I’m quite embarrassed and surprised about how much I missed having internet and my phone for the past week. I love being in the woods and not having cell service when I’m backpacking or canoeing, but whenever I’m doing that it doesn’t feel weird. But yesterday when I was finally able to plug my laptop into the new blue Ethernet cable patiently awaiting me on my desk (courtesy of UNSW), this wave of relief washed over me, not unlike the feeling I get when I’ve been in the car for too long and then finally reach an exit with a bathroom.
So, mom and dad, family and friends, I must admit, I miss you! And I’m blessed to have people to miss.
But I’m also blessed to have met so many new people! However, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Perhaps I complicate things a bit, but finding where I fit in this new place is quite tricky.
The first few of my days in Australia were spent staying at the Sydney Harbour Youth Hostel – a lovely place!! Probably the nicest hostel I will ever see. Families were staying there with their kids like it was a hotel, which seems like a very deceiving first impression of hostel culture, from what I’ve heard and read. Not that hostels are dangerous and grungy!! This hostel just seemed to be a misspelled hotel.
I stayed there with 34 other IFSA-Butler students, some of which have joined me at UNSW, some of which went on to study at Macquarie University, and some of which are studying at University of Wollongong. Together, we formed a large American tourist group.
Our student services coordinators (SCCs) Fiona and Jess, and our resident director Christi planned an amazing orientation for us that included all the main checkboxes on a Sydney tourist’s to-do list. We took a walking tour of the city, saw the Opera House, walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens, visited the Featherdale Wildlife Reserve where we met kangaroos and koalas (and more animals!); we hiked through the Blue Mountain National Park and saw the renowned Three Sisters; we saw an Aboriginal performance and painted boomerangs, participated in Sydney nightlife, relaxed at Manly Beach, and ended the orientation with a dinner cruise through Sydney Harbour. With all that experience on my resume, I was ready to be accepted into the community of locals! Right?
Well, of course not. Just like I’ve never been inside the Washington Monument even though I live an hour from it back home, many locals here have never taken a picture with a koala, and kangaroos are just animals they have to avoid on the roads. Arriving at UNSW reminded me that although I’m in my third year of college, I’m still “Fresh Meat” here. There are so many things that I don’t know! Besides the things I expected to have to learn, like the layout of campus and the bus system, I also don’t know what time breakfast is, and what events are going on, or what events I should go to! Us international students have been dumped into the middle of UNSW’s exciting “O-week,” short for orientation week, without water wings, and I’m not quite sure how to swim yet.
The good thing is, it’s a beautiful day to learn how to swim! And there are tons of people to help, as well as tons of people learning alongside me. A new friend I met at lunch today is going with me to try to find shampoo later today. And my inbox is full of emails already from clubs I wrote my name down on their interest sheet, inviting me to barbecues and cook-outs and meetings.
I guess in conclusion, help out the fresh meat around you. Tell them what time breakfast is! And then go eat breakfast with them! Someone who is eating alone doesn’t necessarily have leprosy, they probably just don’t know anyone. Go talk to them and make them feel welcome, because a false diagnosis of leprosy is a hard thing to overcome. I am so thankful for the people that have made me feel welcome, and hopefully I’m passing it on.