I would classify myself as a homebody. When given the option, I will choose to watch a good movie and enjoy a glass (or bottle) of red wine over walking the dirty streets of Isla Vista to search for a party. In fact, I secretly take pleasure in soberly going to the liquor store at 9 p.m. on a Friday to buy a pint of ice cream, while already-drunk frat boys and out-of-towners wait to purchase their plastic handles. Or, even better, sitting at Caje drinking a cappuccino and reading for classes until midnight on a Saturday — watching the debauchery occur outside and knowing I will wake up rested and accomplished. In short — I’m not your typical Isla Vista resident. And I love it. Studying abroad is what I imagine it feels like to be those four-day-a-week partiers in I.V. Except you’re in a foreign country. And are expected to travel a lot and do well in school.
After living in Australia for three weeks without stepping foot in a classroom, semester at The University of Melbourne commenced. My days of waking up late, meeting new friends at restaurants and bars every night of the week, and posting pictures on Facebook to make my American friends jealous were over. They were replaced with 9 a.m. classes, four gigantic readers, job-hunting and going to bed at a reasonable hour. The stress I had hoped to avoid by suspending my responsibilities in the U.S. had returned, something every advisor and former student had failed to mention in our numerous pre-departure meetings.
Learning that you are expected to travel in addition to living abroad only added to this pressure. It seems more innate in Europe, where you can visit many countries and experience a range of cultures in just one weekend. But travelling is also popular in Southern Australia, where heaps of natural islands and vibrant cities are easily reachable by ferry or plane. After only being in Australia for a few weeks — and still feeling like I’m on vacation — I was faced with starting the travel process all over again. Just thinking about airfares and hostels, forking over large sums of money, and coordinating friends’ diverse class schedules gave me a headache.
This realization that I was expected to travel came as I was cross-referencing the campus map to my class schedule to the best coffee shops in the area. I was just barely settling in! The homebody in me wanted nothing more than to develop a reliable routine: get involved in campus activities, master the tram system and discover my favorite bars and cafes around the city with friends. Also, I actually enjoy my classes and devote much time to reading and writing each week. Just as in Santa Barbara, people in Australia find this very strange, as most students happily blow off schoolwork to travel or hit the beach.
Last weekend some friends skipped class and flew to Sydney. Other students have rented an RV and driven along the Great Ocean Road or spent a few days on the island of Tasmania. While that all sounds exotic and exciting, I can’t help wanting to settle into city life before jetting off on tropical adventures. For me, drawing lessons and drinks at a local art gallery, a rooftop cinema screening of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and stand-up at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival sounds just right. While I eventually want to explore all Australia has to offer, the only travel research I want to do in the near future is look up the easiest walking route to class or fastest tram line downtown.
Corie Anderson is a third-year film and media studies major.