The Office is not on Netflix in Australia.
I know. It truly is the most trying adjustment. I tell myself in times of distress over the issue that it will only prepare me for when Netflix finally follows through with their ruthless threats to remove the show across the globe. Some say it will happen in only a few months. To my current chagrin, I will be more than ready. These days without Michael Scott’s unbeatable humor have left me reliving shows in my heads. This morning when I was told that I missed an exam worth 50% of my grade (explanations following), a specific episode surfaced from my memory. In the scene that arose in my mind, the iconic boss of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company promises an upcoming hit autobiography entitled “Somehow I Manage.” In the moments following the news that I could have been dropped from a class nine weeks into the semester, I began to mentally write the introduction to this fictional man’s New York Times bestseller.
It turns out that students are much more responsible for their own affairs over here on this side of the equator. Apparently, Australian students are supposed to plan their school schedules so that absolutely no exam times will conflict. At Temple exam conflictions are almost never an issue. Some of you are shaking your heads, assured I am wrong. “I remember this time when Calc I and Gen Chem I…” Let me tell you, that was nothing. Here, students can schedule classes at overlapping times, to accommodate any and all classes they may need to fit in. All lectures are recorded and uploaded online, so that students who are missing a lecture for another required class (or the beach) can stay on top of any missed information. That’s a wonderful option, and it’s allowed me to take two classes that overlap in time. However this is a really terrible option if you are not from Australia and don’t know that you are supposed to pre-check the classes’ exam schedules before signing up for classes that have the same time. In fact it could cost you your semester, especially if you have a lab field trip and a mid-trimester exam on the same day and time.
“Where were you on Wednesday?”
I looked up as I heard my professor questioning me. I froze.
“At my field trip. I told you about it on the email, if you remember?”
That’s the other thing around this neck of the global woods. Rules are very different at universities here than they are at home. I had been pre-approved by my professor to take the exam at a later date and approved by the university to take it later, but I just hadn’t gotten a final approval from my professor. My roommates have had similar issues regarding rules that they wouldn’t need to follow back home. They seem to be rules that the Australian students are innately aware of. It makes me wonder what things I inherently know to be true about school and life back home, things that I don’t even realize are natural to follow. Luckily for me, my Australian professor had spent a few years in the good old city of Philadelphia and knew some of my professors at Temple. He gave me a free pass and told me to be ready for the make-up exam this Friday.
Instances like these keep popping up throughout my study abroad. Circumstances that could have been huge problems have quickly dissolved into moments that leave me confused whether I just escaped catastrophe or never had anything to worry about. There was the time in the beginning when I had to withdrawal from my Community Internship course and wasn’t sure if Temple would allow it. Or the time when we got dropped off by an Uber in the rainforest and didn’t have a ride home until a family offered us one. There was the day when we were frantically attempting to arrange housing the night our flight from New Zealand was scheduled to arrive back in Brisbane at 11 pm, only to find out that we had read the location and times wrong and would arrive back at the Gold Coast by 6 pm, just in time for a leisurely dinner. Or the day I hadn’t received a text from my visiting friend for over twenty six hours after she left the USA, and I realized I had no information about her flight, but somehow I still found her in the airport without much trouble. And of course, there’s the day when my professor told me I was one stroke of luck away from being dropped in week nine.
None of these things reflect my ability to be organized or responsible. As far as track records go, the best I’ve got is a record for somehow-managing. I don’t know if it is just me or simply the nature of traveling, but there have been more than enough times here in Australia when I laugh at the serendipity of it all. I think it is a a huge misconception in life that anyone has it “all put-together.” None of us do. I have never met a single person who says with confidence, “Yeah, everything goes right all the time, and it happens because I planned it that way.” Nope. Instead I’ve come to the conclusion that absolutely anyone – traveler or not – could write their own introduction to Michael Scott’s hit autobiography, (though studying abroad does seem to put you in positions that continually emphasize the nature of luck). In fact, realizing that plenty of situations are saved only by the notion of “somehow” is a bit freeing. Occasionally when things go wrong we should blame ourselves and learn from it, or conversely pride ourselves in the things that do go right as a result of careful and prudent planning. Some things, and I believe only a very few, can truly be attributed to our own good character and merit. Yet after a few months far from home, I tend to believe that more often than not, managing life comes down to the luck of the vast and small, random and certain, feared and celebrated Somehow.