And now we're back

Eien Sykes Bidwell University of Wollongong, Australia


July 23, 2015

That last week in Australia was the best thing ever. Saturday, my friend Luke and I went into the Blue Mountains for a festival. We got bored really quickly and went on a bush walk instead. I got to see and touch 6 different waterfalls and the exercise felt really nice, I hadn't really gotten a chance to get out into nature before that. Then, Monday, we got together with our group of friends, went food shopping, and held a barbecue. Lunch time we had Kangaroo steaks (one of my goals!), then we played board games for 4 or 5 hours, for dinner we had burgers and sausages, and then another few hours of board games. Nonstop fun and a break from homework. I actually shouldn't have had homework, but things got really messed up and I got an extension, so I had been working for 8 or so full days to get this one huge assessment done. Tuesday, I spent the morning working and then made my way over to a picnic the Queer Collective was hosting for my departure. It was a good chance to say good bye and network for the future. I left a little early with my buddy Luke to get one last lunch at this chicken burger place, Chicko's, and to buy more art supplies for my project. Wednesday night/Thursday morning, we got together a little group, woke up at 5 AM, and walked to the beach. We got pictures of the sunrise and jumped into the freezing water, catching the first bus of the morning back home. Thursday night I was scrambling to finish this project and freaking out a bit (a lot) because I messed up the container and the art store wouldn't open until 9 AM, while the project was due at 10:30. So Friday morning I woke up early, sent one person to get me supplies, and finished just as it was due. My teacher flipped through everything and told me how great it looked even though I had to improvise everything I messed up. Then we said goodbye to a couple other international students and I had 2 hours to pack up my entire room. I got to spend the weekend at my friend Luke's house. We spent Saturday shopping and getting last minute souvenirs, and Sunday we explored Sydney one last time. It wasn't so much exploring as it was going from park to park, relaxing in the grass, and recounting the session. Then we sat across the water from the Opera House and caught pictures of the sunset. The next morning I flew home.

I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to get out of the house by 4 ish and caught a train to Central station, and then another to the airport. I was alone, 2 bags at about 40 lbs each, and no easy way to get them anywhere; so I was carrying them. I got to the airport about 6:30, got through security and customs by 7 AM, and waited. I ran into other Arcadia program students and we hung out for the next hour, but our plane was running a little late and from LAX we were all going in different directions. So there were some farewells and we exchanged stories, but it was basically over. It would be 13 hours of not sleeping before I landed in America at 8 AM west coast time. First call was to mom, of course, then a message left for dad, and then I called my roommate. It seems a little weird afterwards, but she's one of my best friends and, having shared a room with someone else this session and that only being an okay experience, I was really excited. We had been planning for months to hang out between me getting back and us moving back in together in the Fall. We chatted until I had to board. In 6 hours I would be home.

It was terrible, I didn't sleep on the first flight, and I was exhausted. Before we even took off I was out. The people next to me were nice enough to poke me when food came by, but at least 3 hours were just a blur of my head falling down and moving enough to have to fix my pillow. We landed and I was a little surprised and a little upset that the sun was still in the sky. I had gotten used to the sun disappearing around 4 PM and I was definitely not prepared for the temperature to go from 60 to 90. It was nice though. There weren't any tears shed upon my arrival; but I got a coloring book, American snacks, and balloons. It was a long and very quiet car ride home, I was exhausted and jet lagged and just needed sleep. Since I've landed I've been getting whatever I want to eat, so the first stop was real pizza.

It's been almost a month now.

I don't really know how to feel. People ask if I liked being abroad and the first thing I say is that I don't want to be here, I still want to be in Australia. That's really true. Coming back here I've had to face everything I went abroad to escape. The people I was trying to avoid so I could finally enjoy a semester have resurfaced in my life; I no longer have the same collection of support that I had with the Queer Collective at UoW; and I have to go back to working with the same people, their same ideas, and my mind that feels like it constantly has to expand to feel normal. It's so strange and limiting to be back in America. While abroad I felt like everything was a new challenge that I wanted to conquer, and here I am. I was excited to come back and face new challenges here, but I don't have the same support. Arcadia is so small, and by the end of a semester you know everyone's face and everyone knows yours. There's no way to go through your four or five years and remain invisible. There is conflict and there is hardship. It sounds overly dramatic, but college is a huge part of your life and at this point your brain is developed enough that you remember all of it. I tried to back off, take a break, and run away from my problems. Australia was a chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and it was the best thing I've done in my life; but with coming back there is withdrawal. You come to miss your friends, your adventures, and your freedom. Being home, for me, is like getting stuck in a trap I thought I had escaped. It's not like being home is the worst thing, I just wish I were somewhere else. I'm going to keep looking for something to make this better, I've learned by this point that giving up isn't really an option.

I'm going to put my all into this semester. I have two more years at Arcadia; I'm going to make them great. Then I'll go back to Australia.