Eight Months In Australia And It Feels Like We’re Fitting In
CYNTHIA BANKS’ BLOG: A family studies abroad
About this blog: This year is a special year for my family. With 20 years in Colorado under my belt, and my kids approaching high school, my husband and I decided to move our family to Australia to “study abroad.” Our children are attending local schools in Queensland, and my husband and I are working remotely. Having traveled most of my career with GlobaLinks Learning Abroad, you would think that any cultural challenges would be mitigated by my (tongue in cheek) vast educational understanding of the world at large. In reality, there are some amazing challenges in taking children overseas and even testing my own comfort zone in my 40s. Even so, I am blessed and willing to share this wonderful experience through this blog. I hope you will send me your experiences as well!
August 26, 2011
As we slide through August 2011, I remind myself that I have not written a blog post since early May. Part of the reason for this delay was the massive NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference that took place at the end of May and to which I seem to devote 100% of my time and energy to each year from mid-May to mid-June. This conference is an amazingly “intimate” gathering of 9,000+ international educators offering a myriad of professional development sessions and discussions, and several amazing keynote speakers. Despite the work-day there are also an anguishing amount of after-work events and networking socials. All in all we exhaust ourselves each year and recover for a few weeks. Shortly after the recovery, I spent two weeks with the family touring Darwin, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, and finally a chill-out few days on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. Truly Australia is an amazing geographic wonder!
Students are people too
Each year at the conference, the GlobaLinks Learning Abroad organization hosts a luncheon for over 350 advisors, staff and overseas partners. Our theme this year was “Educating the Advisor,” and we were able to give away (due to the generosity of our travel suppliers and host government groups) eight (8!) free airline tickets for advisors to visit our destinations on organized site visits. Let’s just say that EVERYONE stayed for the raffle this year. And, we celebrated a number of our amazing alumni by honoring first the AEI 2010 Video Winner who studied at Murdoch University in Western Australia and then our Alumni of the Year Leslie Pitman, who studied in the United Kingdom. As part of Leslie’s award, she was able to travel to the NAFSA conference at our expense and explore a career in international education. At a mighty five-foot-two, she gave a powerhouse speech at the lunch and received thunderous applause from our crowd. Let’s remember why we do what we do – the students!
The Banks family are halfway there (or is it halfway home?)
We are approaching the end of August and have neatly checked off nearly eight months in our family odyssey. So much has been gained by this time together as a family, and the country of Australia is feeling a bit more like our home. I notice that I don’t file away so many of the perceived differences I saw when I first arrived, and even the language has become so commonplace that I am often not sure if the words we use are Aussie or American. There is comfort in being able to order our food with the right lingo, and the locals don’t stare at us quite as much as they once did. Keep in mind we live in Yeppoon, a town of only 13,000, and Yanks are not readily visible!
I wonder is it possible to really feel at home after only 8 months? Our study abroad students regularly declare that they are just fitting in at the end of one semester and often have to return home. We have been here now for one full semester plus more, and I agree that we are now starting to “fit in.”
And yet we talk about home as often as we did and recall wonderful things like our family, pets and friends. It’s possible that we could stay here forever and delve even deeper into this cultural experience learning and loving the Australia way of life. It’s possible, however, that we will have to return home for our son’s next adventure into high school, and of course we long for our own house and creature comforts. However, it is a sad prospect to give up so much of what we have found here, so I am honestly hoping that we take back something besides souvenirs from this journey. I hope we slow down a bit more and learn to appreciate our surroundings beyond the shopping malls. I vow to hike more in the Colorado mountains, take picnic lunches on a Saturday EVEN when there is washing and cleaning to do, and take my kids out of half of all the things they are doing for hobbies. Kids need space to roam, and Australia has given us both space and perspective.
I wonder how many of us can find this “space” when we are running around in our own busy lives? Have you considered what we are missing in America in our quest for success?