Orientation Week & Culture Shock

Keen: adjective; eager, interested, enthusiastic, ready or exciting for something

Part I: Foreshadowing in Los Angeles

If I’m starting from the beginning, it started in Los Angeles. I had a 10 hour layover in LAX and seeing as I was already keen to sit still for 16 hours on the plane, I wasn’t going to sit around the airport for that long. I love Los Angeles, the weather was as perfect as weather gets. When I got enough phone reception to realize ubers directly from the airport are crazy expensive, I decided to just walk far enough away from the airport to order a regular priced uber to take me to the beach– my constant destination when it’s close enough. I know airports are big but I underestimated how long it took me to completely exit by walking. Let’s just say that me and my carry ons (my ukulele and my backpack) got up close and personal with LA highway traffic and I wasn’t keen for it. 

Eventually I got to a suburb called Westchester and jumped in an uber and rolled down the windows and smelled the ocean as we drove along the costal highway (the same one that I drove with my family three summers ago) in route to Manhattan Beach. I’ve always thought that I want to live in Los Angeles, and being there again only solidified that idea. I laid on the beach and watched people surf for three blissful, lazy hours that flew by like the the seagulls above me. I also got hit in the head with a volleyball on my way out.

Part II: Learning About Myself 

Isn’t that what you’re suppose to do while you’re abroad?! Well I learned that I cannot not matter what, ever in any situation sleep on an airplane. I flew a lot last semester in Europe, I probably took at least 15 flights while I was there and I’ve flown before that quite a number of times too and never once have I slept. But I thought, this is a sixteen hour flight, I have to sleep.  After watching like four movies in a row (they all sucked) I took a NyQuil sleeping pill and it resulted in not being able to move but still being pretty awake. I also couldn’t see anything because I was in a seat directly in the middle of the plane. So I didn’t sleep for 32 hours strait, happy Valentine’s Day to me. Oh, it was Valentine’s Day. 
By the time we were exiting the plane, I realized the other students in my program were sitting around me and we all stuck together and tried to socialize and figure everything out as we went through customs in the most delirious state possible. 
Part III: American Orientation 

Our group of Americans from all different part of the U.S. took a bus to a tiny town called Queenscliff that had about three restaurant, two shops, one pub, one hotel, one lighthouse looking thing, and miles of wild beach and green walking paths. We sat in our hotel conference room the first night and were forced to do activities so that we didn’t fall asleep. I made it to 8pm and then woke up again at 5am. We watched slideshows about life in Australia. None of it was new to me, what I didn’t already know from being abroad last year I learned from the many Aussies I met during my travels. We spent hour free hours at the beach. It was a bit cold for swimming, but the complete lack of tourism made it’s exploring potential way up there. 
Eventually we were put on another bus to Melbourne, a bustling city with a large influence of Asian culture. I felt like I was in Asia the entire time I was there, from the art and architecture to the food to the sheer amount of people. We had huge hotel room there with a kitchen, living room, dinning room, two bathrooms, and a balcony which my hotel roommates and I took full advantage of by having literally every person from our program over for games and drinks. I got a good lot of people and I shivered with happiness when I looked around the room at them. We were having such a great time with just each other that we didn’t even go out as planned.
The next day those of us who were studying in Brisbane we were put on a plane. It was relatively cool in Melbourne. I even had to wear a sweater the day we got there. But when I walked down the stairs of the plane and was exposed to the blaring Brisbane sunlight…I remembered what being hot felt like immediately. 
Part VI: Post Orientation, Pre-Orientation Limbo 

Of all the hooligans in my program that were previously mentioned, I was the only one attending my school, Griffith University Nathan Campus. The other campus was on the Gold Coast, another was in Brisbane city, and mine is nestled up in the forest. As the driver that picked us all up from the airport entered the campus, he asked me where I needed to be dropped off. I had no idea. I had never been to this place before and I was given no instruction on what to do upon arrival. We stopped and I got out and looked at a map which indicated where the student accommodation office was and I figured that was my best bet. So me and everything that I bought to Australian took a strenuous stroll there and a nice lady at the office gave me some paperwork and led me to my room. I was so exhausted and hot (so hot) that as soon as I got to my room I was keen to lay in my bed for as long as possible. I did just that in the heat of the day. When I finally emerged from my room to go shower off, a girl in the room across from me was super excited to see me. Turns out I lived across the hall from another American girl named Caroline from Indiana. We had dinner together with the few other people that had moved in yet in our dining hall.
There’s no AC in my dorm building, Bellenden Ker, but I wouldn’t have it any other way, my window is constantly open to the forest breeze and the weird alien-like sounds the many birds make. I put up my map of Texas and my Spanish flag and right away I felt homy and happy.
The next day or two consisted of me and Caroline exploring Brisbane and learning how to take quickest bus. My good friend from Trinity, Bailee, who’s studying on the Gold Coast and who I hadn’t seen in 6 months came up and the three of us explored Brisbane together. We went to a bar called Down Under (ha) and had the absolute time of our lives dancing. We came from the city beach earlier that day (a literally just fake beach!!! right in the middle of the city!!!) and so we were still wearing our bathing suits and cover ups. The music they play in Australia mostly consists of songs I know all the lyrics and dances to because they came out 2-10 years ago. According to Caroline’s fitbit, we danced an equivalent of 3 1/2 miles. 
Soon, everyone else moved in with all their belongings in boxes and mom and dad and brothers and sisters carrying them in. That’s when Orientation Week began.
Part V: Australian Orientation 

When I was in Madrid, I never really felt like I experience the culture shock people talk about. Even in the more exotic places I visited like Morocco or Portugal, it was clearly very different but I wasn’t shocked. 
I think I experienced culture shock at least twice during Orientation Week. We were first thrown into sports which I didn’t know the rules of, then everyone moved onto an activity called bubble wresting in which two people battle “to the death” in a blow-up pool filled with water and tons and tons of soap. I wasn’t keen to do it myself, but I watched. Other activities included a injury filled game of capture the flag played on campus at night, floor vs. floor and a night time pool party at the school’s athletic pool where I almost got tackled by someone trying to tackle their mate at least 25 times. We also had a hall pub run in which we were forced to wear our Bellenden Ker polo and learned chants and a trip to Gold Coast in which we camped out by the beach together and barbecued some food. I think it’s just the concept that there seems to be no rules in Australia. I find myself following the rules of Trinity that don’t exist here and then realizing I don’t have to. It didn’t take me long to love everyone on my hall. I only close my door when I’m sleeping and people go in and out of each other’s rooms all the time and hang out in the common room. 
It’s the kind of environment I love and thrive in and with every person I meet, every new thing I learn, and every new thing I see I’m and more and more convinced beyond a doubt that I’ve made one of the best decisions of my entire life. 
!!!!! Sorry that I put minimal effort into this post and that it’s not proofread at all I just wanted to get something out there!!!

Published by Mia Olea Garza

I am a photography, videographer, and filmmaker in Austin, Texas.

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