Not Gonna Lie

Eien Sykes Bidwell University of Wollongong, Australia


March 27, 2015

Alright. So I said that this week I was going to be honest and let you know that everything hasn't been great. It has been really rough to have to start over somewhere new with no friends, no roommate (for my first few days), and really, no one there for you. We were just dropped off at our residential colleges and left to take care of ourselves. I mean, we are adults, but it's still a hard transition.

The first few days there were a lot of introductions. Everyone wanted to introduce themselves and shake your hand and since we got there late, we had to catch up. Everyone seemed to already know each other by the time we arrived, but most everyone was also very understanding of how hard it was for our American group to come in late. I was approached by one of the SRs and invited to attend a movie night, but she kind of abandoned me in someone else's room and I ended up having this really nice talk about American verses Australian politics. As I was walking back to my room, the last introduction of the night was from this guy, and as soon as he heard my name he said, “So you're transgender, right?” I was taken aback, but I wasn't sure how to feel. I mean, apparently it had gotten around that I was trans, but was it such a bad thing? It skipped a lot of explaining.

I really can't remember how most days went after that. It's a blur of events and classes, but I know it has been hard and I very quickly had to build a support network. I talked to Disability Services and set up for accommodations, but it was tough having to relive some of my worst moments with someone I had never met. I also talked to a counselor, which was better because she focused on what was presently going on. The most recent break down was caused by going out to one of these big parties for the whole college. But I've gone around and met many of the SRs, I've made good friends with the lady in charge of the college, and I have made some friends that I trust enough to rant to when the need arises.

It definitely hasn't been easy, but I think the big thing is putting yourself out there. You have to trust some people and open up to them to discover if they're resources for the future. If I hadn't gone around to the SRs, I wouldn't have been able to find out who I trusted enough to talk to later. If I hadn't just came out and warned the wonderful lady in charge of everything that I may freak out, then I wouldn't have gotten her number for emergencies. If I hadn't opened up to my new friends then I wouldn't have anyone to go to when I just didn't want to be alone. Some days are definitely harder than others, and there are decisions to be made about who is the best resource for the current events, but it helps that I have a network and I can spread grievances among a group rather than keeping it to myself.

So I guess what I want to say about all this is that it has been a hard 5 weeks, but I'm still working hard to make this a great experience. It has been about not giving up, not settling for being alone when I'm upset, getting up and getting out of my room to scour the college for people to talk to. If you put yourself out there and push to make connections then you will find that its a whole lot easier to be abroad. I hope someone finds this helpful. It's not impossible to go abroad, even when you think the world is against you. It can be a life changing experience if you really try to make it one. Work hard, push through the anxiety, and make it abroad. No retreat, no surrender.