Starting A Semester Abroad

It’s Monday in Australia and I want to give a week in review post for my family and friends across the world.

After over 8,300 miles and 31 hours of traveling by plane, train, and automobile, I arrived at the University of Newcastle on Monday July 17th! Along the way, we successfully navigated public transit with plenty of confusion cleared up by locals. First lesson of going abroad: don’t be afraid to ask people questions. The people who live there know far more than any map can tell you. It is quite humbling to feel like a puppy with no direction in a foreign city. Since that first day, I feel more confident to travel in a place I don’t know.

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Safely on campus and dead tired, Alex and I bus system to the grocery store. While there, we bought plenty of food and room essentials for our semester abroad! After that, we crashed at 7pm since we had about 2 hours of sleep on the plane and arrived in Sydney at 7am.

13 hours of sleep felt amazing. Tuesday was relaxing until the first Orientation Week (O-week they call it) party. I met so many people that I can’t tell you all their names. Fun group, though!

Wednesday morning is when Alex and I decided to walk to the beach and get some footage on his new drone! Little did we know, it would take over 8 miles to get to the beach and over 22,000 steps. All before 10am. When we got to the shoreline, it was totally worth it. The views were spectacular and the beach was gorgeous. From the lighthouse to the ocean baths, I can’t wait for it to be summertime and soak up the sun. On our way back, we decided *not* to walk all the way home… our legs would not be able to handle it. So, we found the train station and rode it most of the way back to campus.

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Later, there was another party that started drinking at 4pm! By the time we boarded buses to the downtown hotel party venue, almost everyone was wasted. “Welcome to Australia, mate!” yelled one of the guys on the bus who saw me as the only sober person on the bus. I didn’t stick around much at the club, and miraculously caught a bus back to campus right away. The beer-soaked dance floor was fun for a while, but it got old quickly.

Thursday was our true international student orientation session for the school, which was just like Iowa State’s orientation smashed into just one hour. Not a lot of information given, but enough to get by for the 6 months that I’m here. I’ll ask roommates and friends on campus if I have questions.

Friday had another orientation session, followed by a quick barbecue. They love sausages here, and they even have a “sausage watch” Facebook page that gives updates on when there is a barbecue on campus!

That afternoon when I went for a run to explore campus, I had a big epiphany when it comes to this whole party scene. I came to this clearing way out in the back fields by the train tracks, and I just stopped. It began as an admiration for all the spectacular nature I had around me, then morphed into a conversation with God. He told me that I am the sum of where I spend my time, honoring Him with my body and my eyes. He put me on this earth to enjoy it and every moment of my life. “If I don’t enjoy it, why am I still doing it?” is what I said to myself. And God just said right back to me, “Stop.” And I echoed it back, “stop.” Just, stop. That’s all. I’ve found myself living a double life since I’ve come here. Trying to make friends in this party scene that I don’t feel comfortable in. And sure, it’s a way to meet people, but for me (and what God told me) it isn’t what I want to surround myself with.

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That’s been the biggest struggle I’ve had since I’ve come here. Is trying to find a place where I can freely meet people who are passionate about God, not getting drunk. I felt like I would find my true friends on Sunday when I tried out a local church that meets on campus.

Saturday, I was sick with a head cold so I stayed in and watched some movies. Very relaxing day without much activity.

And on Sunday, finally, I found my group. Unichurch is the church that meets in a theatre on campus on Sunday nights. It was weird to not have service in the morning, but when I walked through those doors, everyone welcomed me with open arms. God is at work through the people there, and I just had to praise God for putting them in my life. I met at least a dozen people, and by the end of the night I was fired up to get fully immersed in their Bible studies on and off campus. It felt like home right away. God answered my prayers, He really does listen and answer prayers.

Thank you for reading to the end, it’s been a wild week of ups and downs. Ultimately the Lord provided and I can confidently say He will continue to have His hand over me this semester in Australia!

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