Leaving the familiarity, security, and comforts of home may sound daunting for some. But for others, it’s a new and exciting adventure waiting to unfold. Those with the privilege and luxury to fly off to foreign countries or study overseas would be able to relate to the feeling well. You would feel a burning excitement as you venture off into new surroundings, but at the same time you would sometimes long for the physical and emotional intimacy of your family.
As a nineteen-year old oblivious to the world outside my tropical home, Indonesia, I finally flew abroad as a part of a dual-degree international program from Universitas Indonesia. After finishing the first four semesters in Indonesia, I decided to complete the remaining three in the Queensland University in Brisbane, Australia. The sunshine state of Queensland is the home to some of Australia’s best beaches, sceneries, people, and has overall been boasted as being ‘more hip’ than the neighboring cities. At that time, I had not realized that residing in Brisbane for a year and a half of my transitional, youthful years would be full of bittersweet memories.
Although my time abroad was shorter than my peers whose four years were spent mostly abroad, moving away from my family still changed me for the better. Spending one-and-a-half year abroad changed the way I see everything – the way I see and seize freedom, how independence could easily be taken for granted, and how I see myself as an individual. Studying abroad taught me that your occasional inferiority complex shouldn’t hinder you from excelling in your courses and getting appreciation from your professors. I learned that everyone in college have the same struggles, challenges, and worries as you do – that they are all trying to juggle their part time jobs, their courses, and their personal life all at once. But most importantly, I also learned that it’s sometimes okay to feel distant to your families and friends back home. I would usually check up on my family to let them know that everything is in order. On some days, the routine would feel a little mundane and I would wish I were just physically closer to them. There were times where I would think about of all the things I’ve missed out back home – my family, my friends, the birthdays, and the weddings I missed out, the family trips I could not join, and the weekend getaways and hangouts I experience only through my phone and laptop screens. I found myself comparing my memories and stories from where I am in Brisbane to everyone else’s back home. Sometimes, you just cannot help but forcefully attempt to squeeze yourself into their frames of life. Being far apart gave me a different perspective of life. I am constantly reminding myself that it is okay to be able to make wonderful memories of my own in a foreign place apart from everyone else.
Everyone tells you that moving abroad changes you – you would pick up habits you would never have thought of back in your home country, do activities outside of your comfort zones, and learn to become better and make wiser decisions. They tell you it would be hard at first but once you get into the rhythm and rhyme of living alone, you would never want to live life any other ways. You would find yourself enjoying your own company because there’s so much to cherish and to ponder about. You would find yourself feeling extra grateful for the time you have and the time you ironically waste for productive activities. I often found myself strolling around Southbank, paying visits to GOMA and the Queensland Art Gallery and sometimes, I would snag a quick brunch over at West End or Paddington, realizing that I might have picked up a preference in coffee and some favorite meal orders. Some weekends would be spent meandering around the markets at Davies Park enjoying live acoustics, fresh produce, and beautiful natives and other blooms available for a later flower arrangement session at my humble abode. Despite the busy schedule at university with tutorial classes and lectures in between, I would always look forward to an afternoon runs, a messy mid-week cookout with your housemates, an impromptu drive out to Mount Tamborine, or a road trip.
Then, all of a sudden, time flashes before your eyes and the next thing you know, you’re packing all your clothes, selling all your furniture and putting down all your posters and frames because it is finally time for you to return home. The weekly long runs in Brisbane shed a new light on me. As I’m running past the majestic sunset and the beautiful reflection of the golden afternoon against the city skyline, I am bombarded by a heavy feeling and think that one day, this all would reside deeply in my mind, in my heart. Living in Australia taught me to appreciate life as it is. Nothing lasts forever so you might as well enjoy and live in the moment to the fullest.