It has been just over two weeks since I arrived in Australia, and I now feel that I have officially settled into my new lifestyle. I have tasted Vegemite, seen my first giant spider, fought Sydney's humidity, and have even been chased by a kangaroo. These two weeks have been a whirlwind of culture shock and pure joy as I have learned what it means to be a uni student in Bathurst.
First of all, travel is very routine here. I have met many students who regularly travel home to work and visit family on the weekends, or choose to commute from out of town. This is very good news for me, because several invitations to visit other cities have been extended to me (which I fully intend to accept). In celebration of all the travel I have to look forward to, here is a photo of me on my last leg of travel to Bathurst, buried in luggage and wearing clothes that are much too warm for the humidity outside.
The second thing I have learned is that everyone is your friend. The Aussie culture has a heavy emphasis on extending yourself to one another, and expecting nothing in return. I have been shown nothing but kindness since touching down in the airport. Between my housemates (all 20 of them) offering to drive me to the shops, and a stranger inviting me to do a calisthenics workout in the park with him (which I accepted), I have found it more than easy to get along here. My housemates have been especially generous and have fully adopted me in as one of the two token exchange students for the house. I am with them nonstop between grocery shopping, studying, doing laundry, and going out. Quick tip: nearly all the events that students attend are themed, so don't be surprised if you change from a toga to full Hawaiian garb to a school uniform in the course of a week - I did.
Finally, I have learned to roll with the punches of learning a new dialect of English, orienting myself with a new town, and developing an understanding of the Australian culture. I have had to repeat myself and ask others to do the same more than ever before, but it has been such an enriching experience to laugh at the differences in slang and pronunciation and widen my vocabulary. Thankfully, Bathurst is a friendly town and has been so patient as I learn. It is also a gorgeous town, and I am lucky enough to have a breathtaking view right out my back door (see below!). To wrap it all up, Bathurst is home to a wide variety of Australians who have been drawn to the uni. I have met individuals from Newcastle to Perth, and have been able to broaden my geographical and cultural understanding of the country.
Happiness is just the beginning of how I feel to finally be here. It is both relieving and overwhelming to be reaping the results of all of the work required to study abroad. Between visas and interviews and meetings and research, I have been working towards this moment for a year. It is incredibly comforting to be settled in and still confident that this was the right choice for me. The cherry on top is knowing that I still have months to soak all of it in.