Last week my Australian classes ended, and they did so rather abruptly. Perhaps I had not been paying attention to the schedule or I just could not conceive of the idea that I would have two weeks of no class before exams started up, but it caught me completely off guard. Silly me, I thought we would spend at least a week discussing what would be on the final and reviewing in preparation for it. Nope. We weren’t even told when and where our finals would be, that we had to find for ourselves online. Yes, silly me to assume that I would get any of this information.
So my last day of class was May 26th, the Thursday before Justin and I left for Canberra, and on the 30th Justin went home and suddenly I was left with this giant void in my heart and my schedule. The day Justin left was particularly bad as I knew I would not be seeing him again until September at the earliest and I was a gooey mess of emotional gunk the whole day. I am my mothers daughter after all. The day he left I did two loads of laundry, caught up on some work I needed to do and packed away all my summer clothes and reorganized the remaining ones. In short, I tried to stay busy, but once all the housework had been done I was left with a void that I soon identified as a loss of purpose.
While I have really enjoyed being in Australia and I am quite pleased with my decision to study abroad, with my classes ending and my boyfriend (this is a fairly recent development and I still find myself feeling weird using that word) leaving, I found myself wanting to get on that international flight with him and forgo my last month of Australian adventures. It is not that I had suddenly lost my taste for Sydney, but rather that I felt like I had gotten everything out of this experience that I was going to get, and I was ready to return home.
The general consensus among my fellow Glebians has been that everyone is pretty much ready to get home. I have heard many people say that they have done everything there is to do in Sydney and they are beginning to feel restless and bored. I cringe when I hear people say this because while I have lived 20 minutes outside of Washington DC my whole life, when my friend Katie moved into the city to go to art school there I discovered all sorts of things through her that I had never found on my own. There is no way we could have exhausted every interesting thing to do in Sydney, there are always rocks left unturned.
With this in mind I tried to focus on setting new goals for the remainder of my time here. I talked to Yaella and came up with a short list of things I wanted to see and do over the next few weeks. While this was progress I was still feeling kinda down. Come Friday afternoon I had nothing to do, so I decided I would walk up to the library and check out some movies to watch over the weekend. On the way back to my apartment I was bopping along to some music and decided to venture down the other end of Glebe Point Rd, past the street I normally turn down, just for fun. I also wanted to check out the hostel that my mom and I will be staying at when she arrives on July 3rd, which is located down there as well.
I found the hostel quite easily as it wasn’t that much further down Glebe Point Rd than I was used to traveling, but the weather was nice so I decided to venture even further. Eventually the road ends at Backwattle Bay Park, a beautiful green area and dog park that overlooks the bay and the ANZAC bridge. It was a beautifully clear night when I got there, and I was astounded to find that I had lived so close to this park all semester and had no idea it was there.
The next day I needed to go back to the hostel to make the reservation and ask some questions, so I grabbed my camera and walked back down to the park after finalizing the reservation. Once there I was greeted with a gloriously sunny day and a park that was bustling with activity. Moms and dads with babies and toddlers, people jogging with ipods and dogs, old men chatting on benches, couples lounging and picnicking.
Seeing this tucked away part of town that I had no idea existed so busy with life and activity excited me and made me realize all that I had been missing about Australia. Yes I had gotten to know the famous landmarks, monuments, and major tourist attractions, but here was a whole community of people who live their lives here and I had never noticed them before now. I had entered into a casual acquaintanceship with this city, but I had really explored the depths of its treasures. All week I had been glum about feeling like I had no purpose in being here anymore. Walking around Backwattle that day I kept thinking about perspective.
It’s amazing the kind of peace this can bring. Wether its a figurative act where you back off of a problem or mental hang up to examine its relevance in a larger context or in a literal sense where you climb over the face of a mountain to see the valley below and the ocean beyond. It’s peaceful.
I tried to remember why I had studied abroad in the first place. It was not really to study, because I was doing that just fine in Virginia, and it wasn’t to spend time with a boy, although that had been a nice unintended side effect, it had been to explore. To explore this new continent and to explore myself. To figure out who I was away from everything that I defined as being a part of me. Away from my family, friends, school, state, country and continent. This process of redefining remains ongoing, so I was not without purpose, I was just without motivation.
Some combination of being near the ocean, the glowing sunny weather, all the dogs playing, and the children laughing totally cured me of my glum disposition. I walked all the way around the bay to get back to my apartment, stopping whenever a dog came up to me to pet it. I hung out for a few hours until the sun set. I watched the sailboats come into port and some rowers head out for an evenings row. I sat with my feet dangling over the water and the setting sun casting warmth on my face and I felt content. I plan to push myself to explore more and try and fill up my remaining days with adventures worthy of writing about. I don’t want to ever feel like I am taking this experience for granted, because spending 21 hours on a plane to get somewhere means you better have the time of your life.
I hated myself for wishing my time away for even a second. I am in Australia! A place few people in North America or even the world will ever see, and I got to live here for five months. It is the furthest away I could ever travel without commissioning a rocket and going to the moon. After coming here no flight will ever be able to intimidate me, and no distance away from home will ever scare me. I kinda feel like I got relive my freshman year of college, a year where I was upset and went home every weekend. I got to replace it with a semester where I removed myself from everything I knew and met all sorts of new people who I now consider close friends and opened my mind to exploring and pushing past my comfort limit. If nothing else, I am proud of myself for having grown so much since my freshman year. I don’t think I would even recognize that girl anymore, the one who got in her own way and lost a year to moping and complaining about a school she never really gave a chance.
In taking stock of what I have gained so far I can already be appreciative of the opportunities I have been given, the cities I have seen, and the cultures I have experienced. I will return home with a new world perspective, memories of the laughter I have shared, new friends who became family, a boy who was willing to chase me across the globe, and waiting for me will be the family who supported me and got me to this point. So all in all, not too shabby.