Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm Ready To Go Back

I have been back in Tennessee for a little over a week, but it has felt like a year. I was so excited to see my family and friends, but now all the excitement has died down and now I want to go back to Australia. This experience has honestly been life changing. I have learned so much about myself and who I want to be in the future. I made some lifelong friends that I will share this bond with forever. We went through so much together: cockroaches, urbanest, classes, internships, family dinners, and so much more.

As I am getting ready to graduate, I could not have asked for a better last semester of college. Sydney, and the memories I made will always have a special place in my heart. I'll definitely be back down under, sooner rather than later hopefully!!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Back in the states...

I didn’t miss a beat. I’m back in the states and the eeriness of the phrase “same old same old” numbs me to the core. Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated to be home and reunited with my incredible and loving family, friends and animals, but I miss Australia more than I anticipated. I left a new home behind so abruptly. I wasn’t ready to come back. Yes, I had been there for three and a half months, but I needed more time. I loved the Aussie lifestyle. I believe it loved me back.

I guess this blog post is dedicated to reminiscing on the best experience of my life as I sit on my couch at almost two in the morning (because I’m still suffering from that awful jetlag), and watching the same channel I watched before I left for Sydney. Again, I’m beyond happy to be back, but I’m feeling so many different emotions and not sure how else to release them at the moment.

Since arriving in Atlanta two days ago from a thirty, almost forty-something hour trip back to the states from the place I now call a second home, I have been overwhelmed with anxiety and endless thoughts racing in my mind. Did I do everything I said I was going to do during my time in Australia? Could I have done something different or spent my money wiser? Did I complete everything on the various lists I was given prior to heading down under?

The answer is yes, to all of those questions crashing through my head.

Of course I’m going to wish I had done some things differently or maybe gone on one more Coogee to Bondi walk before leaving, and maybe even spend a little less money on food (oops), but I have to say I am beyond pleased with everything I did and wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, I did more than I imagined and had so many life-changing encounters with amazing people.

I want to share every little detail of my adventure with everyone here back home, but unfortunately they won’t completely understand everything, and that’s okay. I shouldn’t expect them to. I’m sure I have already blown their Facebook feed up enough with all the pictures and videos, but I want to tell the world about my experience. It truly was untouchable and that of a dream. I never want to let go. I want to go back right now. I would do another twenty-something hour flight in a heartbeat just to go back even for a short time. Sydney, you hold a special piece of my heart and I promise I will see you again one day.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Australian Skills Resume

For our final paper for International Studies Abroad, it was “highly recommended” that we include a discussion of the hard and soft skills we developed over the course of our internship. Hard skills are typically considered to be teachable and quantifiable – like proficiency on a specific program. Soft skills might be more general, such as ability to work on a team. As I worked on that paper, I limited myself to the skills I developed working at Solar Citizens, but I have gained so much more from the past three-months than just work experience. If I’d gotten to tell ISA the REAL story, it would have made a verified Aussie resume. I thought it might be fun to write that here instead.

Australian Skills Resume

Soft skill:
Associated Australian Hard Skills:
How to do it: Before you finish a word, consider what its really cute, shortened alternative might be. Your conclusion is what the Australians call it: arvo, brekkie, avo, defo – the list goes on.
-Ordering coffee:
How to do it: Coffee culture is huge but order a “coffee” and you’ll get a blank stare. If you like your coffee with milk, you’re going for a “flat white.” If you like straight espresso maybe you want a long black. And if you want this in a to-go cup? Wrong. It’s takeaway.

Soft skill:
Adaptability to foreign cuisine
Associated Australian Hard Skills:
-Completing a perfect Tim-Tam Slam
            How to do it: This is all about technique and ratios. First, you have to make sure your glass is almost full of milk. Next, bite ONLY the very end off each side of the Tim-Tam. Dip in milk and use the Tim-Tam like a straw. Then be thankful that Australia exists.  
-Properly eating Vegemite on toast
            How to do it: This one comes down to technique and ratios too. You want toasted white bread, heavy butter, and just a slight suggestion of Vegemite (it’s fermented yeast, go easy on the stuff). Pro-Australian tip: apply both the butter and Vegemite with short strokes of the knife for evenness.  

Soft skill:
Associated Australian Hard Skills:
-Killing cockroaches
            How to do it: You call Mary Klepzig. Mary will kill the cockroaches for you.
-Avoiding seagulls:
            How to do it: You hang around Mary Klepzig. The bird will likely land on/poop on her instead.
-Avoiding sunburn
            How to do it: Find the redheaded member of the group and ask her for sunscreen. If you’re on the beach, wear a hat and sunglasses. Set a timer for 30 minutes on your phone (this is advanced stuff you might want to start with 15) and flip when it goes off. After you’ve turned on your front and back, reapply. Stop arguing. And no negotiating down from SPF 50.

Soft skill:
Associated Australian Hard Skills:
-Walking on the left side of the road
            How to do it: Erase everything you’ve ever learned and hop on over to the left.  LOOK RIGHT before you step out to cross the street, and my gosh, be careful out there.
-Using public transport
            How to do it: Figure out where Central Station is and don’t, DON’T forget your Opal card.

Soft skill:
Social Interaction
Associated Australian Hard Skills:
-Turning a group of 13 strangers into your family
How to do it: Eat a lot of family dinners together. Get lost on public transit. Commiserate over a paper or two. Be silly. Sing Rocky Top.

These skills were developed over a three month period in Sydney, Australia.

"The places where I made friends" - A thank you letter

Dear CCI Global Scholars,

There are a few conversations in life that you never forget. Sometimes they come at big, dramatic moments – but maybe they’re the chat you had with your Uber driver. Sometimes these conversations are sweet, sometimes stinging: perhaps they are poignant or unexpectedly profound, but for whatever reason, it’s these little exchanges that shape the way we view the world.

I’ve had one of these conversation tucked away in the back of my head for the last four months. When I was idle in Sydney, it wandered to the front of my brain where it replayed again and again.

It took place during the fall of last year. I was volunteering at the WUOT public radio station, packing mugs into cardboard boxes alongside a man whose name I remember as Jim. Jim, like many of the WUOT volunteers, was a former UT professor. He had travelled all over the globe and worked with study abroad students for a large portion of his career, so when I told him I would be spending a semester in Sydney, Australia, we had a lot to talk about.

When I asked him where his favorite places were, I expected some exotic answers - maybe a remote island or a Soviet Union bloc country that no longer exists. I got something else.

 “My favorite places?”

Jim paused for a few moments.

“Well…I suppose, the places where I made friends.”

That’s it, the snippet of the conversation I will never forget. I just can’t shake the thought of an old man sifting through a whole world-full of places in his memory and concluding that the people he met were what defined the best ones.

During my time in Sydney, I’ve found that Jim’s words applied to my experience as well. As much as I loved Australia, it was the people I met who made my time worthwhile: that became more apparent than ever when I remained in the city after my fellow CCI Global Scholars headed home. So here is my message to you all:

To Abby: I am so proud to share a name with you. Thank you for your hilarious but quiet humor, your sweet hugs, your kindness, and your wisdom. Thank you for your hesitance to dance, your willingness to share vitamins, your deep appreciation of a good towel, and for being Kip from Napoleon Dynamite for Halloween that one time in high school.

To Adam: Thank you for your giant heart and your ability to make a variety of KILLER dishes that contain green beans. You are always the first to volunteer to help someone out, and I really respect that about you. Thanks for being down for leg day every day.

To Austyn: Thank you for being the instigator of roommate dance parties. Thank you for being passionate about all the things you love – be it Gay Time donuts, the funny habits of your father, or your country. I am always so impressed by your capacity to have fun and be serious, and I know you will do amazing things whether you choose law school or reporting.  
To Catie: Whoa roomie, my list of things to thank you for is realllllly long. Thank you for having a playlist for everything, for cooking for and with me, for calling me out when I desperately needed to do laundry, for having great book recommendations and incredible insight, for listening, for dancing, for being efficient. This could continue for a long time, but just know I love you. We’re more than roommates: we’re SISTERS.

To Cayla: Thank you for always having a kind comment to add, a smile on your face, and a cool activity on your list of things to do. I love that you know who are you are as a person and that you are willing to share that person without forcing yourself on anyone. You described yourself as having the temperament of a koala to me at the start of the trip and you are every bit as cuddly.

To Elle: Thank you for your intelligence and independence, for your love of dachshunds and impeccable fashion. Thank you for always teaching me something I hadn’t considered before, and for sticking through the entire live coverage of BOTH the record setting human Power T and April the Giraffe giving birth. 

To Emily: Thank you for making the 24-hour trek to Australia with me. Thank you for being so dang cool but appreciating goofiness – I can’t wait to see how the WOW video turns out. You are hardworking, talented, and I think you just have an awesome attitude about life.

To Mary: Thank you for being so caring, patient, and spiritually wise. Thank you for spoiling us all with pancakes and muffins and biscuits and being the lady with a plan. I think you have an incredible insight on the world, a lovely sense of style, an amazing ability to make things happen, and it’s a joy to be around you and hear your perspective.  

To Haley: Thank you for filling 1713 with smiles and laughs. Thank you for loving whales and Sassy the Chihuahua, for reminding us all to have fun, and for surviving a smorgasbord of bizarre injuries and infections (I’m shocked you made it after all that, honestly.) Strangers brighten up around you, and that’s a real gift.  

To Hunter: Thank you for your hilarious commentary and for your ability to get in really, really weird situations (remember that time when you got stuck in a hurricane and that time you had to share a tent with a girl?) and make the absolute best of them. Your organizing skills helped us have some really fun experiences, and I think you’re a natural leader.

To Olana: Thank you for always doing something wildly interesting and then sharing your experience. Thank you for having THE cutest dorm room and for being warm, kindhearted, and profound. Thank you for helping me model t-shirts, appreciating a good slo-mo, and being willing to explore.   

To Sam: Thank you for loving travel, dreadlocks, and Trey Songz. Thank you for inspiring me by running every day, making us laugh with the joy you experience over Rick and Morty, going to TASMANIA (how cool!) and always being up for a good time. I’ll miss trading eggs and avos with you.

To Shelby: Thank you for always being a trooper, for sharing some tips on how to acclimate to the local culture, and for being so witty and creative. I’m still laughing thinking about your skit with the rest of your apartment. I know your internship required a lot, and I’m sure you did a really great job.

So to all of you, thank you. To Dr. Miller and Dr. Swan, a massive thank you as well – you made all of this possible.

To the CCI Scholars once more, I know everything will be different going forward, but please remember this:

You are special. You are loved. You are largely the reason Sydney will always be high on my list of favorite places. Thank you each for being yourself, and adding something invaluable to the biggest adventure of my life so far. I’m always here if you need me (or some sunscreen).