime to sit and relax. I look forward to embracing this lifestyle and incorporating it into my life at home. I choose the picture below because even though I’m squinting through the rain, I’m still smiling and having fun. I think it truly exemplifies my study abroad experience so far; I’m squinting through the challenges and the confusing but still having the time of my life.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.