Tomorrow morning our Griffith University group leaves for the Gold Coast. Others will depart for various states across Australia — Adelaide, Townsville, and Canberra to name a few. With the halted prospect of burgeoning friendships made in our three-day orientation, we say our goodbyes to the others and head out to Surfer’s Paradise. Talk of intense academics has us shook, but we’re ready to finally tour our schools and meet the Aussies we’ve heard so much about.
Last evening I got a last minute chance to see Sydney in the best way I know: running. When my feet pound on the ground in a new destination I am forced to truly feel the novel land underneath. Across the Sydney Harbor Bridge I raced an Australian woman out for her own early evening jog. The wind swirling under the amber steel of the bridge whipped our hair as we traded roles overtaking one another. My feet pounded harder on the concrete path beside the cars. I always say I’m competitive when I don’t have to be. I’d say that the second day of study abroad orientation in Australia was one of those times.
The leisurely evening race took me across town to the place where the harbor waters meet the stone walls of the shore. Running slowed to jogging, jogging settled into a peaceful walk. My competitor was gone. I was surrounded by the buzz of the city at dusk. The atmosphere was beautiful. Lively, but peaceful. A sense of release after the workday. A sense of relaxing, of deepening friendships and resetting. The breeze that lilted over the harbor cooled my skin. On the way home I got a little lost but it felt just fine, as if just at the moment I’d begin to feel alone, a young couple would show up in the distance, reminding me of the humming vibe that quietly pulsates in Sydney.
Orientation is coming to an end in less than twelve hours. I think back to freshman year of college, when everyone and anyone was your friend. I used to loathe that time. It filled with what I once deemed petty conversation and shallow interactions. Maybe I’ve grown older or maybe it’s the fact that I’m far from home, but I’ve been surprised by my new appreciation for my seemingly senseless talks with the others. None of us spoke about anything of obvious value. “Where are you from?” “What Uni are you going to in Australia?” These kinds of questions used to bother me. I thought that if I couldn’t talk about world-views and life dreams and find some kind of intangible deep connection with someone, it meant I couldn’t be their friend. But there’s been something special about not knowing much about anyone. It’s as if we’re all here to share a solo journey together.