Things have finally begun to cool down in the state of New South Wales. The dog days of summer have finally slunk away and the pleasantries of Australian fall have swept in. I find myself able to walk the 20 minutes to class without being drenched in sweat. I have also noticed as of late that I seem to have hit my Australian stride.
Upon arriving here it took me a few days to get used to the time difference, and then orientation happened and it took me a few days past that to get used to the climate and how expensive things were. Once I finally moved into my Glebe residence I had to learn about how to navigate the grocery store, and a two-flush toilet. Things I hadn’t thought of as being difficult were new, like using my weird Australian oven in Celsius. And just when I was feeling like I had everything in order, classes started happening and once again I was thrust into a whole new acclamation process.
At first it was bewildering, being a freshman was not an experience I had hoped to repeat again so soon. It’s frustrating, and confusing and often you feel helpless under the weight of everything that is new around you. Soon this too passed, and I feel into a rhythm where I was getting to my classes on time and not needed to fumble around with my schedule and my campus map to figure out where I was going and what time I needed to be there. Physically getting to class was one thing, but then the school work started happening. I have been out of school since the first week of December, so it had been a good three months since I had done anything worthwhile with that lump of gray matter sitting inside my skull. I had gotten a little rusty. On top of this I had lapsed into vacation mode, which is easy to do when its 80 degrees and sunny and the beach is a backdrop to your life. I went to my classes for the first few weeks, but this was more of a physical going than a mental presence of actually being there. Sooner or later my professors started using words like “essay,” “exam,” “test,” and “soon” in the same sentence and I was yanked out of my blissful Australian day dream. I was here to STUDY?! I thought I was just here to play? Apparently not. So the last few weeks I have been frantic in my efforts to pull everything together in regards to school. I had lapsed on my readings and not started working on my mid semester assignments that would soon be due. Around this time my internship also started, adding another time commitment to my life, and more responsibilities.
There was one day where I remember sitting down with all my syllabuses and feeling really overwhelmed with everything I needed to due to prepare for the papers and projects I would soon need to turn in for midterm exam period. In the midst of all this travel opportunities kept presenting themselves, Tasmania, Melbourne, surf weekends, and while I am here to do some studying, had I only wanted to study I could have stayed in Virginia, so I didn’t want to miss out of any chances to explore this beautiful country I had been placed in on the precedent of “studying.” So instead of reading and doing school work I planned trips, one to Melbourne, and one to Tasmania, and spent my time in class day dreaming about where else I might go. Soon the impending exam period progressed from a mental itch to a full on rash. I needed to attend to it. One of the big reasons I had been putting off school work is because the books I needed for one of my literature classes were SO EXPENSIVE. I had gone to the bookstore and calculated that the 7 books I needed to buy were going to run me close to $150. In the world of an english major, thats pricey. Last semester at UMW I spent less than $100 on all the books I needed for five classes, so dropping $150 on books for one class was not something I was keen to do. Especially since Australia does not believe in textbook buy back, so I was going to get stuck hauling these books back in my suitcase.
The wonderful thing about being an English major is that you read books all semester, and until you have to write a paper or take a test, it is not imperative that you have read anything. It is the procrastinators worst nightmare, or greatest fantasy depending on how you look at it. We had four texts we were going to be on the midterm for my Australian Texts: International Contexts. One was a movie that I had managed to find and illegally stream for free online, one was a book of poetry that I had to do a presentation on so I had been forced to buy it at the start of the class, and the other two were expensive so I hadn’t bothered with them. I decided that since it had been weeks since the two books I hadn’t read had been assigned I would try getting one of the reserve copies out of the library. I was able to get copies of both, and as it turns out I really enjoyed reading them. One, called “Dreams of Speaking” I finished in two days because I was so absorbed. In the last week or so I have managed to catch up completely with all my school work, and even get ahead on a few things, and ever since this incredible sense of joy has taken up residence in my person. Things at my internship have been really great, I have met some fantastic people, and am genuinely interested in the work I am doing. I return to my apartment at the end of each day tired, but feeling accomplished and productive. I feel like I have struck that perfect harmony in the melodies of fun and the baseline of productivity.
When I walk to school in the morning I hum and sometimes dance to the music in my headphones as I’m waiting to cross the street and pay no attention to the odd glances I attract. I smile like a loon when the wind picks my hair up off my neck and I can feel the warmth of the sunlight on my face. I find a childlike sense of pure delight over the silliest things like when my toast comes out of the toaster in a light brown crispy perfection. I would say its a case of spring fever, but its fall here in the southern hemisphere and getting colder not warmer. The kind of weather we have been having lately is the kind you don’t even notice. You walk outside and its so wonderfully temperate and sunny that the weather attracts none of your attention, for there is nothing to notice, it isn’t rainy or too hot or cold, its just wonderfully pleasant.
I am really enjoying the sense of independence I have here. Going to college at Mary Washington was a huge step for me in terms of starting over socially, and being away from my family for the first time, but it was also very close geographically, so I was able to run home whenever things got hard. While I felt blessed to have this option since my freshman year was really difficult, it meant that I was eased into my college life without ever really having to deal with anything hard on my own or for too long. Coming to Australia I was so concerned about making new friends and really being forced to do everything on my own for the first time. These concerns turned out to be completely unfounded as I have made so many great friends, and I am thrilled that so many of them live close to Virginia because I fully intend on seeing them once I return to the states.
My trip to Tasmania with Yaella fell through due to scheduling conflicts with her availability and mine, but in its place I decided I would book a surf weekend instead. I had wanted to do this since I got here, but as my weekends began filling up I had accepted that I might not be able to get it in before it got too cold to be desirable. So on Wednesday of this week I decided to put a call into Mojo Surf just to inquire about their program, but after answering two of my questions the lady who was helping me asked me for my credit card number, and I thought, well ok! So surfs up this weekend!
In Australia often in the place of saying “thank you” or “no problem” they say “no worries.” More than just being a way of saying thanks it seems to really be a way of thinking, and in my new and randomly blissful state of being I am really embracing this. While I am truly loving every minute of being abroad I am also looking forward to going back to UMW in the fall, being a tour guide again, seeing my friends, and finishing my degree. I feel like I am finally becoming a complete person all on my own. I feel ready to start a life that is my own. It’s a simple kind of free.