2019 Spring Aubrey Haggerty Australia External Programs IFSA

Tapping My Ruby Red Slippers

Kids these days have transformed the word “adult” into a verb.

“Wow I really don’t know how to adult.” “I’m not ready to adult yet.” “I literally cannot adult.”

In case you aren’t in touch with the current lingo, “to adult” means to pay the bills, hold a full-time job, buy your own groceries, and the list goes on. Basically anything associated with having actual responsibilities in life fits under the ominous, imminent, long-feared umbrella of “to adult.” I pose the idea that we could turn another noun into a verb, since the dictionary is changing rapidly anyways nowadays. After living here for a few months, I propose that “to home” is also a thing. Students do this all the time when they go away to college. They quickly find their favorite coffee shop in town. They become a part of clubs on campus or volunteer in the city. They go to Restaurant Week and buy tickets to concerts with new friends. They find mosques and synagogues and churches in the area. Piece by piece they build the feeling of home in their new college towns. Temple University was only ever a short drive from my childhood home, so I never felt a need to become a full part of the community like other students did. If I wanted to make myself feel like I belonged I’d catch the Warminster line to the suburbs and my family would be waiting with a hot slice of Riviera Pizza. Even while living in my apartment near Temple, my commitment to belonging always felt impermanent. Why would I try hard to find comfort in the city if comfort already existed about thirty minutes up North Broad? Being here in Australia, I can’t take that drive up Broad Street and find home in the Willow Grove Mall and North Hills Ave. So I’ve been creating a that feeling on my own. I’ve been attempting (maybe with success) to home.

The past two weeks on the Gold Coast have been unintentionally filled with activities that could be part of the home-building verb. On a whim one Sunday morning with nothing better to do, I thought I should probably meet some people from the town. That landed me in Surfcity Church just down the street from my apartment. I ended up meeting a group of girls from my school who I eat lunch with sometimes. Later that week I made use of the free midday Tuesday yoga on campus even though I’m not particularly a fan of the art. Turns out they give out free snacks and tea at the end. This has resulted in my loyal return every week since. Wednesday nights have become habitual “do something fun” nights, like bingo at the Uni Bar or Bean Bag Move Night at Griffith. Some friends from the Uni came over that weekend and we made a lamb roast together and watched The Shining (I will forever disdain the horror genre but it’s a way to make friends I suppose). And instead of staying in on my day off on Thursday, I let my morning run lead me to a new part of the Gold Coast. Free from homework on my 10K, I discovered a quirky shopping street in Burleigh Heads where I bought a Volkswagen minivan coffee mug. How much better does it get than a VW mug?

The idea of all this is the fact that encouraging yourself to do things- like walking down to the markets and buying vegetables from the local farmer, or entering a contest to win free tickets to a local show- is the only way to build yourself a home. Even forcing yourself to use public transportation instead of taking an Uber is a step towards developing the sense that you belong. Governments and student organizations and other neighbors around you work to emanate a feeling of togetherness by building the (literal and figurative) roads you need to connect yourself to the area and to those around you. Many times it doesn’t cost a dime to feel connected. You just have to take the initiative to be aware of activities going on around you.

This whole idea of home-ing in a new community is novel to me. I always believed I was one who didn’t like trivial social happenings and free activities. I thought I’d rather be reading in bed or doing something on my own. I thought I didn’t like anything that could be grouped in the category of “community event.” Being here, I found out that just isn’t true. It’s funny how being alone somewhere that’s too far away to catch a weekend train inspires you to reconsider the things about yourself you once believed to be hard truths. I really do love a good Wednesday night Bingo at the Bar.

What a wonderful skill it is to be able to build yourself a home anywhere in the world. Let go of the notion that there’s no point in feeling connected to a community because you’ll only be there for a few short months. Try to quiet the limiting belief that a mere four years and an upcoming graduation is a reason not to fall in love with a city and its culture. Allow your weeknights and your weekends to be built by the culture of a community. Let the community do the work. All you have to do is show up. You never know when a job might take you halfway across the country, halfway around the world. If you make an effort to be a part of each place, especially when you would rather be knocking on your hometown front door, you’ll find that laughter, love, good food and comfort can be found anywhere. It takes a little bit of effort, of course, but most good things in life do.

Sure, there’s no place like home. That’s true. But who said that home could only ever be in one place?


  1. Great story Aubrey. Really telling it like it is …..adjusting and adapting to different situations . The last picture was so cool .

  2. The world it’s really you’re oyster and you definitely found the pearls (of wisdom)

    Like the VW mug , we used to drive VW bugs, 😎

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