© April Meads, 2016
“Why would you want to go to Australia?? Everything there wants to kill you!”
That’s the most popular question I was asked when I told people I was going to study abroad in Australia. Yes, Australia is the home of most of the deadliest spiders and snakes and basically everything BUT there’s also kangaroos and koalas and people with cool accents so it balances out right?
Despite all the scary facts attached with those deadly animals, I was stoked for the day my plane left. I talked about it 75% of the time, tweeted about it 90% of the time and thought about it 99% of the time. It might have gotten annoying to some people, but I was excited, what can I say?
February 19, 2016 finally came around. After 11.5 months of waiting, I woke up that morning and it didn’t feel real. Actually, no matter how much I talked about it during that year of waiting, it never felt real. It wasn’t until I was going through security at Portland International Airport that it sunk in and I thought “Holy crap I’m going to Australia.”
I was pretty scared to leave: I had never left the United States, never flown alone and the farthest I had flown was to California on a 3 hour flight. I’m quite the homebody also, so this was a HUGE step for me.
But here I was, in the airport with packed suitcases with my family, taking the typical passport photo for Instagram and Facebook (once I found my temporarily misplaced passport), saying goodbye and walking to security.
My first flight was from PDX to Vancouver, Canada. The flight was short, just 58 minutes, but I’m glad it was. The plane was so tiny and so shaky that I almost regret going on this trip all together.
From there, I had a 14 hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. I casually walked through the Canada airport while looking for my next gate, thinking I had two hours between flights. But once I arrived to my gate it turned out I had about 30 minutes, not two hours. In other words, I barely made it to my gate.
That long, dreaded flight was exactly how it would seem: DREADFUL. There wasn’t much turbulence, I didn’t sit next to anyone smelly (I didn’t sit next to anyone, actually) but my butt was asleep basically the whole time, no matter how many times I stood up and walked around. After my first meal on the plane, about 30 minutes into the flight, I got really nauseous and light headed and thought I was going to puke all over the old man in front of me. Luckily, that passed and was soon able to get comfortable and sleep.
PSYCH! I couldn’t sleep. I was awake for roughly 13 hours of the 14 hour flight, which isn’t as fun as it sounds. I watched three movies, finished my book I had started on my first flight, eaten ALL the snacks I packed, people watched and basically waited till we landed in NZ.
Weird thing about that flight was that I arrived in NZ at 4am on February 21 but I left Portland on February 19, meaning February 20 didn’t exist for me this year. Such a weird concept!
Anyway, I was able to connect to the free wifi server that only gave me 10 free minutes. Although that was enough to touch base with my family and let them know I was doing okay, as well as check out Portland Trail Blazer highlights from their awesome win against Golden State!
From there, I had one last flight until I was finally in Australia that was four hours. Once again, I was unable to sleep so I watched another movie and started a new book.
23 hours from the time I left Portland, I was in Australia at last. However, the stress just got worse once I realized I still had to go through customs. I had never done this before, what am I supposed to do? What if I have something in my bags that’s not allowed in the country? I was silently freaking out. That is, until I met a girl who happened to also be studying at Deakin with me, also from the United States. We proceeded together and got through customs easily.
We found our ride from the airport to our living accommodations and we were soon on our way. We were on a bus with a few other people from the U.S. and we talked about all the fun things we wanted to do while we were here.
Once I was dropped off at the student village with my suitcases, I checked in a immediately met my very friendly RL and her boyfriend, who helped me carry my suitcases to my room. I was faced with an empty bedroom. I sat on my bed and kind of freaked out a little bit. I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. I had no idea where I was, my phone was useless so I couldn’t contact my family, I had no food, I had no towels for a shower. I had no idea how I was going to survive four months here.
Luckily, I ran into another friendly Australian down in the kitchen who offered to let me tag along with her to go grocery shopping. I had no idea what to buy though, so I bought the most random things that looked like what I would get back home.
Australia’s version of Rice Krispies. They taste exactly the same so this has become a comfort meal.
I spent the rest of the day trying to unpack and meet some people in my block. I ate dinner with a few Aussies and other international students, and by dinner I mean I had some bread with tasteless peanut butter lathered onto it. However, after I took a shower I only unpacked one outfit, which was my pajamas, and I got into bed. It had been more than 24 hours since I slept.
I had to get up at 6am the next morning to leave for our international student beach welcome and the thought of that made me even more tired.
It was 7pm. I almost fell asleep on the toilet because I was so physically, mentally and emotionally drained so I decided it was bedtime. My bed was so comfortable and laying down felt so good that my eyes almost started watering. I was asleep within seconds.
Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time for me to get up.
Coming soon: The first week in Australia.