Exchange to Georgia College, USA
Semester 2, 2015
I was naïve enough to think that my first bout of homesickness would come months in, when the assignments, tests and exams were stacking up here at Georgia College and State University. This was not the case.
Rather, it came during some pre-term travel, where I was kept busy 90% of the time. This would make you think there wouldn’t be time for it but it can come in any moment of solitude and last only seconds. I embarked on a camping trip that would have me join a group to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was an exciting but almost equally daunting prospect. As I find most things are before I actually start them; unfortunately I am an inbuilt glass half empty and always find myself preparing for the worst. A few days in, whilst we were out sightseeing, every person had gone off with their travelling companion and I realized how alone I actually was. I couldn’t contact my family and from this arose an incredibly overwhelming feeling of being out of touch.
I had not prepared myself for the onset of homesickness so early.
When you think about travelling you focus on the exciting prospects of what you’ll be doing not what you’ll be missing. My eldest most well travelled sister offered me advice on this, to make a list: a list of the things I missed.
- Love Actually; I hadn’t thought to pack any movies with me and for some reason this was the one that I wanted. Perhaps it was the reference to the airport or just the reassurance Hugh Grant offers in the opening credits; “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport”
- The morning chit chat with the barista at my local coffee house
- Watching ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ with my girls on a Sunday morning
- My niece and nephews laughs, smiles and the 6 months I’d miss out on watching them grow and the missed, however minor, opportunities to shape the people they are turning into
- Waking up in the morning and being able to call any one of my sisters and eat breakfast with them. Even though we weren’t together
- Locking my car and hiding the keys at my parents house so my Dad couldn’t tinker with the engine
- Going to my parents fridge knowing that it would be full of my favorite left overs; every university students dream.
This list put me to sleep. It acted as a reminder that it would all be waiting for me when I got home. That the idea of the arrivals gate on the 9th of January could improve my gloomy mood. That while all the items on my list would wait for me, this opportunity would wait for no one.
Georgia College and State University presented its own challenges: roommates, dining halls, a diet of deep fried chicken, a different kind of education and many other things. In reality it appeared as a whole new lifestyle. Just the other day I was standing in one of the aisles of Wal-Mart, a new experience altogether, when I became overwhelmed by all the different brands of toilet paper. Living in Melbourne I looked after myself, shopped, washed and cooked. This however, really got to me. There was no ‘Safeway’ to run into to grab the Kleenex Cottonelle 2ply toilet paper. I was dumbfounded. Ready to call mum and tell her to buy a plane and come get me.
If only money grew on trees: like toilet paper.
Instead I took a deep breath and grabbed the one directly in front of me. It was my first real encounter with culture shock, I felt disorientated by a material object that had never demanded my attention before. I managed to leave the store successful. Taking home from my distressing shopping trip a 24 pack of ‘Charmin’. Suffice to say it works the same as any other brand and the memories of this shopping endeavor now make me laugh at myself.
My experience so far has been a month long rollercoaster where the highs have given me long lasting amazing memories and the lows have generally provided me with many laughs at the expense of myself.
To anyone considering this adventure, don’t let the idea of feeling homesick or having culture shock put you off. Don’t let the nerves creep in about being lonely because you’re not. There are so many like-minded people over here doing the same thing you are; I personally can’t wait for the chance to visit the people I’ve met in their home countries. The opportunities are endless.