When I decided to study abroad in Australia, I figured I wouldn’t experience much culture shock. Aside from the fact that Australians drive on the other side of the road and the seasons are reversed, I assumed it would be similar enough to the U.S. that I would smoothly adjust to the world around me. I was right. Sydney, Australia, has proven to be a very progressive, beautiful city in which I consider myself quite lucky to be a student. I have seen the whitest sand beach in the world, petted wild kangaroos and gone on a boat cruise in the Sydney Harbour past the iconic opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I have gone skydiving, white water rafting and scuba diving. There are two things that I haven’t seen since being here, however: my home and my mother.
I hail from Duxbury, Massachusetts, a suburban community very similar to the town of Wellesley and only 45 minutes south of Wellesley College. I lived at home all my life, went to my local public high school and didn’t have to travel far to go to college. With that level of proximity, I probably saw my mom twice a week while studying at Wellesley. I am a student athlete on the field hockey team, so we can excuse my mom’s frequent visits as a desire to see her daughter play the sport she loves, but she and I both know that I would be seeing her just as often, if not more often, if I were not on a sports team. I am the only girl in my family, so my mom and I have always been allies, confidants and best friends. I would not change a thing about our relationship.
Leaving the comfort of the small bubble between my home and Wellesley was something I looked forward to when I went abroad, however, it was something I was also very nervous about. It was pretty much the same way I felt about going skydiving. I was nervous and excited before I left the ground, and as soon as I was up in the plane, I knew there was no turning back. With butterflies in my stomach, I made the leap into Aussie, in more than one way. I’ve always been very independent, but I never really had the chance to stand on my own and grow through that independence while I was in Massachusetts.
Now, I’m in a huge city on the other side of the world, marching to the beat of my own drum. Sure, I had some independence at Wellesley, but if I ever needed anything my mom would definitely be there. Now that I am here, I have to wait for the time zones to align for an appropriate time to call, and I only talk to my mom about issues after they have already been handled so that she doesn’t have to worry about me from thousands of thousands miles away.
I got away from home last summer when I lived at MIT, but I still saw my family every weekend when I went with my friends to Cape Cod. The separation from my family that I am currently experiencing has probably been the most jarring, but also the most necessary, aspect of my experience on the other side of the world. I can’t go home to spend a night in my own bed or for a home-cooked meal, I can’t meet my parents out for dinner on a random Wednesday night and I can barely make an unplanned phone call to them due to the drastic time difference. I miss my family, as most students who go abroad do, but I needed this separation. I am not texting my mom every single time I have a question about cooking or what I should say to a doctor. I am finding myself and further developing my personal accountability.
I suppose you could call this culture shock, in its own niche way, but I am going to call it growing up. If I had it my way, I would be able to call my family at the drop of a hat, but life, particularly life on the other side of the world, doesn’t always abide by what you want. This has proven to truly be the best thing in the world for me. I have been close to my family for my entire college experience and am finally experiencing life almost completely independently. Who knew it would take traveling to another hemisphere for me to fully encounter that?