February 5-7, 2017

What’s it like to leave everything I’ve known and loved for almost half a year on my own? I had received my acceptance letter to go on exchange in the spring semester of 2017 at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and was finally leaving. There was a heavy mixture of excitement and nervousness the days leading up to my departure. Even when I was saying goodbye to some of the most important people in my life, it was only starting to hit me then that I was leaving for a while. It felt odd to utter sentimental words of a farewell because although I knew I would miss them, how was it possible to mean those words completely when I couldn’t even believe that I was leaving.

When I got to the airport and was ready to leave, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to my parents without choking on my words. I was already missing going home to them with warmly cooked food ready on the table, having them listen to me talk all about my day, and embracing me in a hug. I also received a call from my sister and a friend before I boarded the plane, and it was comforting to chat with them during my last few moments in Canada.

During the first half of my flight, I sat by the window – two seats away from a huge Super Bowl fan, who exploded into cheers during every win on the quiet plane ride, and a seat away from a woman, who had her earphones plugged in and a book in her hand during the entire flight. Tired from staying up until 6am the night before (or morning of) due to last minute packing, I slept through my flight, staring down at the snow-covered train tracks in Vancouver and then at the boundless expanse of bright blue in between fluttering eyelids.

When I arrived in Los Angeles for my layover, walking from one building to the other to get through customs on my own was an experience in itself. I was surrounded by people of diverse culture and ethnicity – devout monks, nervous Chinese families, hippies in silver hair and eccentric wear, groups of black people, and CBCs like me. I wish I could have stayed in LA to explore some more, and I wondered where everyone was going.

My neighbours during the second half of my flight from LA to Australia were a friendly, elderly woman and a soon-to-be international Masters student from Mexico also going to Monash University. The plane ride was enjoyable. We each shared about how our destinations will shape our lives for the following days. I slept for half the time and then watched one and a half movies: The Great Gatsby (which I absolutely loved!) and Interstellar (that I have yet to finish). Meanwhile, I was bursting with curiosity to find out what the other side of the hemisphere looked like! It felt like the longest plane ride ever. It was both anticipation and the thought of being far away from home that made the distance feel far… As I held a cup of apple juice in my hand and the Mexican girl held a glass of wine in hers, we toasted to studying abroad in a new country, and before I knew it, I was looking out at a wide, open field of yellow grass and scattered Eucalyptus trees.

Dear Australia, you have been my dream since the beginning of my post-secondary years. I’m here – with mixed emotions of fear, excitement, anxiety, and anticipation – but I’m finally here. Here’s to five months of adventure in a country that will soon become my home.