I love a sunburnt country: Saying goodbye to Sydney

Highly original title courtesy of this poem, which you should be reading right now.

My last weekend in Sydney was rather anticlimatic, actually.

I spent Friday night in the common room of my college, watching TV and chatting with friends.

Saturday, several of us went to the city to walk across the Harbour Bridge, because one of my American friends hadn’t done it yet. The trains were out of service due to trackwork, so we took a bus to Wynyard, then walked back across the bridge. We stopped for gelato at Milson’s Point, which was a very good decision. We then began the journey back to college, as it was quite cold and starting to rain. We caught one of the trackwork buses, which took FOREVER–at least 90 minutes, compared to the usual 45. We amused ourselves by drawing pictures on the foggy windows with our fingers, but lesson learned: never take a trackwork bus.

Once we got back to college, we gathered around the gas heater in the dining hall to warm up (yes, really), then enjoyed a delicious–especially by college standards–dinner and dessert. After dinner, most of my friends had homework or other commitments, and it was freezing cold and pouring outside, so I regretfully decided to stay in for the night. I bummed around the common room, talked to people, and tried to forget it was my last night in Australia. Eventually, I went to sleep.

The next morning I woke up and–guess what–still raining. I got soaked on the walk to the bus station, but the rain stopped by the time I got to the city and caught the airport train.

One of my other Sydney friends, who left a week before me, said it took a while for her to fully realise she was leaving. That was definitely not the case for me.

The view from Circular Quay station 26 February 2011.

As soon as the train left Circular Quay–the last place I’d see Sydney Harbour–I burst into tears. The harbour is my absolute¬† favourite part of the city, so leaving with no idea when I would see it again broke my heart.

The sobfest continued as the train passed through St. James, Museum, Central, Green Square, Mascot, and Domestic Airport. When I arrived at International Airport, I decided I should probably pull myself together. I checked my luggage, acquired a boarding pass, cleared customs and security, and made my wait to gate 9.

The city skyline from the international airport terminal.

Vera Bradley bags and North Face jackets: Yep, definitely at the USA-bound gate.

The flight was long, of course, clocking in at about 12 hours. To pass the time, I took advantage of Qantas’ excellent movie selection and also slept a little bit.

When I arrived at LAX–four hours before I left Sydney–I was greeted by Alex and James, two of my best friends at Mizzou. We spent the day cruising around L.A. It was fun to try In-N-Out Burger, see the other side of the Pacific, and enjoy one last adventure before heading home for real.

The next day, Alex took me to the airport and I got on a plane to St. Louis. As much as I loved SoCal, and as much as I loved Sydney, it felt great to be finally going home for real. Every time someone said “Flight 768 to St. Louis,” I smiled. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

The flight was only about four hours long, but it felt much longer.

The sunset on the plane from LAX to STL.

The moon over Lambert Airport.

When I arrived at Lambert, I was greeted by my mom, dad, and sister. We definitely did one of those cheesy movie run-into-each-other’s-arms things. Then, because it was 10 p.m. and I’d only eaten one meal that day, we went to Ted Drewes for dinner.

Ted Drewes banana split = happiness.

I arrived home on Monday night. It’s now Thursday, and I still feel like I want to sleep forever.

I haven’t even gotten over the jet lag yet, but I’m already having Australia withdrawals. My family, in turn, is probably already sick of hearing about them.

At some point this week, I also realised I left a piece of my heart in Sydney–and I’m pretty sure no matter what I do to get it back, it will stubbornly refuse to budge.

This is probably the part where I should do some cheesy sentimental wrap-up about how amazing my time abroad was, how much fun I had, and how much I grew and changed as a result. Blah blah blah. But in the interest of not writing a study abroad brochure, I’ll just say all those things are true, and leave it at that.

I will, however, include a cheesy song: one that’s been running through my head all semester, and almost exactly captures my feelings toward the people I met, things I saw, and experiences I had in Sydney.

That’s it for this blog. Thanks to everyone who supported me with their advice, encouragement, and finances (that’s you, mom and dad) throughout the semester. If I know you, I look forward to a joyful reunion sometime this summer. If I don’t, make yourself known–I’d love to meet you!

One last thing, and this goes for all of y’all: if you’re thinking about embarking an adventure of your own, DO IT.

No excuses. None of this “I don’t have time/I can’t afford it/I’m too scared/I have responsibilities” nonsense. I couldn’t afford to go to Australia either. I was nervous too. I have responsibilities as well (Even college kids know what those things are, so hold the snarky comments, grown ups). But I went anyway, and it was the greatest experience of my life. Of. my. LIFE.

So whether you’re looking to move halfway around the world or just head out of state for a weekend, do it. You’ll be glad you did. And whatever you choose to do, I look forward to hearing all about it.

Okay, off you go. Stop reading about my adventures, and start making some of your own.

Until next time,

Angie

Some friends in front of the Sydney Opera House during the Vivid lights festival 28 May 2011.


Meta

I have 12 days left in this country.

I’m sure you’ll understand that I don’t want to spend them blogging. I still have a lot of posts that I want to write that I’ve been putting off all semester, and I certainly plan to gift you with those when I get home.

But for now, I’m working at my internship, spending as much time as possible with friends, eating Tim Tams, finishing up a few papers, and trying to avoid being overly conscious of every plane flying overhead. So I’m going to put the blog on hiatus for a few weeks.

But before I go, I just want to share something that’s been on my mind.

I wasn’t nervous about coming here at all. I slept fine the night before I left and had no trouble boarding that plane in St. Louis. When I got to Sydney, I felt confident. Excited, yes, but also calm.

Now, as I face the return journey, I’m petrified at the thought of going back home.

At first glance, this makes no sense. But upon further reflection, I think I’ve figured out why.

When I came here, I had no expectations. I knew everything would new and different. I was expecting an adventure, simple as that. I didn’t know what my room would look like or who my friends would be or what the next four months would hold, and that mystery was all part of the fun.

On the other hand, I know exactly what to expect going back home. I know the stretch of I-270 between the airport and my house. I know the voice of Mike Shannon on the radio and the taste of a Sacred Grounds mocha. I know what St. Boniface looks like on Sunday morning and the sounds of my family’s big and glorious get-togethers. I’m going back to the place I grew up in. The place that’s familiar, always the same.

Except here’s the problem: It won’t be the same.

My family and friends have grown up and experienced their own adventures. Edwardsville probably has some hideous new mural on Main Street, and there might be a new tree in my backyard. Sparky’s will have come up with some ridiculous new ice cream flavour. The place itself has changed.

But more importantly, I’ve changed.

I’m not going to pretend I’m some sophisticated world traveller because I lived in another country for a few months. I’m not. But this experience, this living 9,000 miles from home for a semester, meeting new people, seeing new things, and experiencing completely new perspectives, has changed me in some way. In what way? I don’t have a clue. But I know it has, and the uncertainty scares me.

Of course I’m excited to go home. Intellectually, I know that home is home, no matter what.

But I can’t help but feel nervous about what I’ll find when I get there. Sure, it’ll probably be positive. In a few months I’ll be talking about what a great, wonderful life-changing experience study abroad was.

But for now, I just know that when I arrive back home, it won’t be the same home I left. And I know that even though my study abroad experience will technically be over, I’ll still have a lot of growing to do as a result of it.

Does that make sense?