As I correspond with students that will soon be in the same shoes I was in this time last year, I cannot help but feel a pang of jealousy. Of course I am excited for these individuals to experience everything Australia has to offer, however, I’m only human and I must say I have never spent more time complaining about how I wish I were back in Australia than this past finals week. I can almost smell the salt on the shores of St. Kilda beach where I would frequent and assure myself I was multitasking by “studying” and getting a nice tan. Or taste the fresh fruit and whipped cream on a slice of pavlova from Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade. I can even hear the pesky ticking noises the walking signal would make when running around the city. Although I find retrieving these memories to be bittersweet, I have to keep in mind that if something that amazing could happen once it is bound to occur again.
Around this time last year I remember having an agonizingly lengthy period of time before embarking for my semester abroad. I wasn’t scheduled to leave until February 14th! (Literally flew solo on Valentine’s Day) As the weeks went by I had to stop checking my Facebook because my feed would be filled with photo albums and statuses reporting all the monuments and fun weekend vacations to Paris my fellow peers were already experiencing. When I think about how I felt then, my anxiety mixed with excitement and uncertainty of what would soon unravel, to how I feel now, I have to admit the feelings aren’t that far off from each other. I have now finished my second to last semester of my undergraduate career. I know most seniors are in the same position I’m in now and are uncertain to where they will be after graduation, however, if there is one thing I learned from my experience abroad, it is that there are many more avenues that life has to offer us and we simply just need to look for the signs.
It has taken me almost this whole semester to feel this grounded again. Quite frankly, it’s really tough readjusting to life at Skidmore your first semester back. More so, it’s really tough coming back to the states in general. Because Australia’s schools started so late in the year (late February), I didn’t come back to the U.S. until the 2nd of July. Nice weather to come back to, yet, horrible timing. The last thing I could have wanted after leaving behind the beautiful beaches and charming accents was to see a bunch of Americans in cut-off jeans pounding down Budweiser everywhere. Trust me, I was not a happy camper the first month back. When reaching Skidmore I was sure a change of scenery and reuniting with my friends I hadn’t seen in so long would help ease my still depressed outlook of being back. Nope. I was just not having it. I don’t think it was really until mid-semester when I started appreciating my surroundings and changing my outlook. I began to keep in mind that although I am not abroad anymore, there is no reason that 1) I couldn’t travel again and 2) there is something else in store for me that will again change my perspective in life and allow for me to gain a sense of self. I also believe talking with fellow peers to have greatly boosted my mood and realization that I’m not alone in this feeling and that we all went through it and will get through it.
I’m so thankful for my time spent abroad and I hope that others will take the time to really understand how wonderful the experience is. And although coming back isn’t smooth as one would like, just know there are always friends and resources available to help pick you back up!
Catherine Haorei, class of 2014, studied abroad at the University of Melbourne in Australia.