Eien Sykes Bidwell University of Wollongong, Australia


May 8, 2015

One of the first things I thought about when I got here was the stars; the fact that I am halfway across the world and can still find Orion's belt. One night, me and some friends walked home from campus and all I could do was stare at the stars because it's just so weird and cliché to have that thought of "this is the same sky." It sounds really dumb, but it’s such a real observation.

Back home my big thing was taking pictures of clouds. There's no actual system that I use, I just decide I like the clouds and take a photo. Over the 7 or so years I've been doing this I have collected thousands of pictures. The thing that people hate about how I take these pictures is that I include trees, the horizon, or buildings. I tether the sky to the ground. But this actually says a lot. Back home you see the clouds through a barbed wire fence- that physically places it at the airport but can also represent a figurative prison. You see this jagged mismatch of roofs all clustered together- that is the city, chaos contained. Here, you see the silhouette of palm trees, the mountains, the ocean- it exposes where I am and where I fit into the world. The sky is only the sky because it is not the ground. Without the ground, the sky would not be so spectacular. I sit at my desk, right next to the window, and while I stare at my laptop with all the programs to talk to people back home I stop to look out the window. Fourteen hour difference. These clouds belong to this part of Australia. They will only exist for this moment before they move and shift and make new patterns. The sky is its own form of art and I feel the need to capture and share it.

I've been rethinking my major recently. I don't hate graphic design- I'll still probably finish that degree, but what I liked was being able to take words and images and arrange them to be witnessed. So originally I was looking to concentrate on magazine and web design. But I've been taking this class here about building gallery spaces and art installations and I think this is what I was looking for. It’s some way to collect art, give it context, and share it.

I know I’m a bit over dramatic, but it really just amazes me how you can notice the smallest things about the world and suddenly everything else is shaken up. You leave your home to study somewhere new- whether that is a college or university, inside or outside your home state, or a foreign exchange; you have the thought that it’s not what you’re used to. The first thing I noticed as we drove from Melbourne to Queens Cliff was the trees- all the leaves are focused on the highest branches. After some time here I also learned that the leaves don’t change color and they don’t fall when it cools off outside. I noticed that the sand was softer than back home and didn’t burn your feet in the same way (this was the same on the south coast as it is on the east). The birds here are loud, they sound angry, and they move with the sky- waking at dawn and disappearing after one last explosion at dusk. Most all stores close around 5 o’clock, pharmacies are sometimes called “chemists,” chicken schnitzel is a favorite food, KFC doesn’t have biscuits because biscuits here are cookies, and yet Subway still works with “6-inch” or “footlong.” I was talking to some Australians that didn’t know that yellow school buses were actually a common thing in America because they had only ever seen them in movies.

I guess what I want to conclude by saying is to entertain your thoughts. If you’re considering going abroad then you should go for it because you wouldn’t consider it unless it’s something that means a lot to you. If you suddenly realize you want to study something different, definitely think about it because it’s your future life’s work, but also don’t waste time thinking when you could be doing. I read a quote once that referred to monogamous relationships with something along the lines of “if you are thinking about someone else then go with that someone else, because if you were happy with who you were with, you wouldn’t be thinking about being with someone else.” I think that popped into my head when I thought about changing my studies, and it’s carrying me along as I look into post-grad work back here in Australia. Definitely don’t just listen to me. This is just what drives me; but it can’t work for everyone. You have to find the best fit for you- in everything. I think the number one goal of people is to change the world. And the thing is that by getting out of your home and comfort zone to study whatever, you’re throwing yourself into many other people’s lives. In this way it may take a while to change the world, but every step of the way you’ll be changing individual people’s lives.