Leaving home to spend 4 months studying abroad in a country that is about as far away as I could get from my family, friends, and everything that I know and am comfortable with was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I'll admit, I probably cried a good half of the 22 hour plane ride over to Australia. Yet, the longer that I am here, the more I learn, grow, and realize things about myself that I never knew I had in me.
Over my 20 years of existance, I have never been put in a situation where I am completely out of my comfort zone. I come from a small town in New Hampshire where most of the population is white middle class. Going to school at Allegheny, I'm still surrounded by many people who are also from the white middle class society. And about 85% (or so it sometimes seems like) come from the Pittsburgh area. Everyone is an undergraduate, so the age range of students does not vary all that much. So, for the past 20 years I have become accustomed to certain people and certain ways of living. Being in Australia has totally changed that. The campus at James Cook University it more diverse than what I am used to. There are students here that are undergraduates as well as students trying to obtain their graduate degrees. I have people in my classes that are in their 30's, 40's, and 50's. There are also Aboriginal people that inhabit Australia and many that attend the university here. Sadly, before I came here, I never knew that such a culture existed. One of my courses I am taking is called "Linking Indigenousness." This class understand the way of the Aboriginal people and interact with many of them. I have learned a great deal from what they have to say about their culture, something that I would have never been exposed to back at home.
There are also so many little things that are different here, that add up to a lot of getting used to. For starters, people dress differently. At Allegheny, its not uncommon to roll out of bed and go to class in sweats. Here, people dress up for class. Girls wear dresses and skirts and sometimes I even see guys in nice button down shirts and slacks. Each dormitory here ( called colleges) has their own separate dining hall. This becomes a problem, if you want to eat with a friend but they live in a different dorm. Classes are set up differently. I have lectures in each class once a week that last for 2 hours! Also, there are shorter tutorial classes where students are split up into smaller groups to discuss whatever was talked about in the lecture that week. These tutorials are once a week and last for 50 minutes.
I'd say one of the things that I've realized most while being here, is the little things I take for granted back at home. First, there are not many choices at all for food in the dining halls here. As bad at Brooks and Mckinley's may seem sometime, they are heavenly compared to the dining halls here because of their wide range of choices in food. One other thing I have taken for granted back at home, is that printing, laundry, etc. is free! Here I have to pay for EVERYTHING. Laundry and printing cost money. If I need to go to the store, I have to pay to take a bus.
All in all, I have met some incredible people over here thus far. People in Australia are just overall very friendly and eager to meet you and share their opinions about things with you. As challenging as it was for me to leave home and be thrown into a whole new world by myself, I realize that this is truly the opportunity of a lifetime. I look forward to my remaining months here and meeting more people, learning new things, and hopefully growing more as an individual.