3 hours of sleep. 22 hours of travel. I arrived at my orientation site, Quarantine Station, on Sunday, January 5 at 10:30 AM. It was a pleasant surprise to still have the energy to stay awake during orientation. My colleagues appeared equally exhausted.
In the evening, we explored Manly, the business district near our orientation site. It was a cool summer day with temperatures around 72˚F - a stark 30 degrees cooler than the previous day. Locals filled the beaches - playing volleyball, surfing the low tides, socializing in small groups.
I lost my cohort after straying away from them for three minutes. So, I walked from the beach to Manly Wharf, the dock from which you can take a ferry to Sydney. It was bustling with people ordering food from local restaurants.
After taking a few pictures of the gentle sun, I made my way back to the beach hoping to spot a restaurant. Along the way, I passed a church surrounded by construction barriers. I thought it was closed, but crowds entered through the side. I made my way inside thinking hilariously that there may be a tourist attraction inside. I examined the crowd inside, and my eyes stumbled upon the altar of the church. I unintentionally walked into a church service that was beginning its worship service.
But I did not leave the sanctuary. Something in my soul told me I needed to stay there. I could not ascertain why. I accepted this, and before long started singing with the congregation.
The pastor called the worship service to a close and told everybody to greet each other. My eyes were immediately met by a girl in front of me named Lara. We introduced ourselves briefly. She was impressed that I had the initiative to find a church on my first day in Australia. So was I.
After the service, I thanked Lara for introducing herself and we connected on social media. To my delight, she told me that she would introduce me to some local students who attend the church next week.
I felt ecstatic and speechless. It was as if someone, something, led me here to fulfill my deepest wish for studying abroad: developing long-term relationships.
I had not expected myself to become connected to locals so soon as 10 hours after stepping off my plane. It felt like God guided me from the moment I stepped off the plane. This was the beginning of a journey brimming with friendship and fellowship.