It is the end of my final week in Australia. Rather than being consumed by nostalgic memories and sentimentalities, I am consumed by a stream of change. Last week was far more stressful than the end of the trip I once imagined in my head. So stressful, that as I sat in the emergency room with an IV in my arm and nurses scurrying around and about, I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop actually. I was on the phone with an old friend from home, our giggles echoing off the cold metal of the heart monitors and blood pressure machines. A bad infection was the cherry on top of a hodge podge of other challenging situations and circumstances surfacing rapidly at the end of the semester. Everything seemed to be changing. The specifics aren’t too important. All I could do was use some of that old Australian wisdom and go with the crazy flow.
My Sunday morning hospital visit was relatively short. I was home by the evening. But laying on the hospital bed made me realize how sparse my time left in Australia really is. Now here I am, hours away from boarding the long flight home. I can hear the airport planes taking off in the background as I sit outside at one last Australian café. The sun is strong, but the chill in the air is evident. Australia is preparing for winter. When I go home, the USA will be in the middle of summer–barbeques and country concerts, baseball and swimming pools, and the red white and blue. My internal clock will get flipped again. Suddenly I won’t be on the same time zone as my friends here, but back on the same time zone as my friends from home. Things will be different. My parents are looking at other houses and getting ready to move. I think I’m moving in with my sister and her husband. My summer internship starts in a week. I’ll be outside all summer, hot and sweaty on a farm, learning how to manage an agricultural business. At least I’ll keep the Aussie tradition of getting outdoors (even if it’s nine hours a day in the blazing Philadelphia heat and humidity).
At our farewell dinner hosted by our program the other night, our director talked about reverse culture shock (a sophisticated term for not liking your home when you get back). She said there will probably be Aussie traditions we would like to keep after being surrounded by them for four months. Like letting everyone know things are good by always saying “no worries.” Or calling things “lovely” all the time, or calling people “lovey.” “Hello lovey, welcome to your Qantas flight,” is what I’ll hear when I board my flight home. Just being friendly, polite and easy-going. They’re all pieces of the Aussie culture to take home, to soften up the USA a tiny bit. Personally I’m going to keep the tradition of walking without shoes whenever possible. I can’t let my newly calloused feet go to waste. I worked hard to be able to walk across sharp gravel and hot asphalt these four months. Maybe the farm will let me pop off my sneakers and work like a barefoot crazy.
Besides the Aussie traditions, the memories are the thing I want to keep most. Four months may seem like a short time, but I’ve done more and seen more on this study abroad than I have in any other semester so far. The first day of class in another country, my twenty-first birthday, watching the sunrise and sunset on the soft sands of Surfer’s Paradise, the mountains of New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef, the last few days filled with new adventures despite the upcoming end. I got to experience life (truly) away from home and the feeling of being alone. I adjusted the amount of fear I let into my life and realized that things–and people–aren’t as frightening as they may seem. Most of the time people mean well, and more often than not things tend to turn out well also. (I’m saying this as I’m sitting in the Sydney airport with a six hour delay on my flight and a threat of missing my connecting flight in Dallas, but I did say more often than not). But even when things don’t turn out well, they turn out in some way or another. Sometimes the opposite of the expected outcome is the one that was meant to be. Australia has showed me, especially in this last week here, that sometimes great memories are made in the discontinuity of the unexpected.