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[information]Begin following Gia’s experience here.[/information]

After experiencing a fantastic week with everyone from TEAN, it was time for all of us to start our new lives on our own. For me, that meant meeting my new host family and home for the next few months.

It was an experience that I had never had to deal with before. I had so many mixed emotions! I was excited to meet my new family, but at the same time scared that things would go terribly wrong–what if I don’t like the way they cook, what if they don’t like me, what if I get lost on my way to school. I couldn’t wait until the awkward period was over, and it finally felt like home.

I would love to say that it was easy and that I adapted quickly, but I won’t lie, I didn’t. For the first time I was completely on my own without my parents or friends. However, it was a challenge that I wanted to face because I knew I could do it. It was just going to take some time.

The first day I got to my home-stay I unpacked, ate lunch, and in the afternoon, my host mother, Zoi, showed me around the neighborhood. I learned that she had been taking care of students for about 11 years and that she was from Greece. She and her husband had moved to Australia in the 1960’s and had been living in this home ever since. After walking around and getting my fist weekly train ticket, called My Multi Zone 1, we headed back home and had dinner together as a family.

I may not be able to grab the world with both hands but I sure will explore it as much as I can while I am alive.

The next day was the first orientation day for International students at the University of Sydney. In the morning my host father, Con, walked me to the bus station and took me to school. Once we arrived, I was asked if I felt comfortable enough to go back home on my own in the afternoon, or if I wanted him to pick me up instead. Although I didn’t feel completely sure about how to get home, I wanted to start to challenge myself immediately. To be honest, the first day was terrifying. I was so scared that I was going to get lost or miss my bus stop, but, thankfully, I managed on my own.

Within the next few days I began to understand how to travel around the neighborhood, but so many other differences threw me for a loop. School-wise everything was completely different to Rollins. Unlike having 25 to 30 students per class at Rollins College, I was taking classes with about a 100 to 200 per class at the University of Sydney. Even though it was different it was still great. More students meant there were more more people for me to meet and learn from.

Some of the other immediate differences I noticed between America and Australia were the fact that professors didn’t assign readings far in advance, most students didn’t buy the books, and teachers only assigned three main assignments for the whole class to determine your class grade. I was so used to always knowing which readings were supposed to get done for each class and which chapters from the book we were going to cover over the semester in each class. To make up for the difference, I decided to study on my own and read whatever I felt was appropriate for each class.
One other new thing—I am walking a lot more than what I am used to in America! I replaced my car wheels in the U.S. for my feet in Australia. On average, I walk between four to six miles per day. Although it is different, I for sure love my new lifestyle! I am exercising more often, am meeting more people everyday, and, what’s more, I am learning so much more about myself.


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