Has anyone of you ever been an exchange student? That kind where ‘exchange’ actually still meant ‘exchange’? Where you live with a host family, while someone else stays with yours? You attend school, meet great new people and make friends for life? Sometimes it feels just like yesterday that I graduated and sat on a plane to Australia, where I spent a year before going to University. I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years that I went on this great adventure and perhaps one of the bravest things I’ve done in my entire life. Going away hasn’t been as exciting ever since. Leaving home as a teenager, flying across the globe into a different time and climate zone to live with people you’d only hardly been in touch with before leaving and staying with them for one year turned out to be one of the best adventures of my life, if not the best. I know I’ve only lived in Australia for one year, but it was such a life-changing experience that I still look back at it, as if it were yesterday.
To many of you, Australia perhaps is the country of dangerous animals, great beaches and people with weird accents. To me, it is so much more. I’ve met so many people that I call my family and friends today. Australia’s become my second home and even though I’ve lost the Aussie accent a bit, I’m still proud when people ask me: ‘Do you come from a land down under?’ I’ve never really stopped using my Country Road bag (I’m not even sure that is still a thing), I use my Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment on a daily basis (wishing I could say the same about my TimTams consumption) and still use the phrase ‘fair enough’ in my sentences, even though I mostly speak German at home (and nowadays French). It’s taken me quite some time to realise it is thanks to Australia that I am now a full on breakfast addict, which proves that obviously Australian kitchen is way underrated. Flat whites are among my favourite things that I associate with Australia, not to mention TimTams, but I’d have those for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack in between, obviously. Even my colleagues are now hooked, I did, however, warn them, so I don’t feel guilty.
Last February, I got to go back to this fantastic country to be part of one of my friends’ biggest days of her life: her wedding. Getting off the plane and entering the Australian (Capital) territory felt so damn right. In fact, it felt oddly normal to be back and it surely won’t take me another 6 years to come back! It was an important two weeks because not only did I get to see everyone again, but I finally also got to introduce a mate to my Aussie life and show him parts of the country. We started off in Sydney, which was perhaps the most touristy part of the holiday, as we mainly focused on regional Australia. I love a good weekend city trip, but I honestly believe there is so much more to the country than megacities like Sydney, or Melbourne, Bondi Beach or Uluru (and I am well aware that Uluru is nowhere near a megacity). I might be leaning out the window, right now but I do believe that within those two weeks well-spent in Australia, T got quite the authentic experience of the country staying with my Australian host families, driving around the countryside in a ute, seeing wild animals (the list of animals we saw is long!), attending a farm wedding, walking up Australia’s highest mountain, which is not the one you’re probably thinking of right now, and actually visiting Australia’s capital: Canberra and you know what? It was awesome!
Oh how have I missed the loud, colourful birds, the ‘hey, how’s it going?’ at the supermarket even though you don’t know the person, the smell of the gum trees, cold rock ice cream, kangaroos, the bush, the ocean, a good chicken parmi, speaking English all day, the Aussie accent, hot cross buns, Peter Alexander and of course my friends and family. Australia, I have missed you like crazy and you have been and always will be the greatest love of my life. If we could, we’d already be riding off into the sunset together holding hands.