I’m sitting in Dubai airport, sipping coffee ($8) and writing this blog. Through domed windows I see planes land and take off – again and again, almost meditatively – in the hot early-morning haze. It was 36 degrees Celsius when we arrived in darkness at 4:50am; dressed in thermals, jeans, a sweater and a thick black overcoat, I quickly shed a couple of layers and, finding a seat beneath an air-conditioner, have managed to make myself a little more comfortable. Novice traveller that I am, I also managed to leave a couple of valuables – phone charger included – the car in Adelaide pre-departure.
An international airport is a strange place to be, though – so many tired-looking people slumped in stiff leather seats or sprawled limp on the floor. One man I spot sleeps on a rather uncomfortable-looking makeshift cardboard bed; another man I pass has bags under his eyes the likes of which I’ve never seen before – deep, sagging bags (truly!). It’s interesting, too, though, to see so many different people from so many different parts of the world – a group of Middle Eastern, or perhaps African, men dressed in blue and brown kaftans that sway gently as they walk; an American family waiting for a connecting plane to San Francisco; a couple of sharply dressed Italian men chatting and laughing as they board the 09:10 plane to Rome that I, too, am travelling on.
This is one of the main reasons I’ve decided to go on a Study Abroad trip – to meet new people and see and experience new things. The reality of my going away didn’t quite hit me until I left Adelaide. I spent the weeks leading up to my trip in a bit of a daze, finishing off my final shifts at my bakery job and tying up other loose ends. I worried a bit, too, about going away – about heading off on my own for the first time and making my own way through parts of the world largely unknown to me. Now that I’m on my way, though, things are good. I also think that one inevitably reaches a point at which one can’t really make any more preparations for departure – all that’s left is to board the plane and go.
Anyway, I’m headed for Italy, where my mum’s sister lives with her husband (I also have a cousin living in Milan), then the Netherlands where my father has an aunt and various cousins, and then onto the U.K. where my Bachelor of Arts course begins in late September.
Oliver Ryan, Bachelor of Arts (High Achievers) is undertaking an exchange to Royal Holloway University, London during S2, 2019