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Discovering Diversity

Della reflects on her Australian adventure

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.

A collage of a person wearing a mask.
Della waiting to claim her baggage at 5am alone while sitting on the edge of a trolley. Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, Australia, 2022.

“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.”

A picture containing outdoor, sky, road, tree.
(Left) The beautiful view Della got to see every time she took the 2.5 hour-train to Sydney from Newcastle to meet her siblings. (Right) The first time Della explored the city, which was a bit surprising as it looked a lot more quiet than Sydney. Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A picture showing three people on a picnic on a sunlight day. Next to it a hand holding a half-eaten sandwich.
(Left) Della on a chips picnic with her housemates during a road trip to Nelson Bay (03/10/2022). (Right) Della eating croissant from a nearby bakery with her brother while sitting in a park on a Saturday morning. Wolli Creek, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.

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…)”

A group of three women standing under a tree
Della with her housemates, Kelly and Hannah, taking a cute picture after a cheese tasting. Hunter Belle Cheese, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.

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.”

A person walking on a beach on a bright sunny day.
Della taking her camera to take pictures with her friends at the coast during a road trip. Worimi National Park, New South Wales, Australia, 2022.
A picture containing passenger seat in a cabin.
The first train ride Della took to Newcastle from Sydney, Australia, 2022.
A building with trees in the background
The first time Della explored the campus when she was so in awe with the view. Callaghan, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A building with trees in the background
The building in which Della had her first class for Creative Writing. Callaghan, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A person on an escalator in perspective
The long beautiful yet intimidating escalator Della had to take to transfer from the train to the metro. (p.s: she was once scared of taking escalators). Epping, Melbourne, Australia, 2022.
A group of people walking in a park with trees and buildings in the background
Della exploring the city of Sydney on her birthday while everyone else was busy. Darling Square, Sydney, Australia, 2002.
A pizza with mushrooms and cheese and other condiments.
One of Della’s signature dish: thin pizza crust from Woolies (well-known supermarket in Australia) with her own customized toppings, fresh from the oven. Birmingham Gardens, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A picture containing and artworkt that looks harp- like.
Della’s first attempt on thread weaving using the toolkit from the Foundation in Textiles and Printmedia module. Birmingham, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A picture containing posters of fonts on a wall indoors.
The pin-up wall for the Typography module, where the students paste their works. Della’s is the one on the second row extreme right, the Octagon Serif. NUSpace, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A picture containing craft work or printmaking, art, paint, art paint
Linocut Print tutorial in class. NUSpace, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.
A picture containing fabric and print of patterns
Stamping tutorial class with different textures on a cloth. NUSpace, Newcastle, Australia, 2022.

All rights reserved. All images above are the © Della, 2022.

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