So here I am, trying desperately to finish this blog post that I started about 5 days ago, and it just wasn't happening. I had all of these assorted paragraphs trying to break down the past week into different aspects and describe each, but it just wasn't working. For those of you who don't know me, I am a perfectionist to say the least, and that post was no where close to my usual standards, it didn't really sound like me. And tonight, sitting in bed snuggled with a blanket, book and mug of tea I realized why; what I've learned and experienced in the past week can't be broken up into categories and taken by hour (well literally yes it can, but not effectively), it's a much bigger picture than that.
My first week here was mostly spent doing my orientation with Monash Abroad during the day, and the Monash Student Association putting events and activities on during the evenings. To say it was a busy week would be an understatement. And while we learned so many things about the school, working and travelling in Australia, the history and culture of this amazing city and how to be an effective ambassador for our home countries and universities (all wonderfully useful information), there was two things said to us that really hit home with me.
The director of the study abroad program should be commended for being so effective in the way he speaks. He did not talk for a long time, but what he said in those few minutes made me think more than anything anyone else said (sorry to the others, but it did!). We he first got up, he just looked around the room for a moment, taking it all in. We had just gone through the process of calling out the list of 40+ countries represented in that room by the 400 students in the theatre, and the magnitude of that was still in the air. "This is our own united nations", he said after a few words of welcome, and it is incredibly true. Looking around the room and realizing how much of the world we have present here is incredible; from every race, country and walk of life we have all come together in this experience. Not only that, but we could all talk and laugh with each other without a second thought. That first day hardly anyone knew each other, and we were all in the same boat of having to make new friends from scratch. What was amazing was that all it took was asking where someone was from, and bam there goes the conversation. You had groups of people from 10 different countries standing and talking over coffee, laughing about jet lag and comparing this place to their own homes. The amount that I learned just from talking to these people this past week is unmeasurable. This really is our own United Nations, working together and sharing in this experience.
The second thing that the director said that struck a chord with me was that when you take full advantage of this experience, "you will be able to travel around the world and never have to pay to sleep because there will always be an open door with a couch for you". Thinking about this for a minute it is incredibly true. Being put in a situation like this you make friends with the people around you, and in an exchange program those people are from all around the world. Literally around the world. From Brazil, to the UK, to Spain and to China we've got it covered. These are friends that could be bridesmaids at your wedding, future roommates, life-long pen pals, people you loose touch with for years and reconnect by chance, or better yet, life-long friends. These are the people that are going to help shape who you are, how you look at the world and experience things. They will share you adventures in a new city, understand when you're missing home more than anything and pack up a car and roadtrip with you on those long weekends off. These people have the power of making a permanent impact on your life, wether it be a passing day of fun or a lifetime of friendship. And this has really made me realize just how much people matter. We always say friends and family are the most important things in life, but do we really mean it? Do we really realize what we're saying or is it just a reflex? I think it takes being pulled completely away from all of those people, starting from ground zero or square on to really understand that. And it's hard, not having that support system around is a huge shock to the system, but building a new one is one of the most rewarding and amazing things. It makes you look at yourself, see what kind of person you are and have to find what works with that. If you can be open and honest with yourself, about yourself, there is nothing stopping you from making that new system. And yes, while it may take some time (I don't think I've ever eaten this many meals alone before!), it will all be worth it.
That's another things I've learned; if you can't live with yourself how do you expect anyone else to live with you? If you can't accept who you are and be true to that, how can you expect anyone else to accept you and do the same? There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing things on your own. Who says you can have dinner in a nice cafe, with you, your food, a beer (so many amazing local beers here!) and a book? It's actually pretty fun! That's not really something I would ever have done at home, because there's always people around to see and we default to doing that. It's when there's no one around all of a sudden that you realize that it's okay to just be you for a while. Why not go an adventure the city for a day, take a camera and a bag and not come back until the sun is long set and your feet are sore. That's what I've been doing and it has been the most incredible time. Sure it would be fun to have someone to comment to about the art on the walls in the gallery, or the funny things the pigeons do in the park, or the outrageously lavish stores in the downtown core, but that's what a camera is for. I have friends here to talk about all that stuff with later on, but in that moment I can take a picture. Documenting it for myself and for anyone else that is interested. A photo captures a moment and, when done right, and emotion, which is why I love photography so much. I have been capturing my days through pictures, sharing them with my SIM card and (when I finally find my camera cable) all of you.
So as of right now those are the couple things that have really stood out to me over the past week. That's not to say there aren't many more, and actually I'll probably think of at least 3 more the minute I post this and climb into bed. But hey that's what the next post is for right? Next post is going to be Thursday probably to sum up my week adventuring and exploring my new city. I've got pictures to put up as well so don't worry, they're coming! But for now I have to say good morning to everyone back at home, good afternoon to all of you in between and good night to everyone in Oz.