Studying abroad, as anyone who has ever done it will say, is a more rewarding experience that you could ever imagine it to be. There will be highs (many of them) and lows (these will inevitably crop up) throughout your time, but you will be grateful for all of them. My time abroad is slowly nearing its end, but as I look back on the last few months, I know that the whirlwind of classes, activities and events that I was lucky to be a part of can’t be forgotten.
I’m in a unique situation since I decided to come back to the city I grew up in, and I was both excited and anxious because of it. I hadn’t seen Sydney in four and a half years since my family and I moved to Southern California – somewhere I had never even visited until I suddenly found myself living and going to school there. I was excited to live with my sister who, because of the distance and costs of traveling, I wasn’t able to see that often. I was excited to talk to all of my friends in real life as opposed to constantly having to send Facebook messages. I was excited to visit my old stomping grounds, see my old home and eat at my favorite restaurants.
I was anxious to return to a place that I had a five-year-old memory of. I was nervous to meet best friends after such a long time apart, especially during those crucial years of maturing. Would we still have the same conversations, enjoy the same things or laugh at the same jokes? I was worried I was idealizing my memories of childhood, replaying them over and over in my head in an attempt to retain this part of my identity and to continue calling Sydney my hometown.
Once I returned, both my excitements and fears melded into one giant experience that flew by way too quickly. The first time I met my friends face-to-face after so long, it was admittedly harder to get into the flow of conversation than social media deems it to be. But it definitely wasn’t long before we were laughing at old memories and exchanging stories about everything that had happened since I left. Sure, there were times when the group would end up talking about something that I hadn’t been there for, but that was understandable. I knew that the amazing experiences I had had by finishing high school in California and all throughout my time at UC Berkeley easily made up for it.
I did get to visit all of the places I had so dearly missed over the past few years. I even made a list of them before I got here, and I’ve been adding and crossing it ever since. I still have a few more restaurants to visit and a handful of places to explore around the city and surrounding suburbs, but I’ve already promised myself those will be done before I leave. No. 1 on that list is a toss-up between trying the infamous Nutella shake, topped with a Nutella donut and all, or brunching at a harborside wharf with breathtaking views. Though, either will give me perfect Instagram content so it’s not that big of a decision!
While I’ve attended school in Sydney (I still have the uniforms to prove it!), I had obviously never attended university here. Studying abroad at a host university has definitely been eye-opening. I learn content from a new perspective, and meet students and professors everyday who share their knowledge, opinions and views with me. One thing’s for sure though – besides the pain and stress that UC Berkeley causes the best of us, I really do miss it to bits. There’s a spirit around the campus and students that’s hard to find anywhere else, and though I’ll be an even more stressed-out senior, I can’t wait to return in the fall.
If there’s anything important about traveling and seeing the world, it’s the lessons it leaves us with. My time back in Sydney has taught me that I should acknowledge the times I had growing up, grateful for the memories I can reminisce in. But at the same time, I shouldn’t willfully believe that what I remember is what necessarily still holds true. Times change, people change and I’ve definitely changed, but that definitely doesn’t mean I shouldn’t enjoy where and who I am today because I think I’ve missed out on something else. I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, and what’s meant to be will be. I couldn’t be happier of the experiences I’ve had, the places I’ve lived in and the people I’ve met.
At the same time, I couldn’t be prouder of the person I’ve grown into, just how far I’ve come and everything I’ve learned along the way.
Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].