Getting to Australia: Easier than Finding the Zoo

at the zoo
Author: Sara Skelly

I want to say that I didn’t have the normal start to study abroad. However, I don’t think I can say that with certainty. I don’t really think there is a normal way to begin the study abroad process. I will say that my story started with a series of events on, what felt like, an accelerated timeline.

I got the “why go abroad” presentation about a week before the deadline to apply to go abroad in January. Or, four weeks after having a struggling start to getting into classes for the coming semester. It was during that presentation that I felt like there was this outside force having a light bulb moment. Somehow, going abroad for a semester was an “aha” moment and a must do. So, in about 3 weeks I applied, found transfer courses and got about 2 days notice to enroll for the host institution. Despite this all being about 3 months before I would actually leave, time seemed to fly by. I had to finish courses at home, participate in pre-departure sessions, and get prepared for an adventure of a lifetime. Although I say “get prepared” I really mean packing and not researching Australia to find facts that have nothing to do with spiders.

Fast forward to February. What’s nice about Deakin University (in Melbourne Australia) is that there were two introduction weeks. One for res (and the study abroad students), and then one for university (or uni as I have taken to calling it). Even though there were far fewer assignments for my classes abroad compared to home, this was the time when I went on the most adventures and created some of the most impactful memories.

What’s so spectacular about going to new places is the newness of it all. However, as time progresses, it stops being new and becomes your normal. Now, at this point in time, there were a lot of new things being thrown my way. Something as simple as making food became a new experience (not only did I have to battle with the gas stove, but the actual oven operates in celsius. Such little details that you don’t even think about at home). Although I have always been good about looking both ways when crossing the road, the simple act became a new endeavour too (I was successful in not getting hit by cars while in Australia, but smaller roads and my inability to wrap my head around driving on the opposite side made for a few close calls).

One of the first adventures I went on was a trip to the zoo, with a girl I had met only a few days prior. A shared camaraderie for being study abroad students (and arriving on the same day) made us bond a little bit faster than maybe we would have if we shared a classroom and a country. Armed with bus passes and our phones as maps, we boarded the tram to see some native Aussie animals. After 45 minutes of riding a bus into the heart of Melbourne, my map mislead me. We got off on the wrong stop, walked in the wrong direction, and ended up having to backtrack. What made matters worse is that for a few minutes we couldn’t figure out what exactly had gone wrong, or even why we weren’t in the right spot. Furthermore, when we did get to the right spot, we realized that we hopped onto the right bus going the wrong way. At home, these little mess-ups don’t really seem like that big of a deal. And the map somehow makes a lot more sense.

at the zoo

Despite getting lost (mislead), this was one of my favorite days. You can’t really get lost somewhere you know like the back of your hand. Although we weren’t lost for very long, and were almost in the right spot, getting lost, in a way, made it real that we weren’t at home anymore. I definitely had to learn a few more things about the Aussie way of life beyond simply navigating the trams, but I think that’s what a lot of study abroad is: relearning the little nuances that make up your daily routine all over again in a new country. And there is something to be said for the next time you go to navigate the city and get exactly where you’re going as your study abroad country slowly becomes your new home.

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