Week 1: The Adventure Begins

G’day Mates!

Greetings from down Under! 22 Hours on plane… 22! I was lucky enough to have not one.. but two crying children on my flight! Boy it was quite an experience. But when I landed at Melbourne International I was beyond excited. After waiting almost two hours to be taken to my accommodation ( Thanks Victoria University) I finally arrived at Unilodge. Of course the first thing I noticed was how all the cars were driving on the left side which made crossing the street a lot more difficult than I am used to. I got to Unilodge and was introduced to my five roommates since I had signed up for a six bedroom suite (not my brightest moment). The suite was A MESS. But I told my self I am in a new country over 10,000 miles away from home I wasn’t going to let that disastrous apartment set the mood for my time abroad.

Reflecting back it was probably a good thing that the suite was they way it was as it pushed me to leave Unilodge and explore my very first day. With absolutely no sense of direction in my newfound environment I just picked a direction and started walking. I saw many southeast Asians and many signs in Chinese. A lot of businesses have signs in Chinese which was one of the first things that surprised me. Also if you come to Australia don’t be surprised if people stop you to ask “how ya going”? Being from New York City I always have my guard up and of course you should do the same abroad but it was surprising to me that people would take the time to ask how I am doing without wanting anything in return! The people here truly are incredibly friendly.

It was an interesting feeling to wander around in a completely new environment. I found a Kmart which was essential in buying essentials (Ha! see what I did there?) . Anyways if you do stay at Unilodge you should expect some differences. Like you need to pretty much pay for everything other than oxygen. But if you budget your money and spend wisely you should be fine:). My first two weeks were nice but I was counting down the days to the Great Ocean Road Orientation trip. I wanted to get away from the city and head out towards the bush and explore the parts of Australia I read so much about.

Atrium Vibes (New Paltz is that you?)

I love doing work here! (Victoria State Library)

Unilodge @ Vu

 

Hosier Lane

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!

Getting Back to Normal

 

As the days tick by and I get closer to going back to New Paltz, I get more nervous. I haven’t been to New Paltz in a year. I know as soon as I get there I will remember how it felt and get back into the swing of things, but the feeling of New Paltz is foreign to me right now. I just need to get settled in and then everything will be better. I am excited to be back on a campus where everything is only a small walk away. I will also not need to worry about cooking, which is a nice plus!

Home

I’ve now been back in America for a few weeks, and it’s been nice. I really did not want to leave Ireland, but there are definitely comforts from home that I underestimated the importance of, and once i got home, I did start to appreciate being home, even though I didn’t want to leave at all. I still miss Ireland, and the other parts of Europe I visited, and I think about it all the time. I miss the people and places I met and discovered, and I definitely want to visit. I am not sure how it will be adjusting to New Paltz. While it will be nice to be back at school, I am really going to miss being in Limerick. I hope to visit Limerick over spring break, but it is not definite. I know I definitely want to go back to Ireland at some point. This experience was truly unlike any other, and I am so proud and grateful to have embarked on this semester-long journey, and I will always keep it near and dear to my heart.

Home At Last!

After a long flight and the long wait, I finally got to greet my family in New York. I was finally home! I could just lounge on the couch and watch TV. I could also hold my cat—and give her a ton of kisses and pet her a lot. I think I missed the smell and feel of my home the most. Yes, I did have my own room, but that isn’t the same as your home. Nothing feels like your home does.

Leaving England, I was a little sad, but I was ready to be home and see my family. I will miss going into London whenever I wanted, but I love my little town. London is great, but it can be overwhelming with the big crowds. I will miss hearing the British accent a lot, but that is only because the way they say things makes everything sound much more posh than when we say it. But nothing is like home.

I didn’t really have culture shock when I returned to the United States. The food upset my stomach a little bit, but not too much. London was fast passed, so getting back to the incredibly fast paced New York was not that big of a shock for me. I did have a little bit of jet lag, but it only lasted a day. I went to bed at 10 PM and woke up at 5 AM ready to take on the day, but the following day I slept until 9 AM. I will miss London, but I am enjoying being home.

Coming Back to America

I’m not really happy to come back to America. I’m going to miss being abroad. I’m going to miss the people I met, and the experiences I’ve had while being here. Everything is going to feel so different when i come back. When I first came here, I was so homesick and I wanted to be back home, specifically in New Paltz, but now that it’s time to go, I’m going to miss the people and places. But I’ so glad to have had this experience, and I will always treasure it, and I would totally recommend it to others who are considering studying abroad.

Culture Shock

Culture shock is something you will inevitably hear about when you decide to embark on a journey half way across the globe. I was told I’d have trouble adapting to the culture, the language, the customs, traditions, and the currency. I was convinced however, that the term “culture shock” was an exaggeration used to describe how maladapted individuals responded to normal changes you experience when living in another country. I considered myself a versatile and malleable individual who could handle anything thrown my way. Looking back, I realize this was my way of coping with the anxiety I felt from entering the unknown; which of course is 100% normal. The first week in Prague I was actually shown this graph:

 

 

I brushed it off as I was also taking in hundreds of other bits and pieces of information. But the wiser more experienced version of myself is now here to tell you that there is a high chance that you will experience culture shock. Plain and simple. If you are living in a country where you are a foreigner, culture shock is inevitable. Once the excitement of being in a new place and experiencing new things wears off, frustration, to some degree, will take over you.

 

Let me paint a picture for you:

Imagine you are midway throughout your semester and have just been reminded by your professor that your ten-page research paper is due in a week. Now I know what you’re thinking: you’re a responsible student who stays on top of your work and forgetting you have a paper due is not in your nature. But when you’re exploring a city you have limited time in day in and day out whilst traveling during the weekends, due dates are easy to forget. Luckily, European professors do not give homework for the most part but their easygoing character also means they won’t be constantly reminding you of when your big papers and projects are due. So now that you have some context of the situation you may find yourself in, imagine it’s also around the time where you begin to feel home sick. When holidays like Thanksgiving come up or a beloved one’s birthday, you will begin to miss home (I recommend disconnecting from social media as much as possible to counter-act this).

 

Now picture yourself in this hypothetical scenario, with these things lingering in your subconscious, and all of a sudden you find yourself unable to communicate with someone at a café. They don’t speak English and you don’t speak their language fluent enough for them to understand either; this can be really frustrating!

 

Halfway through your frustration you remind yourself that you’re a guest in someone’s country and this is to be expected thus allowing yourself to “brush it off.” On your way home (yes Prague became home) you are being stared at and laughed at. You tell yourself that it’s normal to stand out but you feel your blood start to boil a little. This is culture shock. When the excitement of being in a new place wears off you are faced with the fact that you are somewhere where you stand out all the time. You may begin to think everyone’s constantly staring at you and judging you and well, they probably are.

 

The most efficient way I’ve found to get over culture shock is to accept that you are a foreigner in another land. I find that it helps to think back to all the times you innocently laughed at someone who didn’t speak English, who was completely lost with no sense of direction, or who simply annoyed you because they were “tourists.” Accepting that you are a tourist in another country will make for a less frustrating realization of cultural differences. The faster you can accept this, the quicker this “shock” will pass on by. And trust me, it will pass. If you make an effort to get out of your comfort zone, nine out of ten times you will be rewarded. The reward is life long friendships, new perspectives, gratitude for the people in your life, and personal growth.

 

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

Prague

My last abroad trip was in Prague. Prague is such a beautiful pace, and truly unlike anything I have ever experienced. I had never encountered the language before, and that was really interesting and cool to immerse myself in, even though it definitely made it harder. Things seem to generally be cheaper there. I spent a lot of time at Christmas markets in the square. One delicious food there is Prague ham. The ham is roasted on a spit in front of people, and then a big chunk is cut off and served on a plate with two slices of bread. The ham is humongous and delicious. I also had boiled corn and sliced potatoes on a skewer. I also tried mulled wine for the first time and it was delicious. I went to a few museums, and did some shopping, and delicious eating. The architecture in Prague is magnificent. Each and every building looks so unique and it’s hard to resist taking a picture of each one. Almost every street is cobblestone and I have discovered that I find these streets to be somehow more beautiful. Nightlife in Prague is also very busy, which is especially nice because I was traveling alone. I felt safe being out late at night, as there were always people around. I would definitely like to go back to Prague one day and experience even more of it.

Brussels

I spent a few days in Brussels, and it was a really awesome experience. My hostel was right near Grand Place, which was really convenient, and it’s beautiful. I went to some museums and really enjoyed taking in the surroundings. One museum was the Royal Museum of Art, which is really cool, and quite huge. I also went to a small town called Bruges, which was a train ride away. It’s very small, but so unique that it was so worth it to spend a day there. I had amazing food and delicious chocolate. Brussels definitely has a lot to see and do, and of course eat, and I think I would definitely like to go back and get to see even more of it.