Mathew Ramsay is an official CAPA blogger/vlogger for summer 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World, sometimes including short video snippets. A political science major and economics minor at Morehouse College, he is studying abroad in Sydney this term.
In his first post, Matthew shares his motivation and inspiration for studying abroad and his pre-departure thoughts as he prepares for for the long flight to Australia.
What causes one to leave their home country and venture into the vast unknown of this world? Home is always comfortable, familiar. But, this is exactly what I am trying to escape from. Why? Because I believe home often confines you to a box of complacency and unawareness. I try to challenge myself to step out of this box from time to time. What scares and frustrates me the most is when it becomes increasingly difficult to do so. It's sometimes important to put oneself in uncomfortable situations or stumble upon a new discovery whether it be material or intangible.
Roughly two years ago I began exposing myself to a number of international media outlets. Hearing daily BBC radio reports and a number of other programs drastically improved my understanding of world events, cultures, issues. But above all else I began to develop this weird sense of awareness for the great unknown. Growing up in America, I carried the same naïve mentality that so many of my fellow countrymen have thinking “this is the best there is” and a trip abroad would more than anything be like stepping down off Mount Olympus to observe what “everyone else” is up to. I have since abandoned such thoughts. I now carry this strange hunger to understand the world I live in through unassuming eyes.
Many close friends have had the chance to travel abroad in the past year and this has also made an impression on me. Just like a dark tan after a long summer I can visibly see the change in their perspective and such is reflected in our conversations and newfound interests. After finishing my second year of undergrad, I just knew I had to travel internationally. How I was going to do to it I wasn’t sure. But being that I am a student, studying abroad seemed to be the best option. I did my research, found a program (CAPA!), and selected the gleaming city of Sydney as my first destination abroad.
Australia was an easy choice for me given the years I spent watching Steve Irwin on the Animal Planet network as a kid, captivated by his wrestling matches with massive crocodiles and the frontier-like character of the land itself. However, my preconceived notions about this continent have already changed as I prepare for my journey there in a few days. To my dismay, the sheer size of Australia will make it difficult to see a wide variety of the landscape in the six weeks I will be there. And I was surprised to find that I will not be able to rent, or “hire” as they say in Aussie land, a jet ski because they are banned in Sydney Harbor! Despite this, I am looking forward to my brief residency in the largest city on the island. Living in a city near water will be refreshing since I’ve resided in the city of Atlanta (which is ridiculously landlocked) for the past three years now.
I can tell you, as far as adventures go, I have very few apprehensions when it comes to this trip. I have been warned by every single individual I inform about my upcoming travel to watch out for the spiders, snakes, and maritime monsters and will keep a watchful eye! I have a good sense of direction so in this aspect I am confident in my ability to navigate the city, although the sheer enormity of it all is a bit daunting. These last few days before my grueling 14hr flight are flying by. My bags are packed and I have checked, double checked, and tripled checked to make sure I don’t leave any essentials behind.
But in these last few days I struggle to pack my thoughts neatly in my head and mentally prepare for this journey. Unlike a sea voyage where the rhythm of the ocean offers one an easy path to mediation and reflection, I will be whisked away on a beastly machine, hastily flown across an ocean and dropped in an unfamiliar city halfway across the global in a totally different season of the year. I suppose there is not much one can do to prepare mentally anyways in this regard so, jetlag and all, I cannot wait for that moment when I wake up, walk out of my apartment, gaze at the surrounding panoramic and find myself in Sydney, Australia.