To be honest, it’s been hard to write this blog post. Things seem to always be getting in the way, “more important” engagements to give my attention to. Perhaps I’m delaying the inevitable, a realization that’s been creeping up on me since I landed at LAX: that this is it. I’m home. I’ve returned the country of my birth, to the snow and gloomy winter weather, and an empty bank account.
Of course, it’s not all that bad to be home. Here I don’t have to worry about surviving on my own, because I can rely on my family to support me. I’ve reunited with friends from home who understand me, who know my stories, and understand what it means to be from a place like Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania.
But also, it feels terrible to be away from my host country. I miss the accents, the beaches, the shopping, and the social scene that Brisbane had to offer. I miss the sunshine and adventure, the “newness” of Australia, the people with whom I connected. My last few days in Australia were a blur. I took an amazing last-minute trip to Cairns and despite my fear of open water, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef for a few days. Visiting the reef was such a lovely highlight of my Aussie journey. It felt appropriate to end my time in the country by experiencing first-hand one of its iconic places.
I spent the remaining seven days trying my best to soak up all of my favorite parts of Brisbane. I found myself sweating under the harsh Queensland sun and feeling almost glad that I would miss most of the hot, humid summer. I strolled through the botanic gardens, trying to memorize the names of native trees to store in my vault of less-than-useful information. My last remaining dollars were spent on clothes and souvenirs that I knew couldn’t fit in my suitcase. The final night came too soon, and was over before I knew it.
Not much at home has has changed, but I feel different. The changes are subtle, but studying abroad has opened my eyes to views I may have missed otherwise. I know how scary it is to leave the safety of home, but I’ve experienced the rewards of traveling to new and foreign places. I know that there’s nothing like seeing something with your own eyes that you’ve only seen on screen, like the Sydney Opera House or the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. I understand missing your loved ones terribly, and experienced heartbreaking loss. I’ve made new friends from around the globe, and re-evaluated my view of my country and what it means to be an American. I know that you can’t live off of Tim Tams and that koalas are the cutest animals on the planet.
However if there’s one thing I've learned for certain in Australia, it’s that I can't wait to get back.