The idea of a year abroad came to me on a gloomy, blustery day in Durham as I battled against the elements on my way into town. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, if I could have all the perks of university without the associated Northern weather? Then it occurred to me that this was possible. Travelling across the world for a year was a nerve-wracking prospect, but the image of revision on the beach, pen in one hand, cocktail in the other, was one that I could not pass up on.
The idea very quickly turned into reality, and all too soon I was on the plane, Perth bound. Rushed departures, tearful goodbyes, security, tannoy announcements and air hostesses: everything was very surreal. It still hadn’t really sunk in. As far as I was concerned, I was just on another plane off on holiday.
I thought Australia was going to be a year of sun, sea, and surfing. I might get hideously burnt from the scorching sun and lack of ozone layer, but that would probably be the worst of my problems. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
We arrived in Perth and got our airport transfer to our beach house (much less glamorous than it sounds), and all I could think about was how ugly the city was. The whole place seemed to be in a state of disarray and transition – everything was undergoing construction. I’m no architecture snob; in fact, I claim that every old-looking house is Georgian. But I missed those Georgian houses. I yearned for the Norman Cathedral in Durham, the pretty brick houses in Hallgarth Street, and the quaint cobbled walkway across Elvet Bridge. All I had here were spread out bungalows and scaffolding.
I promise I’m not being negative; I’m just being brutally honest. No doubt many people who first arrive on their years abroad are pleasantly surprised and feel immediately at home, but this was not the case for me. Perhaps it was the jet lag casting a pall of gloom over me, but I missed the architecture, the culture and the sweeping green fields of England. Surprisingly I also missed the temperature – despite the fact that I knew I’d be arriving in the Australian midwinter, I didn’t actually think it would be cold!
Thankfully, after the first month things improved. I got used to the spread out city and the magnificent skyscrapers, I fell in love with the Australian accent, and the weather improved (that massively helped). However, my time also improved as a result of my own endeavours. Back home, if had a bad day it was just a bad day, but here it seemed like the end of the world. Every bad day I had added to the general sense of ‘this is not what I expected’.
In the end I took matters into my own hands. I realised that I was putting too much pressure on myself to have fun, and I needed to actually discover what I wanted from the experience. And now, three months to the day since I arrived, I’m having a whale of a time. I’ve figured out what I want: to really get out and explore, and do things for myself.
I’ve been on a week-long road trip with people I hardly knew – the best decision ever; I’ve been on a spontaneous trip to Bali; and I’ve crewed for a deaf man on a Hobie Cat. I’ve become more independent as a result of my struggles at the beginning, and I finally feel like my own person who’s making my own decisions.
So I guess what I’ve learnt is to persevere and figure out what it is you really want to achieve from an experience. It may take a while, but it’s worth the wait. I’m currently off to book an East coast road trip, a trip down south and a trip to South East Asia. Now my Australian summer of experience really begins.