I was asked recently how I thought my first semester in Australia had gone. I couldn’t really sum it up there and then but thinking about it the word that describes it best is probably ‘lovely’.
I haven’t swam with the crocodiles, or gone sky-diving, or gotten very drunk and woken up in a different state. My experience has been much more low-key than that. There have been nights out and nights in, days lounging in the library or lazing in the kitchen or reading by the creek, working at a nice job, working consistently on my studies, hanging out with great people, walking in the sun to get groceries, trying to experience all the little things. It’s not that newsworthy and it’s hard to explain in writing but it’s been nice. My life abroad has been perfectly ordinary. Does that mean it’s exactly like home? Not really. If anything my life at home is usually a lot more eventful.
For example, despite only having to pass while away, I’ve found I’m working harder on my studies than I ever have before. This is down to three things. First, without parental pressure it seems I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure I go to class and do well. It turns out when I’m responsible for myself, I get shit done. Go figure. Second, these classes are really challenging but they’re really interesting and I want to get the most out of them. After all, it’s costing a lot of money to be here and I have the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world. I really don’t want to waste that.
The third reason is I’m bored. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve been going out at least once a week. I haven’t missed a social occasion. But during the day, when I don’t have class and I’ve caught up on the internet, I figure I might as well study. So that’s what I do for an average of six hours a day. Besides, it’s not like my grades count for nothing. If I apply for a masters or a job in law they’ll be looking at how I did here.
Another thing that is different from home is that there hasn’t been any drama here. If anything, I’ve managed to be involved in more drama at home despite being 10,000 miles away. It probably helps that I’ve only known people here for three or four months so we haven’t gotten irritated by each other. It probably also helps that a lot of my friends have boyfriends and girlfriends either here or back home and I’m hoping to steer clear of relationships since I’ll have to leave eventually. There’s been no fights, no debauchery, no love triangles, no drunken mistakes, no ruined friendships, no massive break-ups. We just make nerdy references and dance a lot when we go out.
At work? Well, I just work. There is banter but again, no big stories.
It does make things a little boring, but I’m happy with boring. I still have fun but it’s clean, wholesome fun. Instead of constantly being stressed or worrying I’ve had a lot more time to think about different things, like what I want to do with my life after I get back. It also helps that in the first time ever, I have my work done in advance. I think the last time I was stressed was about two months ago when I was trying to figure out how to handle the huge course workloads. Then I got into a routine, started living in the library and things were all good.
If anything, my trip here feels a bit like an extended retreat, except you’re allowed talk and drink. It’s also sunny and warm, which helps with the lack of stress. Even if you did want to rush the heat makes that hard. I have this new image of myself as a responsible, hard-working person who is at the same time very laid back. Whether this will survive when I get back to Ireland is anyone’s guess.
The only thing I’m wondering is, am I doing it right? I mean, I’m still having a great time and the exchange is fulfilling in a way I didn’t even think possible. I just thought that being away would be more eventful than it is. Does everyone have the same experience when they go away? Is it just me? Or is it because I’m in Canberra, which is famously quite boring? (Seriously, Google ‘Canberra boring’ and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
It’s hard to find something to write about. Misery, high and lows, adventure, those are all things that are easy to write about. I could tell you about all the little things like the end of year night out or the funny work story or our movie marathon sessions but I feel like those are things that only I will properly get excited about. After all, I’m assuming the reason you’re reading Postcards from Abroad is because you want to hear about unique experiences from people coming into contact with different cultures. Maybe after the exams when I have the chance to do some travelling I’ll have a few more stories. Right now I’m happy to be happy, even if that isn’t as exciting.