As anyone can probably tell, I’ve had a variety of mixed feelings since arriving here. I complain a lot about multiple things and praise the hell out of a few things (snow and the all-day English breakfast to name a couple of objects that attract my praise). You may have also noticed that unlike other bloggers, I don’t have a lot of photos to share or stories to tell relating to my great adventures in London and so forth. There is a pretty simple reason for this: I don’t go on any…
I’m essentially doing the same thing over here, that I would back in Australia as a student. I study, I read, I procrastinate and I waste my spare time on the most menial and non-constructive activities I can possibly find. In fact the only noticeable difference from my student life back in Australia is that I don’t work part-time here, thus giving me more time to socialise, or in most cases, do more course reading :/ . So I’ve asked myself lately, what AM I exactly gaining from this “experience”.
This first thing that comes to mind is that I’ve met every remaining family member (that we know of) of the Jenkinson mob since I’ve been here. As I may have mentioned before, I’m staying with my Great Uncle and Great Aunt. My Grandfather was related to my Great Uncle, and came to Australia after the war, thus my family is only two generations from having been British. Interaction with my family here has definitely given me a new perspective on my roots and where it is that my family came from. It’s also odd being in a room with people who share your last name who aren’t immediate family (Dad only has sisters). I’ve gotten to know each and every family member here and like to think that I’ve become very close to them. Despite being a someone distant relation, they actually feel like family. When I leave England eventually, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that I leave with a larger family than what I have previously known, and a number of family bonds that I will continue to preserve throughout my life. Family pride!
Whilst here, I’ve also had the honour of both working and socialising with other exchange students from all around the world. I am learning so much from talking to all of these people from multiple cultures around the world, and clearing up any cultural misconceptions I had about these cultures. I can say that my close interactions with such a diverse range of people has certainly been a great learning experience, and one that should arguably help me when I enter the workforce in the near future. I believe from all these interactions, I’ve gained some great cross-cultural competencies (What I haven’t learnt yet however is tolerance on the morning commute. Perhaps another two months will do it).
Ultimately, being placed in another culture really has appreciate both things back home, and appreciate the nature of culture itself. I believe the greatest gift I shall receive from this experience is to be coming home a new person; wiser, with greater character and a new appreciation for people around the world. Those things, and an amazingly bragworthy piece of text I can add to my resume, also, a deep sense of empathy for international students. When I get back to QUT, I’m going to make a greater effort to introduce myself to any international students I notice in tutorials and try to make them feel as welcome as possible. I consider this my civic/human duty. Also, if anyone is reading this, and actually taking this in, I’d like to point out that nothing makes you feel more unwelcome and more like a minority when being placed in a situation (i.e. an exchange program), where you know few people, have a different cultural background, and are subject to various degrees of racism and culture shock. I’d like to urge anyone reading this, if possible, to make an effort to make any international students back home feel welcome, and show them some Aussie friendliness and compassion. If that happens, I’ll feel more legitimate about representing our nation over here as people who are no longer convicts, but amazing friendly human beings. Seriously, its not an easy battle over here to convince some of the older generations that we too are civilised. I’ve had quite a few people shocked that I’m Australian just because I’m able to say please and thank you. But I digress.
Stay classy Australia, I’ll see you in 4 months,