Last year, Della embarked on an unforgettable adventure Down Under. I had an opportunity to interview her and get first-hand details of her journey. I believe it was important to share her experience with others so that they too are encouraged to take a leap of faith and get to learn and experience beautiful things.
Below is the conversation I recorded.
“Then, I was by myself.”
My student exchange journey began on a fully packed night at Changi Airport. I had taken a ferry from my Indonesian hometown, Batam, and arrived in Singapore ready to embark on my journey to Newcastle, Australia.
“My parents stayed with me at the airport until 5 PM, after that, I was by myself.”
Taking a British Airways flight to Sydney, I remembered sitting in the lounge and thinking how expensive the ticket was. There was no turning back. With quiet determination and optimism, I boarded the plane on July 26. It was a long time coming and I had faced several challenges already, just to get here. I was supposed to be there by July 18th, but my visa hadn’t arrived by then. Because it took longer than expected, it left me hanging in Indonesia.”
Since the time I was a teenager in high school, I had wanted to go to Australia. Because of the pandemic, my plans to go to university there changed but the exchange programme offered me the opportunity to experience a different lifestyle and culture.
“Thankfully, God opened a way for me to be able to go there to study, though not in the city I was originally thinking of. I ended up going to Newcastle rather than Sydney, but it was worth it.”
After landing in Sydney and taking a two-hour ride to Newcastle, things were still not smooth sailing. “When I first arrived in Newcastle, the sky was getting dark and my property agent wasn’t responding, so I had to wait outside the house, sitting on the deck stairs in the cold darkness with my stomach rumbling with hunger. At that moment, it hit me that I was finally in my new battle.”
Despite all the challenges, I settled in. I allowed myself to change while also staying authentic to myself. I met my housemates who took me to look around the city, and others who introduced me to a local church and encouraged me to become involved in a community. Even when I was nervous in class, I found friendly and supportive lecturers and classmates.”
This adventure was something I will never forget despite all the challenges. Upon reflection I wouldn’t change a thing about the experience. Assimilating into a different culture was one of the biggest highlights of my journey.
“It opened my eyes to how not only people from other cultures live their lives but also how I could possibly live my life in a different setting. It helped me picture what kind of life I wanted to live in the future while keeping the good I had learned from my culture and my new culture.”
Even when the culture wildly differed from what I was used to, I learned to appreciate the differences and use them as learning points.
“Some of the weirder things we don’t see in most Asian countries such as that most stores close at 5 pm, and that on public holidays, strangers would just say hi to you or that tap water is a common thing and is available anywhere though there’s no toilet bidet sprayer (so you’ll have to get used to toilet paper…)”
All these speed bumps along the road are what made the trip so memorable for me. I reflected that I did well in my struggle with a new culture and learned to always get back up.
When asked to say some words of encouragement to those on the fence about the exchange programme I suggested — “Apply, fly, ride on the roller coaster, you’re gonna feel differently when you return. Just make sure you’re in the right community since it affects a lot on your personal growth. Don’t feel pressured to be extremely outgoing, just be yourself, be confident and humble, yet also push yourself as needed.”
All rights reserved. All images above are the © Della, 2022.