The first week…

Adam Barrington, Exchange to West Virginia University

Semester 2, 2017

The 31st of July 2017, the longest day of my life! Literally! I was awoken at 4:50am by my father, we got in the car and dropped me off at Blaxland station on his way to his 6am-2pm shift we left each other with a hug and a man to man handshake knowing this would be the last time we see each other for a good while. As a result, I Got to the airport in plenty of time I miraculously bumped into an old family friend from New Zealand at the airport such a small world. I boarded my flight to LAX without checking how long the flight was. The truth is I still don’t really know and don’t want to know. To me, the time goes quicker that way. From LAX I flew to Arizona and then to El Paso Texas for 3 nights.

Before the trip, a friend of mine from England informed me that he was touring North America with the world-famous pirate metal band ‘Alestorm’ as a featured guitarist and ‘roady’. And this tour was all as a part of the famous Vans warped tour music festival. He told me if I could make one of the festivals he could get me free tickets and backstage pass. An offer I couldn’t refuse. The only logical tour date I could make was the stop by Las Cruces New Mexico which is right near El Paso. upon research, Las Cruces is a city made up of college students and retirees and El Paso is a remarkably safe city despite being just over the border from Ciudad Juárez. El Paso was very welcoming.  Wandered the city to learn that all locals speak both Spanish and English. I bought a sim card from a dodgy looking store and went into a bar. I immediately got chatting with some locals, after a few drinks I met a guy named Zach who was a 30-year-old student who had fought in Afghanistan. We got along just fine so I asked him to come to the warped tour with me. This also meant that he could drive me meaning I wasted $50 on a greyhound ticket, but oh well. The following day we drove to Las Cruces, I saw the beautiful desert full of cacti with mountains ranges I didn’t know existed. We got to the festival and I saw my friend for the first time in many years. We rubbed shoulders with some world-famous musicians and saw some great acts. By the end of the hot day in the sun I went back to my accommodation in El Paso. The Gardner hotel was fantastic! $20 a night for a 4-bed dorm which I had to myself. The hotel boasts that John Dillinger once stayed there. The following day I visited a local art gallery and explored the town more. El Paso doesn’t attract much tourism but it’s always nice to go to a place nobody knows. Later in the day Zach took me to an arcade which was straight out of the 80’s, complete with a bar food and cheap games a great way to finish my time in the south.

The following morning a flew to New York after all the stop overs and delays I didn’t get there until late at night. I stayed at the international student centre in upper west Manhattan. $50 USD a night is very cheap in New York, even if it is a 10-bed dorm. My first morning I was having breakfast and sparked conversation with a woman from Vancouver, it turned out to be her 21st birthday and she had just one day in New York before heading to Ireland. We made an agreement to see as much of New York together in one day without excessively spending. We caught the metro to Williamsburg and walked around the south-East side. The following day I used my $55 open top bus ticket to see all the major sights of New York, The size of this place blew my mind. On reflection, I don’t think my hometown has a single building more than 2 stories high. I don’t think New York has anything less. On the bus rides, I waited and waited for things to get shorter and smaller and they just didn’t. Key things I saw include the 9/11 memorial, Times square and the view of the statue of liberty from the boat. On the final night, I made a trip to Coney Island and rode a 90-year-old rollercoaster called the cyclone and saw a concert featuring Rancid and the Dropkick murphy’s.

On the 7th of August, I caught a greyhound bus to Morgantown via Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. I arrived at my accommodation with the help of the fine WVU staff assisting the incoming international students until late into the night. Tomorrow at 8:30am was the start of orientation.

The following morning (8/8/17), I woke up at 8:25am I rushed down the stairs. I slept through my alarm and my landlord/housemate could see that. She kindly offered me a lift into town which was a relief as it is normally a 20-minute walk. She showed me where I needed to be, this funny place called the ‘Mountainlair’ inside I rubbed shoulders with my soon to be close friends as we were treated to a free breakfast and tour of the town. Whilst chatting to a South African man named Eric I learned that I knew his Uncle from my time living in England, it’s a small world after all. Whilst touring around on the bus, I immediately came to appreciate the similarities of the area to My Blue Mountains home in Australia, there’s even a nearby place called ‘The Blue Ridge Mountains’ and the hills and uneven terrain accommodate houses wherever possible. The remaining days of the week were filled with laughter and good times, most of which were free.