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Redefining Home: A Reflection on a Semester Abroad in Sydney

Apr 27, 2016 5:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Spring2016_From_Kisha_PAtel_-_Official_CAPA_Blogger_Image.jpegKisha Patel has been an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A political science and gender/women's studies major at Ursinus College, she has been studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

This is Kisha's last post as a CAPA blogger, a reflection on what it's like to be home after a semester in Oz and all that she learned along the way. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Kisha. We wish you the best!

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Greetings from… home?

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I’ve been home for a few days and I still feel so unsettled. Home doesn’t quite feel like home yet. I left the airport and expected to see the busy streets of Sydney and instead I saw trees and grass, which I haven’t really seen in four months. I landed at Reagan Airport in DC and as I was driving away, I could see the Washington DC monuments in the distance. Seeing the Washington monument and the Capitol building is when it really hit me that I wasn’t in Sydney anymore, and I didn’t like it.

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Photo: Definitely not my central Sydney apartment complex anymore

I’ve always been unsettled about where home actually is. I moved around yearly growing up and so when people would ask me where I am from, I don’t know what to say. Eventually, when I went off to college, that town became home… until I went to Sydney. Sydney stole a place in my heart and a spot called home.

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If I haven’t said it enough, studying abroad was the best decision I ever made. Living abroad changes you, for the best.

Australia has a culture that is very different from ours in America. It’s slower-paced, but it works that way. On our first day of orientation, CAPA staff told us that in Australia, they work to live not live to work like Americans. I didn’t quite understand that then, but now I really do. I interned with a law firm, so they did work a little harder and later hours but the work environment was much more comfortable and relaxed than in America. I also found that Sydneysiders are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. I never felt so safe walking down a street alone in a major city than I did in Sydney. And while I still don’t understand the appeal of Vegemite, I packed multiple boxes of Tim Tams to bring back to the States with me.

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I also think my independence grew tremendously while abroad. I go to a VERY small private school which we often jokingly call a “bubble”. But it is true; it is a bubble. We all live on a tiny campus where we don’t have to take public transportation or even walk more than five steps anywhere; we have meal plans, and a cleaning service team who cleans our living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms. The only money I had to save was for my weekend plans because everything was included and paid for on the manicured lawns of my private college. Living in Sydney was NOT like that. I suddenly had to balance my budget. I had to check bus and train schedules to get to work and class on time. I had to be out 9-5 and then come home and cook myself dinner. I had to grocery shop and I had to clean. I should have already been doing all of this, of course, and I was capable of doing it, but it was quite a growing moment to realize that you have to balance your life and your money.

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Everyone should travel abroad once in their lifetime. I think that even America is a bubble to us. We are comfortable living in our luxury and privilege and traveling abroad really checks that. Traveling abroad shows you how the rest of the world lives and how they feel about America. I highly encourage traveling around while you are studying to less privileged areas as well (see my post about Bali).

If you still aren’t sold yet, check out my post on 10 things I learned while abroad. If you are sold, check out my post on advice to future study abroad students!

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Photo: Beach reminding me on my last weekend in Sydney, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I am so thankful to CAPA for this experience. CAPA emphasizes "personalized learning, cultural engagement, and academic rigor" and that is exactly what they gave me. I got personalized learning through my academic interests by being able to intern at a law firm in Sydney, which is exactly the track I want to be on. I got cultural engagement through the many My Global Education and program events hosted by CAPA. I got academic rigor through my wonderful classes.  

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Photo: Receiving the CAPA Record of Achievement

I truly can’t believe this experience happened, much less that it is over. If you had told me a year ago, that I would have studied and interned in Sydney, that I would have gone skydiving over the Great Barrier Reef, I would have ridden elephants in Bali, or that my entire life was about to change, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Studying abroad was 100% the best thing I have ever done. It was terrifying, stressful, fun, happy, educational, and full of joy. I learned to live responsibly on my own. I learned how to work in an international office where I had little previous background knowledge. I learned about Australia and its colored and ripped history of pride and hurt. Ultimately, I learned about myself, who I am, who I want to be and what it is in life that I want. These four mouths truly changed my entire life and perspective.

Thank you to Ursinus, the lovely study abroad faculty, my advisors and my professors for supporting me through this decision and my time here. Thank you to my friends who continued to be amazing while 10,000 miles away anytime I was feeling down or wanted to share a happy moment. Thank you CAPA for this program full of enrichment and cultural engagement. Finally, thank you to my number one supporters - mom and dad - for letting me do this and always supporting my dreams.

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I have really enjoyed blogging for CAPA and getting to reflect on my time and experiences in Sydney weekly.

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Photo: Representing Ursinus throughout my time abroad!

I want to end my post on a quote given to us at our farewell dinner by the CAPA Sydney staff:

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

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Cheers Mate!

Thanks Kisha!

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers