In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Study Abroad.”
The question today’s prompt asked is where I would choose to go for a year if I had the chance to study abroad. Coincidentally I am currently on a study abroad program in Australia, while already being an international student in the US.
The why question is one I got a lot recently and the easiest one I can answer probably. Why not?
I am young, only 20, I am free, not bound to any job or place and when else would I get the chance to explore a new culture, meet, live and study with people my age but raised differently and simply travel some more.
My initial choice of studying in the US came easy. It was far away from my parents and my own country that I had grown disappointed in, I got a chance to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, enjoy a world-renowned education and experience a permanent summer. UCLA meant all those for me.
Leaving now for Australia was an even easier decision.
I needed a new change, a new adventure. It was again one of the furthest points I could find on a map. LA-Canberra time difference is 18 hours. It was the best choice for a school in my field. ANU is ranked number 7 in the world for political science. I got to add number 34 to my ever growing list of countries visited and I had always had a fascination for the unknown land down under. The fact that is was actually cheaper to study here than in LA as an international student came as a bonus.
Now one month in my newest adventure I must admit I have mixed feelings. I came in overly confident that I had basically no need to adjust whatsoever. I had already been an international freshman and had done quite well. I had already moved to an English speaking country and hadn’t had any problems. I had traveled the world and never felt lonely. But I was surprised at how many challenges I encountered.
Nobody cared about me. The freshmen wanted to make friends with others who would be here as long as they were. The uperclassmen already had tightly knit groups of friends. Semesters run quite differently than the fast-paced quarter system I was used to and doing research by myself without being constantly tested requires all my determination. Tennis training proved to be a huge issue since Melbourne is the tennis capital of Australia and not Canberra. Slang use is wide-spread and I often find myself nodding and smiling and having no idea what the other person is saying. Even traffic being on the other side of the road requires daily reminders to look right before crossing. And on top of that, to my impression, Australians are so laid back and content with their country my international background and capabilities make no impression. Oh, you speak five languages, cool, let me grab another drink.
However, by all means, I do not and will not regret the decision to come here. Worse case scenario if my situation doesn’t improve I will have cut off a country from the list I mentally keep with possible ones to live in after I graduate. In any other possible course of events I emerge more mature, more confident, more open-minded, more cultured, more knowledgeable than before I left. How could someone regret that?
School here is amazing, with smaller classes and professors who insist on practicality (policy briefs instead of essays is just one example). ANU and Camberra are truly international spaces where I’ve met people from around the world. And I haven’t even begun to explore the rest of the country or the other major cities.
It’s true. I’ve had some tough days when I missed my already established routines and friends at UCLA. But I also enjoy the challenge of making it here as well. To consider myself an international citizen or part of the globalised youth I should be able to have a positive experience here. And even while eating lunch alone ( a feat I am definitely not used to ) I am certain I will find my way around. And if not, one can live through anything 6 months right?
I once read a quote, I don’t really remember it, but it said something about how fast everything changes when you are young and during these days I could not agree more. I reread my “about page” as well as a post I wrote about having to change that page, and I notice I almost do not relate to the person who wrote that anymore.
I am no longer a senior, having just graduated and identify as an UCLA freshman. My focus is no longer getting into college and I am no longer stressing with applications but embarking on a journey, as cliché as that may sound.
In less than 2 months I will pack my life in 2 pieces of luggage, each about 23 kg and fly toward a new life on a new continent, in new city, where I know no one and will only come home for a short period of time next year in June. I am so excited about finally starting to live my dream, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel a tiny little bit anxious. I am thrilled at the possibility of reinventing myself, meeting so many new people and cultures, forming new groups and friendships, doing a lot of extra activities, continue with my passions and simply live. I have waited so long for this moment and I cannot wait for it. Exams now seem pointless, I do not need great grades, but I am studying for them, because this is who I am, I want to be the best, and plus studying keeps me busy and makes time fly faster.
A huge part of my life until now has been tennis, and I’ve gone through a lot with and for it. Even though I was courted by some Division 1 Universities, together with my family, I decided that I would for sure get into higher ranked colleges just based on my academics and because I was senior year, tennis fell on my priorities list. The transition from international junior player to simply doing it for fun has been extremely difficult for me and I could not adjust to my new position. So, despite not playing competitions during the year, I continued to train at a slower pace but managed to rediscover the joy of simply being on the court and thus brought a new mentality to my game.
Now, I stand at a crossroad in this area of my life. Both my trainer and I, especially after seeing some videos of UCLA girls playing matches believe I could be on the uni team. I certainly have the level required. But I could not contact the coaches there. I desperately hope that they hold try-outs or at least allow me to challenge members of the team, because I need to know if I’m not good enough for the team or if I could help them and even strengthen it. In preparation for that decision, that is no longer mine, I have started training a little bit harder again, both on and off court and will play my first tournament in almost a year next week. Fingers crossed. I didn’t tell anyone yet, but even if I don’t get on the team, I will continue to train and play at club level and will try, for one year the 10.000$ tournaments, which are the lowest category for above-18 years players. I have saved some money and plan to use it to offer me the chance to fulfill my dream. If it doesn’t work out then I will finally admit that maybe it was not meant for me and focus on something else, but I do not want to live with regrets and questions such as “What if”.
Anyway, much has changed and I am sure I will go through a life-changing process in the next few months and will keep you updated on my other areas of interest which have yet to change, other sports, languages and international politics, but for now I believe I have to go back to studying.
52 days left until my life starts 🙂
This post comes as the answer to Today’s daily prompt, Early bird, or night owl?, and is actually something I have long wanted to write about.
Ever since I can remember, I was always the first one to get up in my family. Or probably around the same time as my mother and grandmother. Meeting both of them in the kitchen at 5 am used to be our morning ritual. Perhaps it is in our genetic code to wake up at crazy morning hours but I am and will forever be grateful for this habit.
Simply put, I feel that the earlier you wake up, the longer your day is, and the more you can do.
Waking up before the sun rise or being woken by the sun rays in the summer is probably the best feeling there is. Opening the window, going out for a run when the entire town is still sleeping empowers you, makes you feel you own the world. And in a way, you do. You gain time and momentum and while you live, others miss it. At least this is the way I see it.
I am currently going through a phase of transition in which I feel that I’m simply waiting, not committing to anything, not having a definite purpose. It’s a new feeling for me, who has always had a plan, a schedule and a place to be. Somehow, this is my rebellion. This is the reason I haven’t been writing, because I felt I was not doing anything important or worth sharing and because I didn’t want to turn this blog into my personal diary of daily lamentations and frustrations.
Even so, I do enjoy keeping myself busy and among all little things that have crept into my schedule, like reading, watching series, finally playing some games, going out (all things I thought I missed and wanted to experience) I finally found something to write about:
This weekend I officially became a ski instructor. Continue reading
I found it difficult to convince myself to post things here for the past couple of weeks. I felt I was a hypocrite for believing that the stuff I write has any meaning or that the writing itself- any value. I missed it, so I kept writing in my diary but I didn’t trust myself enough to publish anything.
Today, I learned that perhaps trusting somebody isn’t that bad. Having been hiding all my life, pretending, trying to elude questions and maintaining a happy appearance has hardened me. Especially after the one person I confided myself in disappointed me enormously, trust became something nobody could earn from me. All I could see were false friends waiting for the opportunity to see one of my weaknesses, to use the information I would let slip against me or to their own advantage. Slowly but surely, without me even realising I began asking myself every time I spoke: “Do they need to hear this? Does this give any of my secrets away? Could they use this?” Inevitably, I stopped giving voice to many thoughts for this fear. I was never alone, being lonely would be a hint that something was not quite right, that I might not be that happy person. But I didn’t have friends either. I got along with everybody and nobody actually suspected that I didn’t particularly hang out with somebody. I was constantly on the move, gravitating between groups but never really bonding with anyone for fear of being exposed.
I thought then the moment I would click send on all those applications on the 1st of January I would be overwhelmed by relief and could finally go on with my life. Oh, how wrong I was. All I feel is being restrained and powerless. It may sound dramatic but my future is being decided on somewhere far away and there is nothing more I can do to influence it. For somebody who has always taken pride in being in charge of her life and destiny this state of being is very unusual and comfortable. What is more, it has left me with no incentive for anything and too much time to think. No matter my grades this semester or the ones from the leaving examination everybody is stressing over, I can no longer influence where I will be in 8 months time. And the immensity of possibilities is scary. In 8 months time I could be living my dream in New York and play for a great university having the world at my feet, or I could still be stuck with my family in a city I have wanted to get away from for the last past 10 years. And all I have worked for will be in vain or will pay off.
I always said my greatest fear was being mediocre and that I want to live an exciting life. Well I can assure you I got my wish. I have done some amazing things during my short life but what I feel I have gained the most is the emotional maturity I have reached.
These past two weeks in which I have not written were some of the most demanding and challenging ones I have ever experienced. And I now refer to the emotional roller coaster I have been through and not one of those exciting weeks of visiting 5 countries and trying out living to the full.
And the reason why I have not written is because I do enjoy having clarity in my posts. I want to know what I want to say and how to do it and even in my diary when writing through states of sadness or being angry or extremely happy I usually find that balance between my emotions and the peace of mind I need in order to be coherent.
In my last post I wrote about a decision I had to make and a choice that was laid in front of me. I knew the time was coming to face that question and I still felt unprepared. I had successfully avoided it for the past 10 years of my existence, it was impossible for me to sit down and solve my problem in a few days. Now, I can contently say I know the answer.