Six Weeks or Six Lifetimes?

So today, the second of April, marks exactly six weeks that I’ve been here in Adelaide. I am a little introspective today, so I feel like for my blog post I will do a little recap of the soul searching/growing that I’ve done since I’ve been here. But, first, I’ll do a little introduction on what my life was like back in Texas, pre-Flinders.

I grew up in Dallas, Texas and when I was 17, I hopped right over junior year and graduated early from my high school in a northeastern suburb called Rockwall. I toyed around with my college options for my three years of high school- I did well in school, so I was lucky enough to have options. I would change from wanting to be a journalist in New York City to a big time petroleum engineer in Houston to being a business woman in Chicago. When I had my college acceptances from both the Northern and Southern US states, and it came down to the line, I chose to stay and attend the best university in the south- University of Texas at Austin. Not only was it an amazing school but I got a scholarship and I got into a hard science program and the best off campus girl’s dorm this side of the Mason Dixon line. And, being a home body, it was close to Dallas- four hours driving would get me from my dorm to my parent’s doorstep.

And then, suddenly, home got a lot closer when my parent’s decided they needed a change too and we all packed up together and moved to Austin to embark on the adventure together. People expect me to be sour about that, and I got hit with a lot of “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry” and “How irritating is that!” and “College is for getting away from family!”, but I never felt that way ever. My family is my rock, and I felt nothing but love, gratefulness, and happiness that they came with me to college. UT is a very academically challenging school and being able to be picked up from my dorm on Friday afternoons and driven back Monday mornings were the breaks I looked forward to all week. This became a routine for me- for the past three years I would spend every weekend and break with my family.

They really are, I think, the best family in the entire world but I might be a little biased. My mom is my best friend in the entire world, my dad is the coolest guy to ever live, my little sister is feisty and sporty and the opposite of me but I wouldn’t change that for anything, and my older brother- even though he betrayed us and moved to the North- is my hero. And naturally, I knew that coming here and leaving them for the first time would be the hardest thing about studying abroad. I wasn’t wrong.

The first week I was here, I was absolutely infatuated and amazed by everything! I wanted to hear people talk all the time, I tried all sorts of Australian food and drink, I wanted to see all the animals, every beach, and I wanted to stay here forever. But, after the first four week, I spiraled into three weeks of the what-have-I-done phase.

I went from being 20 years old and completely dependent on my family to being absolutely alone and forced to be independent. Instead of calling up my mom to go to grocery store, I had to figure out how to take a bus or a train, and then figure out how much money I could actually spend versus just asking my parents for money. When I had a bad day at home, I could just call up my little sister and ask her if she would let me vent to her over coffee. Here, when I have a bad day at home, I can call up my little sister only after I figure out the 15.5 hour difference and meeting for coffee is laughably out of the question. For those three weeks, I would cry, look at pictures of my friends and family on Facebook, and wish that I hadn’t ever considered coming to Australia.

And then, I just snapped out of it. I woke up one morning, got ready for school, bought myself a Farmer’s Union iced coffee, and got on the train to attend one of my classes in the city. It was around eight in the morning, I had my headphones in, and I was watching the morning sun illuminate the city and the lives of the people all around me. I realized in that one little moment how insanely lucky I am to be here. I was so at peace and unconcerned with my routine I had gotten myself into without noticing- I didn’t panic about missing the train or losing my Metrocard- I had completed my morning routine with the ease that I would have done at home, and probably even more naturally than that.

I watched myself go through these ups and downs of homesickness in the past six weeks, but I feel like I have learned so much about myself in this short time. Back home, I live for a lot of other people. I live for my family and to make them proud, I live for my friends to fulfill their desires and my social responsibility, I live for my boss and my coworkers to make sure I worked harder than anyone else and picked up shifts when they wanted me to- and then, Australia. Now, suddenly I am thrust into a situation where I am living solely for myself. Yes, I still want to make my family and friends proud, but it’s different now because instead of deciding my weekend plans around what other people want to do, all I need to do is consult with myself.

I have grown from this 20 year old hyper-dependent girl to a independent young woman who can navigate a city without panicking. I have morphed into someone who is confident enough to start a conversation with a stranger on public transportation, whereas a month ago I wouldn’t have made eye contact with anyone in public. I have thrown myself into my interests and what I want to do and who I want to be- a very selfish and foreign thing that I’ve never done before. And now, six weeks later, I am in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I am doing well in school, I am involved with geological research, I have a job, and I have friends that come from all different parts of the world. I feel satisfied and happy with myself, which is something I haven’t ever felt before. Instead of acting like a normal girl, I feel myself behaving like a woman.

I knew that when I decided to study abroad in a place so far away, I was doing it for a reason. I thought the reason at the time was to see the world, but now I realize that traveling gives you so much more knowledge about yourself than you expect it to. I realize now that for my entire life before now I have put myself into a box made of other people’s expectations of me. Before coming here, I would limit my thoughts, goals and behaviors based off of what other people expected and wanted from me. But now, after realizing the amazing things I’ve done like moving across the globe and surviving the pain and regret of homesickness, I know the satisfaction and self love of living for myself.

There are moments when I miss home and I miss having my family twenty minutes away- but there are so many more moments in a day where I do something and I step back and realize the strong, brave person I’ve become. These little tasks I complete alone might seem like absolutely nothing to other people, but I am so proud and happy and grateful that I can do them. I finally know what it’s like to be independent and happy, I know what it’s like to be able to adapt to different situations. I know myself and what I like and don’t like and what little things I can do to make myself feel fulfilled. I have learned and grown so much during this six weeks, and that is the most underrated part of leaving home and traveling the world. I am learning in my classes and academics, but I learn so much from being alone and so much from being around people who aren’t like me in the slightest, listening to what they think and believe and how they grew up.

A big thank you to Flinders for accepting me into this program and teaching me more about myself than I ever thought I would learn. Here’s to the next six weeks! Cheers.

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