I have been home for almost two months, and I wouldn’t say I am struggling to cope with the change, but it’s certainly a lot different to what I expected. I thought the experience of returning to Australia would leave me in despair, because of the final few incredibly intense days I spent in Los Angeles. The fourth of July was my last night in the city and rather than heading out, drinking and partying, I spent it watching fireworks outside my window with my best friend. It was the most magical moment of my life, it could have come straight from a scene in a Hollywood movie, but it happened to me and I am very grateful. While watching the fireworks show, I thought about home and how nothing could ever be this good again.
In reality, and in the present day I am very happy. I don’t think there was anything anti-climactic about going home at all. In fact, I knew that coming home was a huge part of exchange. It wasn’t a negative experience, as I thought it would be. I really wanted to see my family, I missed them a lot. There are only so many places in the world you can visit, without feeling the hollowness that comes with not having your family beside you.
I haven’t seen all my friends from home yet, but I regularly meet up with a few of my closest friends. I feel like I need that interaction, otherwise I will probably go crazy. It is difficult to stay motivated for uni, and since I am only there once a week, I’ve been looking for a job. I’m in the transition stage between university and the real world. I feel like this is one of those things that’s not as bad as it seems to be.
Anyway, I hope everyone who has recently come back from overseas is settling in and sorting out their new lives 🙂
I was meant to stay for the full year… but family issues are making me come home early. I’m still deciding whether or not it is the best decision, but really I’ll only be missing out on 4 months… I would have been here for 8. I think I’m at peace with the decision, I just hope I don’t regret it. I don’t think I will, but it will be a huge shock to go back to Australia 4 months before I was meant to. It seems meant to be though, there are just so many things going on I don’t think I can handle being on the other side of the world.
I’m so happy to have been here for the time that I have had… but I think I’m ready to go home.
I leave within the month to return to Australia. I have this acceptance that I have to leave. I want to go home, but I wouldn’t mind if I stayed here for another 6 months.
It’s strange for me to explain how I feel. It’s not like homesickness where I would cry and feel sorry for being in such a stupid town in stupid old Germany full of stupid people with stupid ancient buildings.
Now I just feel like, I know what it’s like to live in Bavaria. (I say Bavaria because it is the richest state in Germany) and I think I’d be happier in Australia.
Although, “happier” might mean angrier too. Here I’ve been completely devoid of notions of politics and stupid politicians. Recently I’ve been catching up on Australia and my god, is there a lot of things I’ll have to get involved in when I get home. Not the least getting a big sticker that says, “Failure O’Farrell”
But I also like the way I’ve seen how different things are here and how they should maybe be implemented back home. I have this feeling that from seeing how other people do things I can make my country better.
I don’t know, it is this strange sort of patriotism. I think that Australia is one of the best countries in the world, and I’ve seen some examples on how to make it better.
I’m afraid of that “I’m not from here anymore” response to returning. I don’t want it to be like that. I want to be able to just go back to the familiar.
Don’t get me wrong. Things aren’t strange and unfamiliar here, not anymore. It’s just that I feel I’d be happier with the stuff I’ve been familiar with for 20 years than what I’ve been familiar with for 6 months. I know,, it’s not really a fair time to compare, I also want to come back here later in life, but right now I feel like I could be accomplishing more back in Australia.
P.S. I also really miss sandwiches/salads/small lunches. Here a hot, cooked lunch is really common. Took me a while to notice that, but the “Mensa” or cafeteria has mostly only warm dishes, and everyone seems to think it is normal… I also miss our type of bread. I can live with bread here, but it’s mostly a choice of sourdough or really crappy “America bread” which is stale, preservative ridden, horrible tasting bread that looks like what you can get in Australia. I also am a bit of a food snob, so I can’t wait to walk into Woolies and have such selection of brands I know and fruit and veg from the next state not South America (not that it’s a problem, I just like buying Aussie grown) and I won’t miss the ability to know where all my food comes from (here nothing is labelled unless it’s something from Aldi that they sell in Aus). Probably only 3 foodstuffs I will miss from here are Kaiserbrotchen, Spatzle and Chocolate. Beer and it’s quality and diversity and cheapness is also a problematic farewell.
Sun, Sand and Fish and Chips
36 hours to pack, 15 hour flight home and 19 hours later sitting back in a lecture theatre; not the way I had planned my return home to Australia but that was the reality I faced.
As the plane started its descent into Sydney my heart was racing. I was more nervous coming ‘home’ than I was starting this whole adventure. What was I coming back to? Before I left I had run away from a few things using the excuse that I would be abroad for the next year so I could not commit to anything. In the last week before my departure I had three final exams, a farewell dinner and the enormous task of packing my bag (which I finalised the night before!). Things were a blur before I jumped into the unknown, but looking back that was so much easier than coming back. While overseas I logically knew that time continued second by second, at the same rate for my friends and family back home and for me in Japan. But while I was living my life over there it didn’t seem as though things were in Australia were progressing at all because I wasn’t there. I had sat through the workshop on culture shock at the pre-departure meeting and studied the theories in commerce, but I didn’t real feel as though I experienced the trough in the experience curve…until I encountered reverse culture shock. Coming back to what I thought I knew but knowing it would be different, was a daunting and overwhelming thought. For a while after I was home it felt like I was playing a life-size spot the difference. And every difference I saw reminded me not only of what I had missed in Australia while I was away, but how much I was missing my life in Japan. Using facebook as a window looking at all the things that I should have and could have been doing; it was hard and there were many moments where I found myself wishing that I was not back. The day before I returned, while I was packing the life I had created for myself back into my bag (which seemed to have become a lot smaller since my arrival) I was sitting, surrounded by the clothes I had taken out of my draws, with nothing in my suitcase, overwhelmed by what I had to do. It was such an emotional experience and battle of will to finally empty my room and zip up my bag for the final time, knowing that this was the end.
Coming back to Australia did make me reflect upon what I had missed while I was away; fish and chips at the beach, walking along the sand, rolling down a grassy hill, looking out onto the horizon. The things that remind you of the Aussie lifestyle 🙂 Before I had even reached my house I made my parents drive the coastal road around North Beach. We sat and had fish and chips, taking in the moment. Even embracing the flies and the seagulls 😉 To be honest though it felt like I had come back for a holiday. I had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t need to try the food or drink right then and there because I would be able to come back in a day, a week, a month, a year and the same thing would still be there. The permanence; the indefinite of the monotony that I had wanted to get away from was there once again. My days consisted of going to Uni, coming home, doing homework and then doing it all again the following day. A few times I caught myself looking around campus for the friends who I had studied with in Japan only to find myself being disappointed. Campus was so lonely without my Australian friends who had graduated the year before, without my Japanese swim team and without a communal lunch hour in which we used to sit and make friends with other students.
Living at home again I have also noticed how much chicken my family consumes! It seems as though I’m eating it at least once a day. In Japan frequently meal time would turn into Master Chef; my friends and I would bring the contents of our fridge to the communal cooking area and be faced with the challenge of creating something for dinner. Some of the dishes were rather inventive but nothing inedible was made and every day was a surprise. I now crave rice, particularly onigiri (which was only ¥100), so cheap yet so satisfying and am still adjusting to the Australian diet which is the only thing I’d ever known before going away. It seems so strange that nine months can change a lifetime. I’m still waiting for Dad to set up the BBQ so that I can be a true Aussie and “throw a few shrimps on the barbie” as my American friends often told me.
Before going on exchange, going on exchange was my goal. I was working four part-time jobs in order to self-finance my trip and was so committed to my Uni work for fear of failing and being ineligible to actually participate on the study abroad. Coming home I didn’t have that driving goal and I felt lost. It has taken me three months to build and work towards my next challenge but I am confident that I will get there. I am slowly beginning to settle back into ‘Aussie life’ but don’t think I’ll be back for very long before my next sojourn overseas, whether it be as a holiday or for work, after having this experience I will not be content until I can see and do all that is out there waiting to be discovered.
Some of you will be beginning to think about returning home – if you’re lucky, after some more time travelling before you get here.
How do you feel about the return – nervous? apprehansive? exultant? can’t wait? We hope it has been an awesome and inspiring time away, but also that you will continue to share your thoughts with us once you get back to Australia.
We will be offering you the chance to capitalise on your time away through re-entry workshops back on campus, and hope to see you all there, sharing your thoughts and learning how to make the most of your experiences once you’re back – whether that’s in an educational or a professional or a life setting.
If you find you feel a bit like a fish out of water once you’re back, remember that transition is a great opportunity for growth. Enjoy!
Keep blogging – your posts have been wonderful. And don’t forget, there are cash prizes for students from each campus for photographs and reflections – details on the blog.
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave – but it’s not my home.
Been a while since the last blog, I think I was ranting about my Brazilian VISA experience, which worked out thank goodness. I did go to Brazil for winter break and had a wonderful time with my best friend and her family, that is definitely something I will not forget any time soon. Back at UMass Amherst now and I have four-ish months left of my experience here and I’m starting to miss home, everything about home, my friends and family and the feeling that I really belong. As soon as I got back to UMass and class started again it was evident that this semester was going to be different from the last. I had close friends leave to continue their adventures and other friends let me down when I needed them. I had tried so hard to make this the best experience I could that I wanted America to be my home. But it’s not my home, it’s not the place where people love and care for me and help me through tough times, Australia is and I had forgotten that. Thankfully my sister is arriving for a visit later this week and I’m going to have two crazy busy weekends ahead of me, one in Boston and one in New York City. Then later in March my parents are arriving to visit me and have a little American experience of their own.
I don’t want to seem like I regret going on exchange, I don’t at all but I do have to admit I was a little bit too cocky about how I would cope over here. Bad shit happens everywhere, no matter who you are or where you are and exchange isn’t going to be all fun times and happiness, especially not for 9 months straight. So my best advice for pending and current exchange students is don’t forget where you are from, don’t get caught up in a swirl of new things and forget about home because eventually you have to go back home and it should feel good.
For those of you who are wondering if you can keep blogging once you go home – yes yes yes! there is so much you can share with us all once you get home – please keep it up. And if you get a little homesick for the places you have left behind, the blog might help you keep in touch.
For those of you staying on for a second semester – lucky you! It will be interesting to see how/whether your perceptions start to shift now you feel REALLY at home and comfortable in your no-longer-new environment
Thank you all for your great contributions this semester – it has been fantastic!