Hello all! It’s been a busy few days, filled with great sights, great weather, great people, great food, great animals, and great glimpses towards what will surely be an awesome semester. All that said, however, there sure are treacherous moments out here in the wide open air and I want to share those moments instead of just giving you a bullet-pointed list of crazy animals I’ve seen, the places I’ve forgotten to take pictures of, or the pubs I’ve relaxed in.
So today was the first full day that I’ve had in Brisbane. After attending a “Getting Started” orientation again I walked across campus with some new friends to find food, student id’s, and travel cards (this card I got on campus will allow me to travel all up and down the coast, sometimes for free, it’s actually pretty sweet). I arrived back to my apartment around noon thirty with some time to take in everything I had just learned about school while I waited for some buddies across the city. These buddies lived with my during our program orientation in Sydney but now live in a dorm off campus where I’m across the river in an apartment building with international students (sweet digs). They had some orientation program with their building later that afternoon so we planned to go shopping for room supplies together after they were finished. I spent about 15 minutes after I got back sitting in front of my desk thinking about what I could do. I had a flurry of ideas, but nothing really stuck out as anything I had to take care of, mostly chores and organization, but things I wanted to get out of the way nonetheless. I kid you not I spent the next four hours navigating the course registration system with tons of conflicting feelings flying through my mind. First off, I wanted to set up as many free days as possible such that I’d be able to travel without missing class, after all, I’m here to see the country aren’t I? Second, I had to make sure that I was able to get into the classes that had been approved. All the while those ideas of things I could be doing (the chores) are still plaguing my mind: I don’t have the proper converter for my alarm clock. Where should I go for spring break? Do I need to get more clothing (smelly laundry pile says yes)? What will I do with all these weekends? Who will I travel with? Will I be making the right decisions? Are my classes too hard? I can’t keep track of all these thoughts where can I get an assignment planner? When am I going to work out today? Do I even have enough money to be here??? All these questions have barely scratched the surface, and I know I’m not the only student abroad who thinks these things.
After calming myself down a little bit I called my buddy who was done with his program, and asked him where he planned on going. Long story short, I wasn’t able to join them, and had to go into the city alone.
I figured travelling into the city alone in a country I’ve never been to would be a true test of my survival skills, and it proved to be nothing less. To start, I couldn’t understand the bus schedule at the stop by my building, so I asked a stranger if any of the approaching busses would get me to where I needed to be, Queens Street. He answered with a very reassuring, “Yeah, maybe”. So I took a chance and picked one. As a measure of security I asked the driver if this would get me to Queens Street, to which he said in a heavy Russian accent, “You can walk to there from Adelaide or wherever what’s the big deal” and motioned for me to swipe my “go-card”. I sat down, admittedly slightly shaky with nerves. Keep in mind that I don’t have the access I usually do to google maps, and anyone I could possibly reach on the prepaid phone I received would be of no help, I felt like I was flying blind. I got off at the first stop because it appeared that I was in the city and I didn’t want to go too far. Looking at the schedule once… no twice… no I had to check again… (Are people staring at me?) I decided that one of the approaching busses was the one that could get me to the stop I needed to reach. It ended up being one stop further and I made if to a bus station below a mall. Now all I needed at this mall was an adapter, a calendar, an assignment book, and some notecards, so I went to the place that looked the most familiar, Target. Nope they only had pink notebooks, no calendars, and no adapters (they did have some sweet Australian flicks though). So I went exploring. I found a small clothing shop and figured I should try to get some cheap, functional clothing that would last the semester. I didn’t find any of that, but I did find a few adapters I could use for that ‘murican alarm clock I had (I didn’t realize that the adapter was not a converter, and now my alarm clock is fried, but that’s beside the point). Still fairly empty handed I decided to leave the mall and venture out to the streets to explore some other shops. I walked by a live band and a protest in a central square (I’ll look into that) before finding the equivalent of a small Staples. Many figure eights through that store and I was good to go. Venturing back to the bus station below the mall I realized it was three hours later than I expected so I decided to grab some food. I had told myself I wasn’t going to get subway till it was a last resort, as there is a subway literally across the quad back at Wake Forest, but in this case, I was down to the final dollars I had on me and just needed something healthy and quick. This actually ended up being pretty fun.
It turns out that on this giant island of meters, liters, and grams, that subway has refused to conform to the norm and still sells foot longs and six inch subs, which is good because a “.3048 meter” or a “15.24 centimeter” would have hurt to say. They didn’t stop there though, they continued to blow my mind when I gazed upon the options of cheeses. They had not just cheddar, but old English, and Swiss, amazing. Moving down the line, the sandwich creator asked me a strange question, “And any salads on that, mate?” Of course I don’t want a salad on my sub I want toppings where’d you put the topping menu and why is there a salad menu? Oh. Salads are toppings, capsicum are peppers, and Jake is learning. With my belly full I had the confidence to try and navigate my way back home, the full two stops. First I had to figure out which bus would take me on those two stops, which turned out to be impossible. I can’t sit here and tell you the mistakes I made reading the signs because I simply don’t know what they were, and I don’t know if I ever will. I picked a bus, asked the driver again, and without any Russian accent, he gave me a tired nod. I sat down, put my bags on the floor, and let out a big sigh.
Writing this all out doesn’t seem to really convey the true extent to which I felt out of the box. Maybe it’s just my writing skills, but I think it’s more the fact that it’s very tough to describe the nerves and worry that students go through when they’re abroad. Having gone through an orientation at a university once before, I remember the feelings of being lost and looking back on it I know that it all gets better. Having reflected on that time, I came here knowing that I was going to experience all the feelings of uncertainty, homesickness, loneliness, fear, and all the things that come with being thrown into an unfamiliar situation. This time around, I’ve tried my best to embrace it, and writing this post was an attempt at doing that. Am I lonely right now? For whatever reason, yes. Am I homesick? Of course! Am I scared? Most times, for sure, but am I aware of those feelings? Absolutely. I knew that these feelings would weigh down on me throughout my trip, but I know that everyone experiences those feelings and we all eventually get somewhat out of those holes and enjoy this incredible opportunity that we have. The greatest people I’ve met on this trip so far are the people who are open with those feelings, but just as excited about moving forward into the future as that are worried. It’s nice to catch myself when I’m missing home and tell myself, “Be homesick, home is great, of course you miss home and the care you receive when you walk in the door”. Instead of taking that moment to try to force a different emotion, it’s nice to realize how normal it is, and to stop and think about those at home who have made this trip possible and those who will always be in my heart. I’ve realized that everyone has these feelings, we’re not alone, and we almost always find ways to fill the voids. Stopping to embrace the homesickness, nervousness, and fear instead of faking anything else makes even the down moments a wonderfully memorable part of this experience. Was the silly bus trip to the mall nerve-wracking, you bet, and I’ll remember it forever.