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?
Yesterday I hinted to the disappointed I faced when I arrived at my new home, not only not becoming part of the tennis team, but also, not even being given the chance to try out and measure myself against the girls I could feel I am close to, in terms of tennis level.
I felt I was forced to give up my dream, even when it might not have been required and of course, the alternative, pouring all that energy and dedication into something else, that I didn’t even thought it existed was not very appealing.
I joined the tennis club, only for the opportunity to be on the court, still clinging to the hope of having try-outs at one point. I figured that the only other people whom I would benefit from playing with would be in it. It was terrible for me, seeing that we didn’t have a coach, that nobody was motivated to come out and train, not just hit around and play games, and that the competition was at a much lower level than I anticipated and hoped for.
In all honesty, I wasn’t happy, and I am fairly positive that it could be seen from the outside as well. I was stuck-up, thought myself better than everyone out there and had a diva-like attitude. Do not get me wrong, I worked hard. I only lost to one girl, against whom I also when playing the normal format, was on the court longer hours than anyone else, and had the work ethic I grew up with. They were happy to have me win matches, but I wasn’t part of the club. I didn’t want to. Respectful distance was all there was.
Fast forward 8 months later. We lose in the regional championships against USC and then to UCSB. I say we, but I wasn’t even on the court. It was crushing for the team, it was devastating for me. I did not understand why wasn’t I put to play, why didn’t they use me and my initial reaction was to say to myself that I didn’t lose anything. They did. I was more worried that I would not have whom to train with anymore, that I would be unprepared for Italy, my Italy, my tournament. But then I realized how sad I was for them. Our president is graduating this year. She won the tournament her freshman year and didn’t even qualify for it in her last year. I was hurting for her. And I was hurting for me and the other freshman who will be remembered for the first in history who did not qualify for nationals.
However, it wasn’t until I read this article about US Olympic Gold winner, Jordyn Wieber that I truly realized that not only did my attitude need to change, but that I wanted it to.
Jordyn Wieber is an amazing athlete, sponsored by Adidas, who took the highest stage in the world and delivered at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Now, she moves the mats around for a team that she does not compete for and prepares the girls’ equipment, and she is happy.
Everyone looks up to her, respects her and is inspired by her and while she trains by herself, she does not feel like she is performing any lower duties. Or at least, this is what the article says.
I cannot imagine how someone who has a gold medal sitting at home feels in a small gym with no one to challenge her in it. Given, the gym may not be small, but we are talking about someone an entire country put faith in. I wonder how she stays motivated in this environment and what pleasure she takes in already being the best here, without even trying. I cannot comprehend this situation but I can acknowledge the beauty and honor in it.
I know that she still has access to all the facilities and everything she requires. Plus, she still trains with UCLA coaches, though not together with the team.
But, truthfully, it doesn’t matter. I just felt humbled and ashamed of myself. I will continue to work hard with my club team and for it, irrespective of my private goals and aspirations in the sport. I will hopefully take a position in a club that has allowed me to continue to cling to the prospect of me ever playing tennis at a competitive level again.
I will honor the friends I made and smile more at practice. I can train by myself, I don’t need to ruin the fun for them. I need to realise that they were not exposed to the same schedule, intensity or level of competition and pressure that I was. And I have no right to hold it against them. For them tennis is a pleasant hobby and I should not intervene or judge.
I will not.
Now I know that even if I make the varsity team next year, or even if I don’t, when I graduate and look back, the tennis club will be among the first things on my list of activities and organizations that have impacted me and my college life. Some of my friends will be from it. Some of the lessons I have learned will have come from it. And even some of my biggest victories will take place in it. Because I know I will have won them for someone other than me. And those will have their own flavor and place in my heart and story.
All in all, if I spend that many hours with it, I might as well start enjoying it, right? I will continue to refuse to play games at practice though, and that, nobody can hold it against me.
International tennis player, aspiring writer, college student. My blog is about my journey, my writing and everything that inspires me.