My first day back in the United States— Saturday, the 14th of November— was tiring. I had spent a sleepless Wednesday night and Thursday morning editing a video to show at a school presentation early Thursday evening. I did not get to sleep until midnight on Thursday, and with the graces of my body’s alert systems going off, I woke up with a start at 3:00 AM to begin packing for my 11:00 AM flight that Friday morning out of Australia. It was perhaps five hours until departure, so I was glad to have woken up at 3:00 AM and not later. After a twenty-one hour flight back home, I settled into bed early at 10:30 PM, which is my norm in college. Despite my extreme sleep deprivation, I awoke at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning, which was pretty early for someone who averaged five hours of sleep each night for the past few days. Ten and a half hours of sleep in total on my first night home. Not too bad for a first night’s sleep.
After my full night’s sleep, I could finally think about the changes that had happened in my first few hours back in the U.S., and I found the memories coming back bit by bit. I could remember back to Friday night, as I got off the plane and feeling firmly attached to familiar ground. Around me were Dunkin Donuts, an abundance of Americans, and even a T fare machine, which is the bus and train public transportation here in Boston. Having my T card on hand, I used the machine to check the fare on my card — $4.20— perfect for two bus rides. I had used a different fare machine for the last three months to travel on Australia’s transportation system, Translink. That thought brought me feelings about the T fare machine that were oddly similar, but not quite the same. I had a sense of unease that I did not quite fit in in a place I had once been comfortable. But that feeling went away when I knew that for certain, I was back where I had started.
I stepped outside the airport terminal into a windy and late fall evening. After spending some time looking out for signs of a bus that would take me towards inner Boston, I realized that I was still wearing my shorts in mid-40˚F weather. I was clearly underestimating the weather in Boston at this time of the year. I put on a pair of rain pants to warm my legs up while I waited for the bus. I looked down at my smartphone and it read 4:50 PM. The sun had already set in Boston, and again, that was unfamiliar. The sun sets in Brisbane around 6:00 PM this time of the year during their long days of spring. It was truly a bipolar change going from Brisbane’s warm long days and short nights to Boston’s wintery short days and long nights.
I took the Silver Line express back home to Copley Square, enjoying the company of a self-depreciating bus driver while listening in one ear to Kiss 108, a music radio station in Boston. The bus drove in the right lane, which was not actually as jarring as when I first arrived in Australia and experienced a bus driving in the left lane. I walked the rest of the way home, suitcase, duffel bag, backpack and all. Walking back home, I was surprised that I could cross the roads without getting hit. Though I did look the wrong way for upcoming traffic a couple of times before I started crossing the street. I had to concentrate on not drifting to the left side of the pedestrian path, which had become natural in the three months in Australia.
And so that was my first night back from Australia, including the nights leading up to my arrival in the U.S.. I am definitely happy to have a break from a regimented schedule of classes, projects, and exams at University of Queensland. Now, after a week of being back in the U.S., I am starting to feel fully adjusted to living back at home. Looking forward, I have decided to return to learning Mandarin, a language I have studied in my childhood. I have picked up a winter job at the Frog Pond as a skate guard, something that will keep me active until I return back to college. I have also grown to have stronger culinary interests from taking food classes in Brisbane, made possible by a Student Initiatives Fund grant from my college. In the present, I am enjoying home-cooked traditional Cantonese-style dishes, which has helped me return to a more simple carb and vegetable diet.
Memories of presenting a day’s worth of research on Stradbroke Island, getting caught in that deluge of rain that ruined my laptop, daily hikes through Lamington and Girraween, and the feeling of finishing a four day research project on the Great Barrier Reef are memories of a lifetime. With these experiences I have had abroad in Australia, I already feel that I have a stronger background in my biology major. I will miss the 31 students and 9 staff from my study abroad program. I will miss the great food that my host family always made for dinner around the TV set, and scrumptious “snags” on white bread.
This has been my semester abroad in Brisbane, Australia. Cheers to change and growing up in today’s modern world.