It’s been a year already?!

I hope you appreciate that slice of The Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Juicy’, it took me ages to work out how to do that. It actually reveals a deep suspicion i’ve had for a while now – did I really study abroad? Or was it all a dream?!

It’s been so long since I left for Australia. After a year it seems almost as if I never really went. To have such an intense, unique experience and then almost suddenly leave it behind for your life to continue back home would have anybody questioning what on earth just happened. (Side note; honestly on this freezing cold November afternoon i’m starting to question whether the sun was part of this study abroad dream. Here, in Manchester, I can definitively say that the sun does not exist. I didn’t realise as I flew out of Brisbane airport I would be waving goodbye to both Australia and the SUN). So, in a way I guess studying abroad is dreamlike. For a long time it’s the only thing on your mind. There is preparation, scheduling, excitement and sheer panic for a lot of the time leading up to it. Then the actual experience is intense and fleeting. Finally as if waking up from a dream, life resumes at home. You’re left thinking ‘wow that was pretty cool’, and then dive back in to the business of English life and dreaded final year projects. In this sense the experience builds a degree of mental resilience – it’s a lot to come out of being abroad and carry on studying.

The aftermath of studying abroad isn’t all that gloomy though. There are loads things that have come out of it. For me, i’ve been inspired to travel so much more. It’s mental how flying out to a foreign country once on your own makes you realise how much freedom you have. Just this summer I visited some Dutch friends in Amsterdam that I met in Brisbane (big up foreign friends and free overseas accommodation 😉 ). Afterwards I spent 2 weeks driving around the entire coast of Ireland in a camper with 4 other guys. This is a super corny thought but the good times aren’t over when you come home – it’s accurate to say studying abroad is a catalyst for even more crazy adventures later.

Ireland1
Silly times climbing the tallest mountain (Carrauntoohil) in Ireland – we left way too late & got lost in the dark trying to get back

My aim in this post isn’t to villainize England. Coming home is necessary! However I think the ‘dreamlike’ nature of going abroad resonates with a lot of the people that have studied abroad themselves. To me it was like a roller-coaster that I decided to just dive off at the end. Theoretically I could have stayed on that ride forever and not bought a return ticket, to become some sort of surfer hermit and live out my days in a beach hut. As much fun as that might’ve been I, unfortunately, had a million good reasons to come home.

Fear not fellow travellers, this isn’t the first and last time we experience the amazingness that is study abroad. It was not some one off dream. There is literally the world to explore and SO much time to do it!

79490286_2708178512574245_679956403141476352_n
That’s definitely the back of my head in Australia – we can confirm it was not a dream

Brisbane’s infamous 22 person house

“Wow – that must be pretty crazy” is the standard response I get when I tell people i’ve been living in the 22 person house known as ‘Westella’ for the past few months. Honestly, pretty crazy is not a good enough description of the place – a more accurate description would perhaps be beautifully berserk. This post is a tribute to my experience in an international shared house and will hopefully encourage those considering to live abroad in the future.

44281354_1175217862632315_7883293582818279424_n.jpg
A few housemates and I having a fire on one of the rare beaches where it’s legal

I’d say I was extremely lucky in finding out about Westella. Most of us that live here discovered it by word on the street; after attending a few study abroad sessions you would be approached by a returned student like “Ay pssst, there’s this accomodation that I think you would be interested in”. One of my Italian housemates found the place by zooming into the city on google maps and picking the first accommodation he saw (not sure i’d recommend). The website was not at all convincing (have a gander and see why: http://www.westendstudentaccommodation.com), but considering the phenomenal dent the other accommodation options would leave in my student loan, and after a few more recommendations by other students, I decided to go for it nonetheless.

I travelled to Australia knowing no one, though was lucky enough to have Jonno, an Australian contact to pick me up from the airport (I forgot to sign up for the university provided pick up anyway – oops). It being Australia and all, the first thing I was greeted with as I walked up to the door was a MASSIVE spider sitting right outside the window of my room. Along with the spider I have 3 housemates from France, 2 English, 4 Irish, 2 Germans, 2 Danish, 1 Dutch, 3 Italians, 1 Australian, 1 Pakistani and 1 ghost – because every student house has at least one. I did not expect to come to Australia and meet so many Europeans. Luckily all of them speak English, decently enough, and they soon became like a family to me. In the short time of only 3 months I genuinely feel I have made some lifelong friends living here.

The house itself is located in an area called West End, which could be compared to the likes of Manchester’s Fallowfield. We have a nice local kebab shop and supermarket, it’s quite a dodgy area and is a bus (and ferry) ride from university.

If you are planning on moving into a shared house and expecting to be able to focus longer than 5 minutes I would check to see if there are any coffee shops or libraries nearby. I will admit that personally, the noise people make in the house isn’t distracting in itself. I instead rise up to the challenge of being even noisier.

From what i’ve experienced you can make anywhere feel like home. Moving abroad is a brave thing to do and the first step is definitely the hardest. As long as you take that big step and embrace the quirkiness of wherever you end up, moving abroad is completely worth it.