Feeling at home 

When I landed in Sydney, I had no idea what to expect and how the next few months would be. I dove into the unknown which is a scary but also exciting feeling. I decided to just be open-minded and not have any expectations of how my semester abroad will be. I arrived at my accommodation at Wollongong, and I did not know anyone, I did not know how life there would be. Everything was unfamiliar to me.  

Most of the other exchange students arrived around the same time as me which made it easy to make first connections as everyone was just as lost as I was and trying to make connections. It was great having people next to me that were going through the same thing as me and not being alone when I had to figure out how everything worked.  

After a few weeks all the unfamiliar things became familiar. I learned what to expect from my courses, how uni works, I got to know many people at my accommodation and explored Wollongong. And with that I started to feel calmer because I did not have to figure out how things worked all the time. I still felt very excited because it was still new, but it was not unknown anymore. 

With time I was able to build a life in Wollongong. I felt comfortable, relaxed and my life abroad became familiar. It felt like it became a home away from home. It took a while until I got to that point and then a few weeks later I already had to say goodbye to most of my friends because the semester was over. This is something I was not expecting to be hit by so hard. I did not expect to completely fall in love with my life in Australia and then soon afterwards, while still fully enjoying what I had built for myself, having to leave it. I was not ready to leave my life there that early. It felt like I had to leave my home. But I know that I will keep in touch with my friends wherever we end up in the world.  

This experience has showed me that it is super important to be outgoing and actively talk to people. Usually, people do not wait for you to approach them, therefore it is on you to do the first step. Especially when you are in a different country, you have to put in the effort to get to know people. I am usually a shy person and don’t like to talk to people I don’t know, but I noticed that every time I stepped out of my comfort zone and approach someone it always turned out better than expected. The beauty of being in a new place around new people is that you never know how your day will turn out. Because of this semester abroad, I became more confident talking to people and stepping out of my comfort zone which I am sure will help me a lot in the future as well.   

Laura Burkhalter

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