Adjusting to Adelaide
It’s been two weeks since I’ve arrived in Adelaide, Australia. I still have no idea how to interpret the weather in Celsius, I often have a hard time understanding accents, and I still get lost on my way from the grocery store back to my apartment. In the past two weeks I’ve also traveled to two different Australian cities, gone on a food tour of Adelaide, visited a wildlife preserve, fed wallabies, pet koalas, hiked across mountains, traveled to a gorgeous island, and started my first classes. It’s been a pretty hectic two weeks to say the least and to put future study abroad students at ease: adjustment happens whether you realize it or not.
Let’s start off simple with just the city of Adelaide itself. Adelaide is the 5th largest in Australia, the population is about 1.3 million people, and the city itself is about 1 square mile large. This already highlights the one big difference between my life back home and my life here. Even though I’m a New Yorker, I’ve never actually lived in a city. Going away to college in Lancaster was the closest taste of living next to a city I’ve ever gotten, and that was living on a campus with 2,400 students and a city population of about 160,000 people. Just the University of Adelaide has about 25,000 students alone. Coming to Adelaide was a little overwhelming at first due to all these reasons and more. There were tons of people, tons of places, tons of things to do, and it all was completely unfamiliar to me. That being said, I was also filled with excitement and bewilderment at the sight of it all. The first few days here kept me busy with day trips, orientations, and meeting other international students. I almost felt lucky if I encountered someone who was actually Australian, but as soon as classes started I realized why this was a great thing. Adjusting to life in a big city can be hard but adjusting to one in a foreign country makes the experience all the more terrifying. Being surrounded by other international students during the first few days in Adelaide definitely eased my conscious, and it helped me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling homesick. We got to figure things out together, for example, how to get the stove to turn on (which believe me was much more difficult than it sounds), or just trying to go grocery shopping for the first time on our own. We also got to experience our first adventures together. My roommates and I squealed with delight as we approached our first wallaby at the wildlife preserve, and we stood in awe looking over the cliff side of Granite Island on a crisp, breezy day by the sea.
But in between all this fun and amazement, I have had my moments of doubt and distress. There were moments when I’d take it all in and wonder if I’d made the right choice. These moments usually occurred over the smallest details. I noticed that people when walking around the city usually keep to the left, instead of the right. It only caused me some awkward moments and a few bump-ins until I realized my error, but just that small difference left an ache in my heart. Everyone always brings their own bags to the grocery store. There are $1 and $2 coins instead of bills. Australians are much more water conscious than Americans. Small, unspoken customs can be incredibly nerve-racking, and can suddenly make you doubt even the simplest everyday tasks. Trying to learn an entirely new culture in a few days is impossible and once I realized that it was as if a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. Adjustment happens, but not all at once. Some things I may not even be used to until my very last day here, like the fact that there are about 10 different types of birds (covered in every color imaginable) flying around in just the city alone, and that’s completely okay. Other times I’ve already found myself completely converted to little Australian quirks. I’ve been saying Uni instead of college for days now before I even realized I was doing it (Australians LOVE abbreviation). I’ll also admit that I bought Vegemite for myself and have absolutely fallen in love with it. Other things will be more difficult to get used to, but some things I hope I never get used to like the breathtaking views found at each turn.
Every new sight reminds me why I left on this journey and why I’ll continue to stay. I think if I ever feel homesick I could just take a walk around and see something I haven’t seen before and remind myself that it’s okay to still be adjusting.