In my last post, I raved on and on about my thirst for adventure and how excited I was to be going to Australia. About fifteen hours after I wrote that, I was holed up all by myself in a hotel room 10,000 miles away from anybody that I knew. I think that's the dream for a lot of people and even I had pictured myself getting cozy in a complimentary hotel robe, turning on the television, ordering room service, opening a bottle of wine and recovering from the 25 hour flight I had just completed. Instead I cried for about ten straight hours.
I've known for a long time that being exhausted makes me unreasonably emotional. One time last year I cried hysterically because I wanted to eat ice cream for lunch and nobody would let me. That was after several extremely exciting and sleepless nights. It's not my favorite personal trait, but I can't really help it. Even James Bay can't get me to "Hold Back the River" (great song, btw).
I think that I could have filled a bathtub with all of the tears I cried in that hotel room. I think that the emotions behind those tears were extremely valid and a lot of them continue to surface when I have any time alone. I was terrified to be in a new country all by myself and my mind went to a lot of dark places, walking through all of the "what ifs" that could happen over the next four months. What if something horrible happens to me? What if something horrible happens to someone in my family and I'm not there? What if my friends forget about me? What if I don't make any friends here? What if Trump wins the election? The list went on and on.
I didn't try to suppress my tears at all - I was alone and there was nobody to judge me. Sometimes you just have to let it all out in order to be able to move on. I told my parents that I would stay for two weeks and if I still didn't feel better I was coming home. I even looked up plane tickets home, which I promised myself I wouldn't do. When the tears finally stopped and my eyes looked more like cherry tomatoes than eyes, I took a shower and went to bed. I turned on a romantic comedy to lift my spirits and quickly drifted off into the best sleep of my life. Sixteen hours later I woke up felling infinitely better and more confident.
Although I'm still terrified and not entirely sure that I can survive the next four months, I haven't cried since that day. My days have been filled with activity and I've started meeting new people who actually seem to like me. There's one "what if" that I've managed to squish. The others still loom in the back of my head. I think I know deep down that everything is going to be fine and that the next four months are going to be the best of my life. But that doesn't mean that they will be the easiest.
The past three days have been amazing and exciting and filled with promise. Amazing and challenging aren't mutually exclusive, though. There was one day that I forgot to eat. Today my credit card was disabled because my travel notice wasn't processed. But I'm learning how to cope with these challenges and I can sense myself becoming more and more independent. The key is to not dwell on the problems that arise, but rather to address them, understand that they can be resolved and move on.
I'm beginning to appreciate all of the value that can come out of a study abroad experience. When I first applied, I was excited for the opportunity to see a new country. I couldn't wait to hear Aussie accents all the time, hold a koala, see a kangaroo and do all of the typical tourist activities. While that's all great, there is so much more to this experience that I wasn't even expecting. I feel myself starting to transform into an adult. For the first time I am totally and completely independent. There is nobody hear to hold my hand while I encounter everyday challenges.
I'm also starting to appreciate the local culture here. In the US everything is so commercialized - even the small corner coffee shops are turning into chains. My apartment is pretty removed from the city's center and I'm in love with how unique the neighborhood I live in is. There are a ton of hole-in-the-wall coffee shops that make fresh-pressed, fair trade coffee. The baristas ask you how your day is going and seem to actually care about your response. All of the people here are so friendly and welcoming. I've learned that "mateship" is a uniquely Australian term that embodies loyalty, equality and friendship. I hope I can bring a little bit of "mateship" back to the US, we could definitely use some.
I want to assure everybody at home that I'm doing extremely well. I will get through the next four months and I can't wait to share all of my experiences with you until you tell me to shut up. I also ask that you please don't forget about me. There's a fourteen hour time difference between Sydney and the east coast so communication is super hard, but I will literally wake up in the middle of the night here to talk or FaceTime if you want to. I love and miss you all, sending good vibes from Sydney!