My name is Katherine, and I am a second-year Communication and Leadership major originally from San Antonio, Texas. I have been meaning to check in with y’all for a while now, but I’m glad so much time has passed since my time in Australia because it has allowed me to process and truly put into perspective the events that unfolded shortly after my last post.
A week after I expressed my financial concerns on the blog, I was informed by Texas Global that the program had been canceled and I was to come home immediately. Money quickly became the least of my concerns.
I remember the exact moment I read the email: in the rose garden of my residential college, admiring the witty cardboard signs my new friends had crafted for the UniMelb Climate Strike. I remember reading the words ‘return home’ out loud and my Aussie friends trying their best to empathize, even though they weren’t the ones having to go so soon. I went with them to the climate strike, desperately trying to reject the idea of leaving so soon, but the day was blurry and long. Hours of ambiguity and denial pass as slowly as the progress of Australian environmentalists.
I know it seems melodramatic to react this way. Let’s face it: being forced away from studying abroad into a safe quarantine with my suburban family is about as first world a problem as it gets. At the time, COVID-19 had just been declared a pandemic, and in the shelter of Australian student life, the urgency of the virus was distant to all of us. Frankly, it felt like I was being extracted from a life I worked so hard to build for no good reason.
To anyone considering studying abroad in Australia, I have one story to convince you. My flight from Melbourne to LAX departed at 10:30 on a Wednesday morning, which meant a 7:30 am arrival at the airport, 6:30 am car trip, and 6am wake-up. Just like Americans, Australian college students despise waking up before 11am.
Yet, in my time of need, two friends, whom I had only known for three weeks, volunteered to wake up at that ungodly hour to drive me to the airport. They saw in my eyes how hard it was for me to go and tried their best to ease my pain with witty banter and chocolate frogs to distract.
It wasn’t until I unwrapped my chocolate frog gift in Gate 46 of Terminal B that I fully understood what Aussies call ‘mateship’. It’s showing up for those you care about without hesitation, in any way they need. It’s not knowing someone for a long time but knowing their character. It’s a connection that I have only experienced in Melbourne because American culture might lack the material to create such a feeling, or maybe I lacked the capacity to feel that way until coming here.
My trip to the airport taught me that no matter how long you are here, you can experience the difference between friendship and mateship, and that’s reason enough to fly across the globe.
It is almost impossible not to think about what could have been had I experienced the full semester. The connections just beginning to form could have grown into lifelong friendships rather than merely Instagram mutuals. I had just tried out for my college tennis team the day before everything changed; perhaps I could have made the list. Maybe I could have picked up a touch of the accent if I had only stayed a bit longer.