On July 30th, 2019, I took my first steps in the southern hemisphere. Wildly jetlagged and properly exhausted after a four-week backpacking trip through Europe with one of my best friends, I stumbled out of the Air India plane I had taken to Sydney just as the sun was beginning to rise. Just a day before I had been in Stockholm, suffering in 100-degree heat, and I had been suddenly thrust right back to the middle of winter. As the world around me began to wake, I cleared customs and exited the airport only to immediately get nearly run over in the parking lot, as I somehow hadn’t realized that Australians drive on the left side of the road until that moment. This shocked me wide-awake, and it certainly wasn’t the only shock I would experience throughout my time here.
That’s one of the things I’m going to miss the most: all of the tiny peculiarities of Australian culture that make it truly unique. For example, did you know that they call cantaloupes “rockmelons”? Of course you didn’t, nobody does, it’s weird. Did you know that Australia is the only country in the world with more venomous than non-venomous snakes? Or that kangaroos outnumber Australians nearly two to one? How about that they once went to war with emus, and lost?! You could have learned any of these things from a simple Google search of course, but it’s so much more exciting to discover stuff like this first-hand. Plus, you get to see how Australians react to your reactions; for example, when I told some Australians that “rockmelons” (seriously, what the heck?) are called cantaloupes in the United States, they were equally shocked and appalled.
I’m also going to miss the big stuff. Being able to just casually stroll up to the Sydney Opera House is pretty incredible, and it’s easy to take for granted when you’re living here. Since I arrived, I’ve done so many incredible things like snorkeling with sea turtles, surfing at world-famous beaches, and SCUBA diving in the Great Barrier Reef. As long as I’m still in Australia, it’s very easy to feel like these experiences aren’t necessarily over, and instead I’m drifting in between them. When something marvelous is constantly on the horizon, you don’t often stop to think about the great moments that have already passed, but I know that as soon as I get home, all of my experiences and feelings will catch up with me and I’ll miss all of it at once.
What I’m really going to miss, though, are Australians. Australians are just so. Darn. Friendly. You’d think that for a country founded by convicts, people wouldn’t be so nice, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! In my first week of classes, I made it a point to introduce myself to anyone that I sat next to in a class, and I’m still friends with most of those people four months later! Even for someone with pretty bad social anxiety like me, I don’t think I’ve ever had an easier time meeting people and making plans.
Between the hundreds of different student-led societies at the University of Sydney and the endless amount of events going on in the city, I’ve never once felt like I had nothing to do. Even if you somehow get bored with Sydney, there are TONS of awesome places to go just outside of it, like Newcastle for example, or one of the many bushwalking destinations you can reach just using public transit. If you exhaust all of those, just snag a round-trip flight to Melbourne or Gold Coast for sixty dollars or so and spend a few days exploring with your mates. If you don’t have anyone to go with, just rock up alone! You’re bound to meet awesome Aussies wherever you go.
In all honesty, when I first arrived I was very anxious. Moving to a new city all by yourself is hard work, and it’s made even harder in a totally new country. I spent a lot of time thinking that my decision to study abroad was a mistake and that I’d have been better off coming back to Boston for a semester, though as time went on, I started to settle in. I started using Aussie slang naturally, watching Aussie television, and I stopped feeling like an outsider. At about three months in I decided I want to come back here permanently someday, and I started researching visas and immigration laws. Now, with only three weeks left, I’m dreading coming home. The familiar sights of rural New Hampshire in the winter will be comforting I’m sure, and I can’t wait to see my friends and family (and pets!), but deep down I really don’t want to leave. Unfortunately, that’s the price any study abroad student pays. If you’re considering going abroad, don’t let my wistful words dissuade you. Go do it, and cherish it while it lasts. If you really fall in love with the place, you can always return someday. Until then, focus on making the most of the time you have left and bringing home the only thing better than souvenirs: memories.