Walking on a Dream
I realised today, home is no longer home. Yes, I still live in the same house and the same room that I left a year ago and my family are always there to support me no matter what, but I am living in a world of memories and virtual contact. I have no friends that still live in the area; I can’t simply call by and have a chat or a cry, watch a movie or bake cookies. I truly miss the friends I made in Japan during my exchange. I keep in contact via Skype and Facebook but I see photos of events that I know I would have attended if I were still there. Seeing the laughter and the frivolity all while I have been in my room studying for final exams made it even harder. It is all through virtual contact. I am grateful for these technologies as I know that if we had to write letters and send them through the post I would have lost contact with so many more people, but it is still difficult.
I so desperately want to start the next chapter of my life; to begin the next challenge, as my exchange was a year ago. I don’t know why I cannot be the confident, proactive person I was in Japan while I’m here. I feel like I want to run away (particularly back to Japan) but I know that is not the answer. I don’t want to face the reality that was and is my life in Australia. Reverse culture shock is worse than what I experienced going abroad. At the beginning of an adventure there is excitement, anticipation and an unknowing. Back home, back at Uni, back to routine I feel like I am losing touch with all the experiences I had and returning to the person I was before I left rather than the being person I became.
I know that every person’s experience is different so I would really like to know how other people are dealing with being ‘home’.
Culture Shock: Australian Edition
I recently returned from three months living and studying abroad in the current economic shambles that is the country of Greece.
Having travelled extensivly and lived abroad before I presumed this return would be like no other, sure I would be sad for a day or two but would get back into the flow of things quickly like an professional traveller.
For some reason this return has been the hardest and I was not sure why.
This was only three months away, last time I was abroad living in Ireland for seven.
I knew I had limited time in Greece due to visa restrictions, so it wasn’t a surprise I was asked nicely to leave once those three months were up.
I was looking forward to seeing my family and friends and the beautiful country which I realised I loved more than I let on.
Yet something had gone wrong this time and I fell into a pit of sadness and had a mini depressive episode the first few weeks back.
I realised that whilst my family were pleased to see me, many friends had moved on or where busy or lived in differing corners of the globe now.
Being the constant traveller makes you extremely popular on social networking sites such as Facebook where everyone claims to live vicariously through your travels, but it makes for a pretty lousy physical relationship, with many wary of putting in a lot of effort when im potentially going to run away again to some other distant land anytime soon.
Those that I have seen have helped make the transition smoother, especially my best friend. It doesn’t matter how long we go without seeing each other nothing changes and we still have the best time.
I had applied to two internships before I came home so that the re entering of Perth would be easier, both of which I found out I did not succeed in getting.
I finally found a part time job which is lovely and has deffinatly helped in regards to finances, but something is missing still.
Two of my best friends currently still live in Greece, and it is often with a pang of jealousy that I Skype with them with their tanned skin, sunny weather and hilarious stories of the daily trials of Greek life.
Whilst in the current situation I dont have a pressing desire to be living in Greece again, I have come to the conclusion that right now Australia does not hold the answer. And that I need to continue my searches for jobs and experiences elsewhere.
I also had a terrible headache for the first week and a half which I realised was my body going through caffeine with drawls from the amount of coffee and frappes I was consuming daily in Greece.
It was also hard to get up before 12pm in the day, and eating dinner at 6pm was also eerily strange, as that was normally coffee time not dinner time!
In saying all of this things are better now, I have been home a month and have really enjoyed spending quality time with my family and catching up with friends. I am still struggling to find any work or work experience or internships in journalism/public relations but am becoming more upbeat and positive again.
I think the change of weather (well in three months when spring arrives and winter ends) shall be good and I’m starting new activities and volunteering in an effort to re inspire myself and feel as though I have a purpose being back here in Perth (study doesn’t count, its like having a job you dont get paid for 🙂 )
To all of the other returning study abroaders I hope your transition home is much much smoother than mine was this time and that the reverse culture shock of returning home does not last too long.
The re entering culture shock as bad as it has been this time around, I certainly would not change the experiences and friendships that I made in Greece and would readily go through it again in a heart beat.
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.
Re Entry into Australian Life: Reverse Culture Shock
It’s been my first week back at UOW this week and I found myself a little scared to be back! So much had changed and was different and yet so much was still the same! Every now and again I find myself thinking “I’m homesick.” I had this really weird moment the other day, where I was sorting through my UK photos for printing and I thought “I miss being home.” Huh? Was? Ich wohne nicht in London/Scotland/Wales. But it doesn’t matter, I’m still homesick.
I was thinking about what was discussed at the ‘welcome back’ session with Tonia, and I can definitely say that I feel like a bit of a hybrid of an Australian and a British girl now. As I posted on my personal blog, “I love Australia. I love the bush. I love the sun. I love my friends. I love to write Australian bushland poetry and I love going to The National Park for swims and picnics. I even love the song ‘I am Australian’, in particular these stanza’s:
I’m the teller of stories
I’m the singer of songs
I’m Albert Namajira
And I paint the ghostly gums
I’m Clancy on his horse
I’m Ned Kelly on the run
I’m the one who waltzed Matilda
I am Australian.
I’m the hot winds of the desert
I’m the black soils of the plain
I’m the mountains and the valleys
I’m the droughts and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky,
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.
But see the UK and Ireland have my family and they have the culture we don’t have.”
I decided in light of how I’m feeling at the moment I’ll sum up the things I liked best about the UK using pictures.
1. Seeing real snow for the first time and understanding the meaning of ‘proper cold.’
Stuck in a snow storm without an umbrella in London.
2. Meeting my relatives overseas in both Ireland and England for the first time!
3. My flatmates and our weird and wonderful adventures.
Halloween at Flat 12!
4. The history and culture in the UK
All those old buildings and churches were so awesome. One fond memory is of my American flat mate and I doing a guided tour of Lancaster castle with a truly creepy guide who seemed ghoulishly obsessed with death. On the entertainment front, I went to the theatre four times when I was in the UK itself! That’s a play a month! I couldn’t help it. The tickets were so much more affordable then back home and I loved the atmostphere. And after all, who wouldn’t have fun trying to explain the three hour plot of Les Miserables in London’s West End to their Chinese flat mate throughout the entire performance without annoying everyone around us?
My two play Guides. One for Hamlet and one for Season’s Greetings with some of the cast’s autographs.
5. Real Christmas Markets.
Market and fair in Edinburgh, Scotland. I took this on the actual ferris wheel.
It’s funny. When I got towards the end of my trip in the UK I was so homesick and just wanted to come home to Australia. After a week or two I instantly wanted my travelling life back! Anyone else going through this?
Student Today, Husky Forever
Even though I have only been home for a month, it seems like a lifetime since I left the University of Connecticut on a very, very cold day. Summing up a week is hard enough, so 5 months is all but impossible! Instead, I will write about some of the things that I learnt that stuck with me.
Firstly, there were the little things that were different to Australia that I simply did not think of, but made a lot of difference. Driving on the opposite side, not a problem, but crossing roads defiantly did! The first night my 2 friends and I arrived in LA, we decided to walk down to Dennys (best restaurant ever). After standing at the traffic lights, having a chat, for AGES, we were soon embarrassed to discover that in LA the ‘walk’ signal doesn’t make a noise, so we had missed about 3 goes, because we weren’t paying attention! It may seem insignificant, but I can still clearly remember it, 6 months on! Being a western country, I had naively assumed that everything would be the same as in Australia. Boy, was I wrong. And don’t even get me started on tipping! 5 months later, and I’m still not 100% sure of the proper way to do it.
Next up, adapting. While for the first couple of days I felt like a fish out of water, by the end of my stay, I was an unofficial American. I adapted really quickly to all the little things that would make my life easier. With limited funds and no one but yourself looking out for you, you have to! I also started saying ‘bunch’ instead of ‘heaps’ and ‘chug’ instead of ‘skull’, just to make my life easier when the Americans had no idea what I was saying.
I cannot write about my stay in America without mentioning School Spirit. At UConn, there is a slogan written all over the place ‘Student today, Husky forever’, and that is how I feel. Long after leaving there, I will still be a Husky, and I have all the merchandise to go with it! On any given day, half the students would be wearing UConn clothing, on game day, this would go up to 99%. The basketballers were famous around College, people would literally go up to them and ask for photos. The Co-Op sold UConn branded EVERYTHING, from Christmas decorations to dog collars to baby clothes. UConn wasn’t just our school, it was our life.
By the end of my trip, I was feeling homesick, and I was ready to go home. After 1 week back in Australia but, I was already missing everything about the place that had been my home for the last 5 months, and the best 5 months of my life. Exchange was the best thing I have ever done, and the experience will stay with me for life.