After what seemed like an eternity in a plane, I finally made it to my new home for the next 5 months. I hopped off the plane and into a shuttle that took me from the Sydney airport, through the city, down winding roads through miles of national park, and finally to the beautiful coastal city of Wollongong. I was dropped off at my dorm, where one of the RA’s got me checked in and gave me a little tour of the area. After he led me to my room, he handed me my key, wished me good luck, and then was off to help the next student in line. My immediate thoughts at that moment after he left:
- Oh no. What am I doing here.
- I’m alone in my room, and I don’t know anyone in this dorm. Actually, I don’t know a single soul in this entire continent. Wow, I’m really alone.
- What am I supposed to do now?
- Is everyone else feeling like this?
- And again, what am I doing here?!
After my initial freak out, I felt like I couldn’t handle the intensity of how alone I was feeling, so instead of unpacking my suitcase, I decided to do something risky. Something that as an introvert, I normally wouldn’t think of doing—I walked out of my room. I went straight to the only place I knew people would be at (the cafeteria) and joined a table. After introducing ourselves and talking for a bit, we decided that it was too beautiful of a day not to go to the beach (only a 10 minute walk away—one of the many perks of living here!).
All in all, I spent the entire afternoon at the beach and met more people than I would have ever expected on my first day, something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t left my room. It would have been much easier to resort to what would have been comfortable for me—unpacking, organizing, and going to a store to get some essentials for the week. However, I think that’s true for most situations that seem scary or uncomfortable. It just takes one big gulp of courage to take that leap of faith and from there your comfort zone will expand right before your eyes.
When I went back to my room later that evening, I quickly learned that my bed hadn’t come with sheets or a pillow and that the nearby stores had already closed for the day. That night, I slept with an airplane pillow and sweatshirts as blankets on a bare mattress pad. I wasn’t mad in the slightest though, because I had just spent my day on a beautiful beach in Australia with awesome people.
If there’s one thing I’ve been learning during my first week as an exchange student in Australia, it’s that I am not alone. At the beginning of the school year, we’re all figuring things out as we go, making mistakes, and wanting a group of friends by our side to experience it with. Turns out, those friends I made at the beach are the ones who took me to Target the next day to get a pillow and sheets. 🙂