The second week of school at Griffith University has barely been a second week of school. Between starting my internship at Hopewell Hospice, celebrating my twenty-first birthday, spending the week with an old friend visiting from home, and taking up surfing, snorkeling, and more rainforest hikes, it is hard to remember that this is also a time for study. It’s Saturday afternoon, my friend has just left to return to the United States, and my roommates are gone for the weekend. I sit looking at the conglomerate of lectures I missed and must now watch, and my empty notebooks. With the beautiful weekend weather and the beach luring me from my porch, I feel like an elementary school student day-dreaming of summer break as the first sign of spring peaks through school windows. “These woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” I think of Robert Frost’s famous poem, and of all the things that have happened this week.
The lucid atmosphere of the week began with my first visit to semester long volunteer position at Hopewell Hospice. Reading through the hospice’s website before my first day, I was forced to realize the true nature of the place I would soon be a part of. Phrases like “diagnosed with a terminal illness,” “preparing to say goodbye,” and “the moment of death” infiltrated the otherwise peaceful message from Hopewell Hospital to its website visitors. Of course I understood that a hospice is place for people to die. The part I never understood until I was standing on the grounds, listening to my supervisor explain the ritual of lanterns that is performed when a patient passes, walking through the center and seeing the eight beds that are currently occupied and soon will not be, was that people go here to die. I held back tears. My supervisor reminded me it’s important to remember that we are all dying and that it is simply happening to these people now. I wondered what in the world I had signed up for.
The dreamlike, school-forgotten state of mind amplified when my friend from home came to see me. Cramming a month’s worth of activities into three days, we ate dinner on top of the tallest building in Australia, celebrated my twenty-first birthday at the renowned Surfer’s Paradise clubs, took surfing lessons in the ocean, searched for glow worms in the rainforest at night, and snorkeled at North Stradbroke Island. She didn’t even have time for jet lag. The density and transiency of our activities never gave me time to settle and think either. It wasn’t until I was jumping off a snorkeling boat into the Australian ocean, wondering what was underneath my legs, or swimming up close to the Sydney octopus, or turning off my flashlight in the rainforest at 10 pm to view the biological phenomenon of bioluminescence beside my classmate from pre-school that I realized life is surreal right now. Standing up on a surfboard next to a childhood friend as a wave sends me coasting towards the Australian shoreline? Is that me?
As I sit here today, writing this blog and thinking of the mass of schoolwork before me, I wonder where four weeks have already gone. It seems it is finally time to settle in and calm down, take things slower like the Aussies are known for. Twelve weeks of studying lie before me, and I’m already struggling to keep my focus on the academic side of the study abroad. There’s too much to see, too many people to meet, too many things to experience.
What a beautiful problem I have today.