I remember my first day in Australia very well, considering the jet lag I had. 38 hours of travelling, and dribs and drabs of sleep later I landed in Tasmania. In Melbourne I’d been made fun of by security asking me if Melbourne in winter wasn’t cold enough for me, that I had to go to painfully cold Tasmania (colloquially Tassie or Tas). I looked at him confused and very tired. I never could have actually imagined how cold Tassie is in winter with wind from Antarctica blowing over the island.
Landing in Hobart, Tasmania was an incredible relief, but the travelling wasn’t over yet. I collected all my belongings and scoured the airport for my driver. UTAS (University of Tasmania) had set me up with a pick up from the airport. Due to my clash with my fieldcourse at UoS (University of Southampton) everything was a bit out of whack and so I was arriving in Tasmania after the semester start date. I eventually found my driver, who grabbed only my smallest of bags and jetted off at high speed to their car leaving me, without a trolley, attempting to balance, pull and carry my suitcase, backpack and rucksack all at once.
The drive to my college didn’t take long, and soon I was settled into my room and unpacked. I then asked around where I could find food – it was mid-afternoon at this point and I hadn’t eaten since my very early flight that morning. Everyone I asked didn’t seem to have a clue where I could find anywhere to buy food – apart from the supermarket which was about 45 minute walk away. I had a meeting to go to anyway. I found the student union building, and then eventually found the student mobility office and slumped into a chair. I looked around at the 10 or so other students, who had also turned up to Tassie late for whichever reason. I watched the big American characters and the French guy who actually seemed to have a bit of banter with people. There were others but I don’t remember them, apart from a quiet, yet bubbly American girl.
Little did I know that the American girl and the French guy were my first friends in Tasmania and would also be a constant presence across the next 5 months, and my “yes men” – always down for another adventure!
Jean – the French guy – lived across the road from my college in the apartments, and his apartment was below a friend of ours, Sascha (Danish). We went on a few road trips together with the American girl (Sarah) and another Danish girl – Mie.
It was through saying “yes” to so many opportunities that I met some of the most amazing people I have ever met.
Sarah had bought tickets to go see the “Middle Kids” in concert (if you’ve not heard of them then I suggest you change that). I’d listened to their music before coming to Tas but bought my ticket as soon as I knew Sarah was going, Mie and Sascha joined too. That evening at the concert I met a couple of girls in Sarah’s college called Lil and Hannah.
Fast forward a week and a bit. My college was having a party in our buttery (a “butt party”) and Lil was there, through Jean I met a guy called Jude. My being locked out resulted in me meeting the girl living across the hallway from me, Mac. And just like that, through a convoluted path of the first two weeks in Tasmania, without realising, I had met the people who would be my closest mates for the following months.
Across the 5 months of studying these people became my rock, my tribe. We pushed each other out of our comfort zones. We visited and travelled across Tassie together. We cooked, had movie nights, jam sessions together. We played cards, chess, and “I spy”. We studied, revised, wrote essays and reports together. I proof read law, engineering and art projects. I was a patient for student nurses and doctors to practice on. We supported each other through dilemmas, emotional chaos, home sickness. We had fun, we were spontaneous and we always, always supported and loved each other. Oh and they gave me cuddles, food and love when I was poorly.
I lived at John Fisher College, but, considering I have moved out now, its safe to say I also had so many friends at the rivalry college Jane Franklin Hall (and considered myself an honourary college member)
Thinking back to how I felt in the car on the way to Heathrow (see A Reflection of my First Steps to the Upside Down) I could never have imagined the connections, and friendships I would forge whilst in Tasmania.
I would honestly say, paired with the beautiful landscapes we saw on our trips, the best thing on my study abroad was the opportunity to meet and get to know so many people from all backgrounds.
Lasting friendships were so quickly forged, and grew on countless road trips, swimming, bushwalking (sometimes bush-bashing – and bush-getting-lost too), exploring, always eating good food (sometimes forgetting to take food on hikes though) and so much more. And now, Tasmania, and the friends I made there hold a very special place in my heart.
None of my memories would be as incredible as they are without the people I met along the way. We helped shape each other and grow, we helped each other “find ourselves” – or as discussed on a soul sucking hike (with leeches literally sucking the blood out of us) – that we find pieces of ourselves we never knew existed in the people and friends we meet along the journey. And it is because of my Tasmanian Tribe I return back to the UK a very different person (for the better) to the one who left 7 months prior. A more confident version, self-assured, unforgivingly comfortable with my identity and determined to reach my goals.
I got back 9 months ago, in that time we’ve had a global pandemic. In a way, the shift to keeping in touch via digital has helped me remain in touch with all my friends. I have woken some people up by calling in the middle of the night (time zones are a bit tricky sometimes haha oops). But we’ve bought matching boardgames and play together, Uno is a card game that works brilliantly, and now we also play Among Us together. I’ve now set aside a budget for buying stamps, the post massively slowed down with Covid, but that hasn’t stopped us sending each other letters, paintings, swim caps, hoodies and other bits and bobs to each other, keep sakes from different people’s home universities, towns or countries.
Hands down, my study abroad was the best experience I could have had. And a large part of it was thanks to the people I met. My main top tip to prespective study abroaders would be to go for it, say “yes”, introduce yourself. There were times it was awkward, or a bit weird, but don’t be afraid to ask for help, you never know what will happen 🙂
Oh! And don’t forget to document everything you say yes to!