What do you say when you move away from home for the first time? Well for me, no matter how much I imagined it, it never really seemed like it was ever going to happen. Even though I’d been thinking about this year through countless unproductive study sessions during my final year of highschool, the whole thing still really snuck up on me.
I thought for so long about all the things I would do whilst over here in England. How I would meet wonderful new people, take little trips to London and see the sights, and fill my winter with adorable beanies and snow… All of which I have successfully accomplished in my first weeks. Well excluding the snow part, which in hindsight was a little optimistic. I have very quickly discovered that the Isle of Wight doesn’t so much offer a winter wonderland as it does a windy and shivery one.
After settling in here, I realised that what didn’t really sink in through my never-ending hours of planning and bucket-listing was that I wouldn’t have face-to-face contact with some of my closest friends for a year. Or that I would miss countless 18th birthdays and milestones in their lives. Let alone the idea that I wouldn’t be able to steal my sister’s clothes in the middle of the night, which had previously been my solution to every outfit-related crisis (sorry sis).
Future plans finally coming into place after such a long time is extremely bizarre. It seems that no matter how much you plan, think, imagine and dream about what’s coming, it still surprises you. I had always looked forward to finishing high school and standing on my own two feet, but never once processed in my mind that it would actually happen. But here I stand, well slouching rather from the jet-lag, having completed my first few weeks at my new job and not knowing how to feel. The whole ordeal still doesn’t seem to be something that’s a part of my real life just yet. At the moment, it just seems like an episode, something that I’m simply watching going on around me while I’m still back in good old scorching hot Australia. In the back of my mind I think I still think that I’m going home to my ferrel Jack Russells and my grandma’s signature apple pancakes and milo combination any minute now.
However a few things have helped me overwhelmingly through these first few weeks of trying to remember names, attempting not to get lost and working out the infamous English transport system:
– My own personal trip advisor, my older sister Margie: She constantly reminds me that I’m going to fall in love with travelling and meeting new people, just as she did. She also deems it an absolutely fundamental part of being away to fill me in on every current detail of her life via whatsapp voice messages. I don’t think there is anything like hearing the giggling voice of your other half telling you her boy problems to make you feel right at home.
– The junior school teachers at Ryde: They range from mother-like figures; consistently offering me home-cooked meals and a place to stay if I want to get away for a night, right down to student-teachers; who from day one wanted to know when I turn 18 so that they could take me out on the town to hit up the ever-classy, cheap n nasty Whetherspoons.
– My other gap student, Johannes: Despite being a stereotypically straightforward, organised and efficient German boy, he (thankfully) shares my excellent sense of humour. Upon meeting him, I immediately felt caught in an all too familiar battle of whit and sarcasm as he made fun of my accent and Australia all together by consistently asking: “Do you have this in Australia?” When referring to everyday objects around the house (such as cutlery). Top banter init? Not to worry, I assured him that we all sit outside on the dirt with our didgeridoos and eat nothing but kangaroo and vegemite on toast with out bare hands.
– Infinite and eternal travel plans: Before even crossing the equator, I’d already booked a week-long Paddy Wagon tour in Ireland for the first half-term break with my high school buddies. Although such a holiday is very stereotypical of a gappie, such plans kept my mind off home, and kept me looking forward. The idea of seeing new things, meeting new people, and no doubt flashing some of my incredible dance moves kept me grounded and focused on taking advantage of the incredible opportunities I have whilst over here.
Essentially, every moment so far has been feeling very pivotal in my inevitable ascendance into adulthood : Saying goodbye to my parents for a year, having to organise transportation and accommodation all on my own, and making my way to work in my business-casual clothes. Most oddly however, has been having to pretend I’m used to being in any kind of authoritarian position. Where in actual fact, I remain the same age or only slightly older than some of the students I teach.
However, what stands out most as a key moment in my growing independence is the idea that my actual 18th birthday is looming, less than a month away. This thought excites my still-childish mind, in that I will be allowed into the same clubs that most of my friends have been rolling into for the last six months. But equally terrifies me, as it marks the end of the chapter in my life that was the easy going innocence and naïveté of adolescence. Now I’ll have to inevitably make my own decisions and most crucially and painfully, be responsible for them… The latter, as you can guess, is the terrifying part. Much like every other seventeen-near-eighteen-year-old, I feel I have no idea what I’m doing.
Nonetheless, everyday of getting lost at the school and racking my brain for the name of that teacher who just offered me a cup of tea teaches me something new. Mostly notably, that I couldn’t have been luckier with who I’m stuck with to help me get through this year. From my new junior school teacher mates, who are slowly leading my astray, to my boarding school gal pals (scattered around at other schools in England), who seem to know the ins and outs of my life more than I do.
Not feeling so far from home after all.