Searching for Home in Brisbane, Australia
A week ago, I arrived in sunny Brisbane, Australia. Here, while I learn how to properly administer sunblock on my person daily, I will be managing the life of an international student in a local university’s masters’ program. I have a lot to learn about this country, but I can already feel like I might have found a place where I can set my anchor down for a while.
I have been looking for a place to call my home for a long time. I recall being in high school, thinking to myself that there must be some place in the world where I could belong. Of course, I have a loving family and good friends who support me in the US, but I have never felt entirely comfortable living in American cultures for long periods of time. Even though I enjoy many things about the US, it often feels like I am a foreigner in my own country.
I started to travel adamantly when college gave me the opportunity to study abroad (much to my family’s surprise). In France, I had my first experience of feeling like I was closer to finding a place I could live more comfortably as myself. I continued my search through Asia and Africa and discovered that, while I was seeing and loving a lot of places, nothing quite fit my dream of belonging.
New York City always feels like a train station to me, and I was always waiting to catch my next trip out.
I started working in the US after graduate school, but I still felt that lingering longing poking at me. I had stationed myself in New York City for years – a place of permanent impermanence. The city always feels like a train station to me, and I was always waiting to catch my next trip out. I wondered if I would ever find a place of my own.
Even though I already have a graduate degree, I started looking at programs abroad where I could study my passion: water and sanitation (WASH). For several reasons, WASH is a topic addressed and researched mainly in universities outside of the US. This seemed serendipitous to me, as I’ve found that one of the easiest ways for women to travel is through studying. I looked at programs in the Netherlands, the UK, and Hungary, wondering if I could see myself settling down there after a masters’ program.
Searching for Home in Brisbane, Australia
I then found a program in Australia that looked perfect for me. It weaves the education I already have with new skills important to innovating for WASH. And there was a scholarship I could apply for to make it affordable. It came to me out of the blue, though; I had been researching grants for another job at the time, and the program scholarship had been accidentally tagged in a newsletter, popping it into my work inbox.
If took a few years for me to gain the guts to admit that I could actually see myself trying out living in Australia for a while. People had been telling me for years about how much I’d enjoy Australia, and how wonderful the country was. The weather suits me, the people are trustworthy, and the animals are adorable. But did I really want to travel to literally the other side of the planet to study and hunt for a forever home? Australia is remote and expensive. Would it all be worth it?
I try to live as best I can under the tenet that it’s better to die trying than to live denying. So I said to myself, “What the hell – if I can get a full scholarship, I’ll give it a try.” I submitted the applications, thinking that the chances were slim to none.
Then, three months ago…I received a surprise email.
I was admitted into the program, and was offered a full-tuition scholarship. I am a woman who prides herself on keeping her word. That means I accepted the scholarship, and prepared to move to Australia and to try to find my corner of the world.
I try to live as best I can under the tenet that it’s better to die trying than to live denying.
I cannot say that the process of moving here has been smooth and painless. My family has struggled with my move, and I know I will be missing several of my closest friends’ weddings because I will be too far away. I have had some frustrating moments preparing for my move that made me question my decision and wonder if all of the work and stress was worth it. Sometimes, I found myself crying in my room, wondering why I wasn’t able to find satisfaction in where I was despite the discomfort of not belonging. And watching my bank account dip further towards its limit still makes me feel on edge.
But then I remember that I promised myself to give it a try, and that I owe it to myself to find a home I love. I did not want to run the risk of forgoing a trip that could change my life for the better and put me in a place that could rocket me to levels of awesomeness I may not even be able to fathom. I know how I would feel if I stayed put and sat around the US, waiting for another chance that might never show up. And, at the end of the day, a year is pretty short, and I can come home if disaster strikes. But I’d rather know that I at least tried.
So here I am, studying WASH in Brisbane for the next 12 months.