Pre-departure thoughts

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia 

The genius of Kafkaesque bureaucracy lies in its ability to make you forget the reality of its true purpose. These past few weeks have been a frenzied mayhem of appointments, to do lists, amazon orders, online applications and visas (which, by the way, were so late to be cleared I really advise against waiting for your CofE before booking your flights, mine only came in a week ago and I am leaving next Friday; booking a flight to Australia 2 weeks in advance is bonkers). Do not underestimate the time investment that a year abroad begs-it does not end after your application or even when you’ve been given your place. I am due to leave in a fortnight now and feel no calmer nor clearer on what I am doing and yet nor do I feel much because more important right now is informing my bank I will be in Australia for a year, cancelling my phone contract, unlocking my phone or trying to wager some sort of deal in the purchasing of dollars following my negligent failure to do so prior to the Brexit referendum. To add insult to injury, not only has my political will and moral conception of justice been completely overruled for a grotesque belief that this island will thrive in its independence from the EU-but I must also literally dish out my savings to subsidise this weird transition. Rant aside, the list of errands goes on.

From a more optimistic standpoint, I think I am quite excited and yet I struggle to establish what I feel for something so abstract. I have been to university, I have been abroad and travelling, I have been to Asia (gap yah uh huh) but the concept of leaving home for a year for a country on the other side of the world who, rumour has it, is currently in a different season and one which accommodates downhill skiing, is somewhat incomprehensible. Nevertheless, as more plans take shape it feels a little easier to gauge a flavour of what might be awaiting my arrival in Melbourne. I have arranged to stay with a friend of my cousin’s who has kindly arranged to meet me from my 5am flight. This has actually significantly calmed my nerves; to have a friendly face and a nice home in which to dump my stuff and adjust to the time difference, might ease the impact of the emotional torture of leaving all I love for a year of solitude. After a couple nights I am then booked into a youth hostel recommended to me by a few friends called the Nunnery, implied by the name, it is indeed a converted convent with groovy rooms and a social vibe (or so I am told). It is here that I run out of further arrangements. My booking deposit is for 3 weeks, in case I really flop on the house hunting front but would really rather not be returning to a dorm room shared with 6 others after a day of lectures and tutorials. Otherwise, for just $2 a week…

The house hunt then will be my first significant hurdle, particularly in Melbourne where there simply is not enough accommodation to go round. I have already looked into alternative options, there is a scheme which arranges private housing near the campus (called Semester Australia) but they charge an audacious fee. There are halls, but similarly they do not come cheap and I have also heard it is not so much the done thing in Australia as in the UK. So, I have responsibly and deliberately done nothing to secure myself a home prior to arriving in the country. When the panic creeps in, I soothe myself with assurance that everyone seems to leave it until they arrive, at which point you are available for viewings, can get a sense of which area you might like to call your own (Fitzroy or Brunswick perhaps?) and being scammed for your money is far less likely. Until then, pray for me.

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