This column is the first in a Life&Style series exploring the study abroad experiences of students from around the 5Cs. The entries will be widely varying in style and topic depending on each student’s particular perspective, and serve as an extension of the writers’ accompanying study abroad blogs. This week’s column comes to us from Melbourne, Australia courtesy of Steph Saxton PO ’12, and discusses the difficult decision to remain abroad for a second semester.
Eight months down, four to go.
Today marks the eighth-month anniversary of my arrival in Australia. I can recount with immense detail the day I landed in Melbourne—too many kilos in my suitcase, newly crotch-less jeans that had ripped somewhere between Customs and Baggage Claim, and a relentless hangover caused by the realization that I could suddenly legally enjoy complimentary in-flight beverages.
Yet despite my ragged, jet-lagged state, I was ready to take the continent by storm. Like most fellow yanks in my orientation program, I exhibited an acute case of naiveté with the whole I-Am-About-To-Rock-This-Place attitude. I am a Pomona student, dammit, I had once mused to myself. Perhaps sophomore year domination in Claremont had made me a little too big for my britches. “Melbourne, here I come,” my first blog post asserted.
Which is kind of funny considering that, at the time, I knew so little about my study abroad destination of choice. Just days before, my Google search engine history included treasures such as “Australian stereotypes”, “What does ‘a dingo ate my baby’ mean?” and “Do they have Outback restaurants in Australia?”.
Of course, it deeply embarrasses me to admit this now. But it was my desperate, last minute effort to acquire some more Down Under knowledge, or at least something other from the obvious trio of Vegemite, the Great Barrier Reef, and Steve Irwin.
Although the OSA might disdain me for admitting this, I had not put a lot of thought into where I wanted to study abroad. When deciding on which program to apply, my thought process went something like this: English as a first language? Check. Hot accents? Check. Kangaroos? I want to go to there.
In the end, however, Australia ended up being a profoundly appropriate choice. I quickly fell in love with Melbourne: the city with seemingly endless cultural landmarks and style, the city with an affinity for scenester cafes and abundant weeknight drinking, the city that gave me the courage to wear leggings as pants.
Staying an extra semester was not a part of The Plan. But then I got too busy having fun in Australia, and The Plan got the boot. I extended my stay in Australia for another half-year, and Pomona was kind enough to support my decision—and even kinder to still give me that precious diploma on time.
Back in Claremont, friends met my uncharacteristically impulsive decision with mixed reviews. Most were supportive, but others did not understand. How could I possibly want to spend another semester away from the magic of Burrito Night and Pub and Gender Neutral bathrooms? I was a traitor.
“Is it because you have a boyfriend now?” Oh, I got that a lot. It was true; I had met someone. An Australian someone, no less—snagging my own Crocodile Dundee was def-in-ite-ly not a part of The Plan. “You’re not supposed to get a boyfriend on study abroad, Steph. It’s like a universal truth that it’s a hook-up only semester,” one friend scolded. It was too late though; Claremont was far from my mind (and I was always bad at random hook-ups anyway).
Now don’t get me wrong, there are times I miss Claremont so badly I want to bathe in Coop guacamole. But I was finally learning to drive on the left side of the road, to understand this mysterious sport called cricket, and to woefully imitate their gorgeous accents. Why leave? Sagehen life had to be put on hold.
Fast-forward eight months, and Melbourne now feels like home. Long gone is my childlike wonder and the constant “Huh, what?” face when I encounter something truly foreign. I would like to say I am an Australian expert by now, but sadly, no dice. My never-ending education in Aussie slang prevails each day, and I cannot yet wrap my head around the dance floor “no grinding” policy (I know, right?).
When the next four months are up, I will find myself back at the international terminal, with similarly overstuffed suitcases, a possible hangover, and the same all-around ragged state in which I arrived. Tears will be shed, I assure you. Of course, I’m stoked to go home, but I will be forced to abandon my new home first.
For more about Steph’s experience in Melbourne, go to stephsaxton.wordpress.com.