The Journey of a Lifetime- Melbourne

(Writing from Feb 11th, 2 days before flight). I’m sitting by the television, eating dinner with my family, I turn my head to look at the window. It’s beginning to snow, just a little bit though, not enough to cover much of anything. The weather, though cold, is supposed to be fine for the next few days. Even though the heat is on my step-mom is still freezing, and my sister is cuddled with her set of blankets. This is the life I’m used to. Aside from just ONE semester at New Paltz, this is all I really know.

And that’s the moment it hits: in two days, everything I know is going to change. Instead of cold winter weather, I’ll be hit with the hot Australian summer. In place of Jeopardy with my old-fashioned family, I’ll be watching the sun rise over the Pacific from 30,000 feet. I already said goodbye to my extended family at church today and my friends at New Paltz a week ago, and soon enough I’ll have to leave my sister, father, and step mother too. Cars will drive on the other side of the road, the birds will sing different songs, even the night stars will be different then back home. Heck, for all I know, people will talk backwards and everything will look upside-down.

I’m nervous, of course. I only left home a few months ago to go to college, and now I’m going to have to learn total independence. I’ve never been to a foreign country (save for one rainy and rather dreary experience in Montreal in 8th grade, ending with me getting lost in the Notre Dame), never even been outside of the northeast US. I hardly know anything about my life here, and suddenly I’m about to plunge into a new world ten thousand miles away. The only place I could go further from home is further in Australia (which I intend to do, if I can). I ask myself what my ‘plan’ is after school, as if I have any idea anymore. I ask who I am and who I want to be. I question my future and my part in this world. In part due to my faith, part because of my great support from family and friends, and part perhaps simple hope, I believe that there’s more out there I can comprehend, somewhere a role for me in changing this world into a better place. There’s more than I can possibly know out there for me, if only I can reach out and take it. But how? Where does that journey begin?

Perhaps, this is where that great chapter of my life begins. Going to Australia has been my dream for years, and now I’m actually able to make it happen. I’ve always been fascinated with the culture, the history, landscape, and environment, which is largely unknown in America (unfortunately, P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney does not actually exist) and want to explore it as much as I can. I even started writing about going to Australia in a novel I’ve been working on for some time. From the looks of it, it’s a beautiful country and I’m eager to see what I can (on a limited budget). Also, looking at home, I realize more and more that even though it’s nice enough where I am, I don’t know that I want to stay. I need to explore the world, see things and grow. And on this trip, I plan on trying to do all of that: learn about other people and the world, become more independent, stretch way out of my comfort zone, grow as a person, and do everything I can to shine light into the world.

I don’t know exactly what will come from all of this. You never do, but I guess that’s how faith works. But I’m certain that, whatever road is planned for me, it’ll lead to a great new perspective on life and shape me more and more into the person I strive to be.

 

Australia, the 10,512 Mile Journey

I am beyond excited to be venturing to the other side of the world. I have wanted to go to Australia for as long as I can remember and now it is finally happening. I never thought I would make it this far from home but its really happening! I fly out on February 12th and will be there until early July. But for now comes the boring yet essential stuff… packing! Whenever I am traveling anywhere I make it a point to pack earlier rather than later. I have spent the past month packing here and there to make sure I don’t forget anything.

Not only is this my first time going abroad but the longest I have been on a plane is 3 hours. The flight to Melbourne is 22 hours!! It still feels surreal even after so much planning but I am going to Australia! First in my family but hopefully not the last. I am beyond excited to continue my college adventures abroad and make memories to last a lifetime!

‘We hope you find something you love’

Clouds consume the day sky most days, a steady stream of rain pouring down on unprepared walkers. The summer leaves have accepted their fate, and lie unchanging on the cement streets. The wind continuously blows, ruining perfectly pinned-up hair, and the sun’s warmth kindly reminds us that summer once was. The changing of seasons has been a prolonged, anticipated moment that seemed to happen in a blink of an eye. The climate, atmosphere, and weather have changed here, reminding me that I too have changed.

I have changed in many ways since being in Australia. I have become comfortable with who I am, I have a confidence in my voice and, I am more determined than ever. But, something happened to me that I could not foresee. I thought coming here would help me narrow my focuses and passions. I thought I would go back to the States and know exactly what I was going to do after I graduated. However, I don’t have that and control is just an illusion.

I have become assimilated with a culture that is less work driven and more passion driven. Through my experiences here, I have come to realize that I am interested in many different things and there is no need for me to limit my interests and narrow my views; I want to connect with people, educate, and create change. I thought I had to follow a straight line in order to do this, I thought I needed to have an end goal-in many ways I do, I want to be a doctor-but I don’t need to follow a path so many have taken before me, I don’t need to follow a path that doesn’t embrace every interest I have.

This realization really hit me when I began running my own speaking group at Victoria University. I was fortunate enough to meet one of the directors, Carla (she is such an amazing, vibrant woman and I’m so thankful for her kindness and enthusiasm), and have her fully embrace my desire to help ESL students. Through speaking with students, I have been able to see the world through their eyes, and have opened myself up to numerous cultural traditions, beliefs, and values. I have walked away so many times excited to share what I learned from my students during one of our sessions. I want to keep educating others, and sharing the knowledge I learn from them; it’s a two way street, and a relationship that facilitates change.

Australia will always hold a special place in my heart, a place where I will go back to when I feel discouraged, lost, confused, at peace or happy. The first day I got here, I saw a sign that said “we hope you find something you love.” That saying has stuck with me this whole trip, something I repeated to myself throughout each day-find something you love. Here, in Melbourne, I found many things I love, and they’re the driving forces that motivate me to create change and inspire others to create change of their own.

Thank you Australia, and thank you everyone who has been a part of this journey.

Good-byes.

There’s a false sense of security you have when you leave for 6 months. You purpose this idea that the live’s of those back home remain the same, stop, and plateau. It’s a safety blanket that keeps you from thinking about the potentiality of you missing out on something. But of course, you’re abroad and nothing back home could possibly compare to everything you are experiencing in another country. That safety blanket is lie, because everyone (life) is changing, growing and evolving back home. Though you may feel like a completely different person now, as may the people back home. Time does not stop, nor do the people that we involve ourselves with. The safety blanket is a protective factor that can easily be stripped from you when you least expect it.

~

Yesterday, I found out my grandma passed away. Her death was drawn out, yet quick. She has wanted to leave us since the day my grandfather passed away; you could see that in her face, mannerisms, and in her soft-spoken words. Before I left for Australia, she said good-bye to me like I would never see her again. Walking away from her with a chill running down my spine, I also knew that was the last time I was going to see her; a silent acknowledgement. No one in my family was especially ready to say good-bye to someone they loved so dearly, but we all knew it was time.

Across the globe, I cannot be with my family, I cannot be a part of their grieving, and they cannot be a part of mine. We are just voices over a device. We’re detached from each other, and I’m especially detached from the reality of the situation. I imagine, and envision situations my family is in but I do not know the actuality of the hours planning a funeral, saying final good-bye to her.

Across the globe, I grieve; caught in-between feeling alone, and knowing I have all the support I need. I wish I could say my final good-byes to my grandmother, I wish so badly I could be at her funeral surrounded by loved ones. I feel guilty that I left knowing she was in bad health, but I know that feeling will pass. My grandmother was proud of me, and was so excited for me to finally travel to Australia ( a life long dream).  I know that somewhere my grandma is at peace, perhaps with my grandfather. It is in that comfort of thinking she is somewhere lovely, and with my grandpa that will get me through.

I love you, grandma.

Blue Mountain

 

During my Autumn break, my roommate and I spent two days in the blue mountains. Completely engulfed by greens, and hues of blue, we gazed with widened eyes at the mountain ranges that carried for ages. Our minds grew quiet, and our body’s still. Just like the Great Ocean Road, there was an enchanting, memorizing air to the blue mountains. As we began our first hike, smiles were planted on our faces, and giddiness boiling out of every pore. We tested our determination within the blue mountains, hiking up and down 922 steps on 90 degree angle. Least to say, going up and down that many steps, really pushes your body to its last drop of endurance.

The following morning, Alex (roommate) and I got up to watch the sunrise over the mountains. Racing down to the trails, we ignored the cold that was penetrating our skin, and sending chills down our spines. As we arrived at our destination, the sun was just beginning to peak over the far mountains; pinks, oranges, blues, reds, covered the sky and painted the mountains. We jumped over a fence and sat on the edge of rock, watching and listening. Below us, hundreds of birds were calling for mates, crickets were still chirping in the darkness that hesitated to leave, and the hush sound of trees swayed in the passive wind. I closed my eyes, and I began to pray. An act I rarely do, nor find significance in. In that moment, I began to talk to a God I didn’t believe in, and I found meaning in the words that fluttered in my mind. I talked about my gratitude, and how this trip as changed so much for me. I thanked that God over and over again for letting me be here, and experience such beauty. I felt complacent sitting on that rock, embracing the warmth of the sun that was now emerging from the mountains. Rejuvenated, and wary about my rekindled relationship with a God/Creator/Higher Power/Universe, I inhaled the crisp morning air, and continued on my hike.

~

So, the blue mountains were another spiritual experience I had but least to say, being there was amazing and I recommend anyone traveling to Sydney to take a trip out there for a couple of days!

One Full Week as a Kiwi :)!

So it’s been one full week and a couple days change here in New Zealand, and quite honestly I couldn’t be happier with the way things are. Wellington is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The city itself feels quite new and modern. My house is adorable, and all of my flatmates are wonderful. We are a house of 7 international students, and we are all from different places! We got England, California, The Netherlands, Cape Cod, Philadelphia, Hawaii, and of course New York all under one roof. Within the first five minutes of arriving in New Zealand, my flatmates invited me out to go to the Sunday farmers market. I literally threw my stuff down after my 36 hour commute, put on shorts, and headed out. The first impression I got of Wellington Harbour actually took my breath away. Being from Long Island, I am not stranger to beaches and water, but this is a new level.

Socially and Environmentally I am in absolute heaven, but I will admit, I had myself a good cry after the adrenaline wore off after the first few days. Coming to a new country, though not all that different than my own, is very over whelming. I have traveled in America, even Canada, and have never felt so disoriented as I did for a couple of days in New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand is an english speaking country, and some things do resemble America. However, there are enough differences between our countries to get a bit frustrating sometimes. Brands are a big thing. As someone who pays very close attention to ingredients in foods and products, it was very scary to not only not recognize most of the brands at the supermarket or the drug store, but also not be able to comprehend nutrition facts. This was very stressful to me, and took me a bit to adjust. I am still not adjusted to it. Another huge stressor for me is traveling while here. Wellington is no joke when it comes to it’s hills. Having no car and not a lot of experience with public transportation yet, I have been walking too and from everywhere. One day I decided to solo explore the city, and ended my day buying a bag of groceries that easily weighed 30 pounds. I got lost for 2 hours, walking up and down hills and hundreds of stone stairs without phone service or any good way to explain where I needed to go. Lastly, and perhaps most crucial to healthy survival here in New Zealand, is the recognition that living so close to the Ozone hole requires sunblock every day. I learned this lesson the hard way. As someone who chooses to fry in the sun without sun protection to get a better tan, you can imagine how sorry I was for not looking into this HUGE known fact amongst the Kiwis.

Adjusting to life here was not hard, it just took a few quick slaps to the face, and now a week later I feel much better. I’ve gotten Skype up and running, so I can see my boyfriend all the time, I’ve gained some navigation, and I am already planning some trips with my flatmates to explore this beautiful country!

Until next time,

Cheers!

Foots-crazy (cray)

Today marks a week since I landed at Melbourne airport, and it feels like I’ve been here for months; time is an illusion here.

When I first arrived at my apartment complex, I was taken back by my overwhelming, and relentless anxiety. I was alone, and surrounded in an suburban area, plagued with graffiti; I felt uncomfortable, and dying to be near the beach or the city. I learned too quickly that the drug culture is immense here, and something different from that of New York’s. Where I live Aussies call “Foots-crazy”, instead of “Footscray”. And, I should be careful about walking at night. My initial reactions of this place were something that never crossed my mind when I daydreamed of Australia. I felt an underlining disappointed because Australia seemed like it was nothing like I wanted it to be.

But like I said, time is an illusion here. My initial reactions subsided as fast as they clouded my every thought. I now love it here, I love that just down the road there is a beautiful park that runs along a river, with the city skyline in clear view. I like how I’ve mastered public transportation, and can now get anywhere in Melbourne quiet easily. I love that after a hectic day at the city or beach, I can come back home to my familiar “suburban life”, and feel at ease. There’s a comfort in being surrounded by houses, that look so different from any I have ever seen ( especially when you live on the 12th floor). There’s an independence I’ve gained by finding the hidden gems in my area: incredible brekkie places, and quaint bars. I like the friends I’ve made here, and the many more I keep meeting; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Australia has been a dream, that was all it was, a dream. I fantasized what it was going to be like, and there was no ounce of reality in those dreams. But now, Australia is a reality, and I’m so happy it’s not what I’ve dreamt about. It’s different in ways I would have never expected like understanding most conversations here. Would you believe me when I say there is more of a culture shock here than you would expect? Because there is, and it starts with the slang. Not only is almost every word abbreviated, but one word can have five different meanings. It’s endearing, and confusing, and I feel out of my element. I’m learning slowly what things mean, and incorporating the words I like into my every day vocabulary. But I’m just getting started, and I’ve already fallen in love with Aussie culture.

 

With love,

Brianne

I’m just living.

Yesterday I finally left to embark on one of the biggest adventures of my life, but not without out a week long stop in San Diego, California.

As I boarded the plane and said my final goodbyes to my dad and boyfriend, I felt no ounce of sadness in me. Yeah, I’m leaving my family and boyfriend for six months, but it’s hard for me to be upset when I’ve worked so hard for this. This is what I’ve wanted since I was little; this has been what I daydream about. I boarded the plane, and I was off, not looking back, and wishing to dear god I would actually sleep the whole flight to California. Fortunately, I slept. I actually slept a lot, with the quiet humming of the man snoring next to me. The flight was filled with laughter, inexperienced fliers, and lots of screaming children, but I didn’t care. I was half dazed from my slumber, and full of anxiety filled excitement.

The anxiety started hitting me on that flight. I became worried that I wasn’t ready for this adventure, that I would miss having the normalcy and security I had back home. I thought about the security of having a routine, and knowing that routine like the back of my hand. Right now, I have no routine; I do not know what to expect. I thought about this for awhile, and the anxiety grew. The plane landed, and I was brought back to reality from the bustle of people too eagerly trying to leave the plane.

The heat hit me, the sun burned my eyes, and I realized how ill dressed I was for San Diego weather; I was wearing a scarf, jacket, and pants. A smile swept over my face, filling me with ease. I felt at home, like I always do when I visit San Diego. I saw the familiar face of my older brother, and more anxiety dissipated from my body. The anxiety I was building up on the plane was now subsiding, I began to realize “wow, this is it. I’m doing this, hell yeah!”

All my fears seem so small now. I can do this, I know I can do this, I’ve always known I could do this. I’ll have a routine again in Australia, and I’ll have normalcy. But for now, I’m going to enjoy not knowing what each day holds. Today, I’m sitting outside at a cafe drinking a cold brew coffee, and writing this post. The sun is shining, the air smells like a mix of flowers and coffee, and people are conversing everywhere. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll go for a hike, or explore more of downtown San Diego? I don’t know what each day holds, and that’s the best part about this trip; I’m allowing myself to be free and open to each experience I have.

 

 

With love,

Brianne

 

 

14 days

As the title indicates – I am in the homestretch. There are a few things I am feeling right now that I figured might be good to share.

Right now – I’m studying for my last final exam (biology, ugh) which is in a few days. I will be beyond relieved to have that be done and over with. Finals are finals no matter where you are. I think my over all experience regarding the university here has been good. I do not anticipate my final grades being anything too amazing unfortunately. I’ve never tested well. I am a bit worried about how the grades translate back over to New Paltz, and my GPA. I like it where it is currently haha.

Other than academically – I have not really done too much travelling or exploring in a while. I have been too busy studying, and I am running out of money rapidly in this expensive country. The last thing I did was go to a place called “Lakes Entrance” which was amazing. I went koala spotting and ran into this giant field of wild kangaroo – cautiously approached one and got growled at. It was exhilarating.

I was asked to fill out a study abroad survey yesterday by my adviser which triggered me to start reflecting about my time here. A lot of my responses were uneventful, and unenthusiastic. Don’t get me wrong – this experience has been one I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life, but I guess I have been a bit closed off for a lot of the time and therefore it probably definitely was not all it could have been, had I been more open and active. This is something I do even back home, and at New Paltz too. Upon coming here, I remember feeling very nervous that I would be too homesick to function while I was here. However, though I of course had moments of homesickness – it was not actually a huge issue. I was most generally focused on being here in the moment and whatever I was doing at the time. I didnt give myself much time to reflect on the concept of home being so far away etc.

With that being said – once I reached the one month away from going home mark a few weeks ago I started getting excited at the thought of it. Being reunited with everyone I love, and places I have missed. Food. FOOD. Now that the time is even closer and closer and closer as days pass.. my excitement is dwindling, and my anxiety is raising. I cant put words to why I could be “scared” to leave, or go home. The best I can do is to say that it’s not like I can just come back anytime I want.. it’s not a weekend trip or a quick getaway – its Australia. Travel 24+ hours to get here/ $2000 ticket,  Australia. I know someday I’ll make it back here, but it’s sad to think how long it might be. I am honored to have lived an extraordinary life already before I’m even 21 years old. A life most people I know could only dream of, in many aspects.

Hypothetically even if I took nothing from my experience here in Oz and hated the entire thing and never wanted to come back again (which is all false) – I would still be able to say that during my 5 months here I learned more about myself then I probably could have in 5 years back home. The most important of which involving my independence. I thought I was independent before I’d come here – but I was so held back by fear of change. Being away from home, the people in my life, my comfort zone. Now I know I am able to live without those things for a while and still be a functioning happy human being. And I am a better me now for having learned that.

I will depart in 14 days from Melbourne International Airport and fly 15 long hours to LA and then eventually 9 more hours to JFK and then another hour to Syracuse where my family will await me. I am coping with the thought of having to cope when I get there, and having trouble doing so. I am worried for my future self a bit. I know some friends who have had a dark spot after returning from study abroad. I’ll get through though.

Lastly – I am less than excited about going back to being under the legal drinking age, and shitty american beer. VB 4 lyfe.

14 days.

 

30 days left

Today marks my final day of classes here in Australia as well as the one month marker before I head back to the states. This weekend we have a trip planned down to a place called Lakes Entrance for about 3 days. I hope to get in some more adventures before it is time to go – but I have to study for my last 2 finals as well. My status here is basically the same – hanging out and doing fun things or just relaxing at home. The days are going by incredibly fast and slow at the same time. Though I do not feel homesick, I do feel conflicted that I am ready to go back home – and conflicted that once I am home I will be ready to come back here.

I will do my best to update soon with some fun photos from this weekend!