You may be wondering what is meant by the title of this final blog post. For most of you, you have never heard of the Australian hit television show, “Home & Away”, but being someone who spent everyday with an Australian best friend, I have heard of the plot surprises, makeups, breakups, and everything in between. I have to admit I never sat down and watched a full episode of the show, but if I was naming my own show documenting the last two weeks, the title would be slightly tweaked.
I have been home for a week and one day now. I have showered with no shoes on, endulged in Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread and all the other American foods I missed while Down Under for the semester. But besides the little things, I have gotten back in touch with my family and friends while doing my best to remain in touch with those who are no longer a walk or train ride away. The friends I made in Australia, as I have said previously in this blog, were the biggest reason my experience was the way it was. Brittany, the australian I met within my first week and immediately found tons in common with was a half a block away. On the weekends, I’d take the 45 minute train ride to Macquarie to catch up with a group of people I always, always looked forward to visiting with. I got used to a schedule, to the transportation, to the lack of dependence I had on others to feed me, to the $2 a laundry load, and to the availability of my amazing new friends and amazing new sense of independence and curiosity. I became wrapped up in Australian life and was by no means was I “away” for the semester. Being away means you are removed from your normal life, from your everyday comforts and to-do lists. Feeling at home somewhere else however is completely different. And that? That is the category I put Australia into as I reflect on my semester from my New Hampshire living room. Australia is not just a place I spent a semester “away” in. It is the place that forced me to grow up, that forced me to learn differently and that allowed me to see, do and experience.
As I sit here knowing that the Australian work week will start in just a few hours and that I still have about 4 hours until darkness on my Sunday evening, I can’t help but feel some disbelief in the fact that I really am “home”. It’s as if I will wake up tomorrow in my UTS dorm room with my 7 roommates and new friends only a short distance away. I will wake up and take the bus to Coogee to take the scenic walk to Bondi Beach. I will have gotten my fresh fruits and vegetables at Paddy’s Market last night as they go on sale every Sunday. I will have perhaps spent the weekend at Macquarie, or in the Hunter Valley with Brittany’s family. I will look forward to another week of exploration and discovery. Instead, I am a car ride away from Hannaford’s rather than the Sydney Opera House and the quietness of my little town is quite the dichotomy to Sydney’s hustle and bustle.
Coming home was inevitable. We all knew it would eventually come, but how difficult it would be to leave was something we could never really prepare for. It’s a bizarre feeling really, especially saying goodbye to someone who lives on the other side of the world and will probably never be a car ride or even reasonable flight away. Let’s face it, I don’t consider 20 hours a reasonable flight time…
However, I have not spent one minute dwelling on the end of this 5 month journey. I have been way too busy talking my family and friend’s ears off about how special my adventure really was. What’s that corny quote, “Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened” or something like that. Could not be more true. I could sit and remember the care-free semester I had of countless laughs and amazing friends but there is no time to do that when all I can daydream about is when a.) I’ll be back in Australia and b.) when I’ll see those amazing friends ago.
IFSA-Butler’s staff tells their students a lot about the U-curve of study abroad emotions and feelings. One of the events on this curve, believe it or not, is reverse culture shock. I can tell you that this is 100% real and definitely coming to me as I write this post. It is difficult to come home and put yourself back in your old shoes so to speak, however it is vital that we take the time to appreciate what this experience did for us and to be thankful that we have something, someone and somewhere to come home to. For future study abroad students, I hope you let your study abroad journey take its incredible course. You will be amazed at how little you will just feel “away” and how much you will feel at home in another country.