One year ago I would have never thought that I would some day miss North Philadelphia. I had my serious qualms about the place. I realized recently that I was mistaken.
Last Friday we took off for the Gold Coast, our home city for the semester. Since then, we’ve had a week to explore quite a bit before classes commence on Monday. Each day has incorporated the Australian tradition of water sports in some way. Riding the waves at the beach (they’re huge), cooling off in the pool for a few hours, kayaking, snorkeling, and catching the sea breeze in any way possible. We’ve been sun-burnt, tanned, and sun-burnt all over again already. Vegemite and Lemingtons have made their way onto our plates, along with heaps of seafood and rock melon. The beach town aura of the Gold Coast reminds me a little bit of the Jersey shore back home. There’s a walkway and bike path that follow the ocean, shops lining the ocean-front view, and people out at all hours of the day and night walking along the sand. It faintly resembles a dream.
We also visited Griffith University for the first time this week. It’s about a twenty five minute tram ride from our apartments. Stepping off the brightly colored, friendly tram onto the university platform, I smirked at the ease of public transportation in Australia. Arriving on campus, oblivious to the idea that this was going to be a completely new school with no one close to me, I was hit unexpectedly with a sudden twinge of homesickness. “That’s annoying,” I thought. “This is supposed to be an exciting day. Get it together, Aubrey.” But as we walked along, with my roommates commenting how beautiful the campus is, how much better it is than their universities back home, all I could think about to myself was how there was no SAC, no SERC and no North Philadelphia. I nodded my head and smiled. “Yeah, it’s nice here I guess.”
Like a complaining child, I whimpered in my head that this gorgeous university doesn’t have Panda Express or Bento Sushi. It is dotted with fine cafes boasting luxurious fresh-compote Australian yoghurt and healthful oatmeal energy balls. It doesn’t have my 15th street morning runs. There aren’t any 3rd floors of Tuttleman to cozy up in to study. It just isn’t Temple. I pouted along as if a parent just took away my candy bar.
As my mood worsened and as I thought about telling these people they need to put an Anderson and Gladfelter on Griffith’s campus, I soon realized something important, something crucial to the future of my study abroad and the future of my ability to adapt in life. The SAC, the SERC, North Philadelphia… they’re all just interchangeable parts of a giant human MadLib. They’re the “fill-in-the-blanks.” They are inanimate nouns, verbs and adjectives that could be anything, anywhere. It’s the people in life that are irreplaceable. The people are the backbone of the MadLib, the parts that keep the same rhythm of the human story since time began. I was missing the memories I’ve made with the people at Temple, the people I eat Panda Express with, the dear friend I run on 15th street with, the students who study with me in Tuttleman.
It brought me peace to think this. There was perhaps nothing inherent about the location or the brick and mortar of Temple University
itself that I was missing. It was the humming vibe of friendships and interconnectedness, the inexplicably beautiful memories I made at Temple over the past three years. I began to question, as I was gazing out at Griffith’s Olympic-size pool, if perhaps this humming vibe of friendship and this feeling of home could pulsate anywhere. Just today, in a single twenty- four hours, I had unexpected conversations with roommates and random students that have started to make me wonder.