Sara Martin is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A biological sciences major, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester through the custom program at the University of California, Davis.
In this week's post, Sara takes some time to reflect on her current situation in Sydney, how life Australia compares to life back home in the US and how her perspective has changed while studying abroad.
Coming up on the last week of the program has given me a strong sense of melancholy. Over the past few days, the reality that I will be leaving Australia has started to sink in and there is an overwhelming feeling to pack each day with anything I might regret not doing. Every day I speak with my flatmates who are in the program and none of us feel like we had enough time to see all that Australia has to offer. I remember what my dad kept telling me, “As soon as you adjust to the way of life there, it will be time to leave.” Well, Dad, you were right (I bet you never thought you would hear me say that, huh?).
Love and Acceptance
Before entering the program, I had very mixed feelings about living with my classmates. On the one hand, they would always BE there; on the other hand, they would always be THERE. However, being around such loving individuals has not only helped force me out of my comfortable shell, but it has also taught me what pure acceptance feels like. I think that blindly meeting this random group of people took off a lot of pressure to make a “good” impression since I wouldn’t really ever have to see them again if I didn’t want to. For this reason, I have expressed more of my true self with my flatmates and other classmates than I would have with anyone other than my best friend. The result was empowering; I never thought I could feel even this comfortable in my own skin.
Photo: Connecting here and there
Every time one of my coworkers asks how I’ve enjoyed my stay or if I’m ready to go home, I get choked up and just think “I’m not ready; don’t make me leave”. Not only do I feel attached to this beautiful city, but with all of the chaos going since the US presidential election, it would be a dream-come-true if I could simply sink my roots into Australia. Although the country is a little behind the US by way of passed legislation for marriage equality and other LGBTQIA rights, the rate of violent hate crimes is almost nonexistent when compared with that of the US.
Past and Present
There is much to learn about the shifts in human rights which led to Australia’s current society. Many of these events appear to follow a similar pattern to that of the US. Another coinciding phenomenon is the revolution for fair treatment of indigenous peoples. Just as the British colonized the US, they swooped in faster than magpies in the 1700s to take over a land which once had a rich and beautiful history. Again, the colonizers treated the first people as animals more so than humans and would kill them, enslave them, and move them around as if they were cattle. This poor treatment went on for over 200 years and although some prejudice still lingers in corners of the population, a majority of the Australian people are recognizing that they should be remorseful or at least grateful for the use of the land. I wish I could say that the US was still moving in a forward direction like Australia with actively trying to make up for the poor treatment of the indigenous people’s ancestors.
A Solemn Understanding
While I will (hopefully) never know the same pain of losing friends or family to the senseless violence of hate groups, I am starting to understand what it might have been like for human rights activists over the years. Each time we go around with one of the historians or native people and hear their take on Australia’s history, I can’t help but connect it with what is going on back home. Up until recent years, I had been blind to the present struggles caused by institutionalized racism. Furthermore, society in the US is often further distanced from the truth by learning about it through textbooks rather than personal accounts.
The Power of Perspective
Through listening to many versions of the “same stories” about Australia’s history, I have finally learned to listen for the suppressed voices. The realization that I had been so selfishly blind to the very real, and oftentimes life threatening, discrimination that millions of people still endure every day in the US is making me question everything I thought I knew. These emotionally draining questions left me at a loss for words. I appreciated the chance to contemplate global issues while lying in the red room of Tatsuo Miyajima’s exhibition “Connect with Everything”. Even something as mundane as a digital number became beautiful while “twinkling” on the ceiling like stars which indicates how differently things can appear when viewed from another perspective.
Sara's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.