Dirty dishes and a homeless toothbrush

I found myself standing on sticky faux-wood floors, in Eeyore pajamas, desperately scrubbing the sour smell of last night’s dinner off a cooking sheet, grappling for order in my life and I thought, “What the hell am I doing?”

Since returning from my adventures in Australia on the first of July, I had a whirlwind of places to go, people to see, and vegging to catch up on. Now, going into my second month back in the U.S., I realize my sense of home feels more like a crumpled paper in my pocket rather than the pristine certificate I wanted.

I really cannot complain as I still have a bed, comfortable quarters, a part-time job within my industry, and my mom’s dinners to look forward to. However, as much as I want to fit into this new puzzle, I feel more lost back in the area I am familiar with than the place I explored for five months.

Part of this is easily seen as my parents sold their house while I was gone and I have been bouncing between bedrooms of a new apartment, trying to keep my pile of clothes somewhat together. Another part is trying to mesh back into someone else’s household after holding the reigns. I wouldn’t put the pots and pans in the bottom left cupboard, but it isn’t my name on the apartment’s rent.

The biggest indicator to me is my toothbrush. I am thankful to still have one and a space to hang my toiletry bag, but the yellow handled toothbrush is homeless–shifting from one counter to another, resting in its gunky travel case, or spending a few days of luxury in a proper holder.

My thought as I was washing the dishes wasn’t directed at my current status or my domestic habits, but rather my need for them. I crave to have a place to organize, to vacuum when I decide or lay waste to when I am feeling lazy. As much of a nomad as I consider myself to be, my heart feels separated from my geography. I can make do with cold showers, flat pillows, living out of a suitcase–because I am in the midst of traveling. But here, I am in a sort of limbo where I have locked away my passport, yet am not holding the cherished independence of owning or renting a space of land.

I have always believed that home is where the heart is and my loved ones have been more of a home than any house. Yet my fiance is gone as he prepares to start his last semester of school and my sister is about to embark on her first year of college. I am grateful to have parents who still give me a bed in their household, but it’s hard to smile everyday when I think of the expectations I had and my urges to shape the floor plan into my own.

In the end, I wish I could say I found my way out of limbo and I looked the unknown in the face and laughed as I created the path I wanted. However, right now, all I am able to do is throw pieces of my soul into the wind and hope they catch light to guide my next steps. Right now, all I can control is a dirty pile of dishes.

 

The best souvenir: friendships

As I laughed at a joke one of my friends made, it dawned on me that I was the only native English speaker among us.

Amazingly, I forgot most of the time that my friends did not grow up speaking English as I had. A short stumble as they struggled to remember a word or an incorrect verb tense every now and again would remind me. Sometimes, I had to explain myself.

“What does that mean?”

“What? Play it by ear?” I always took a moment to think of an accurate definition for words and phrases I took for granted. “It means to be flexible and take things one at a time. It’s like how musicians play music by ear instead of reading it.”

Danish. German. French. They had managed to become fluent in English while most Americans barely know a second language. As someone who has been in their position, I admire them greatly.

While I did not mingle with Australians as much as other exchange students, I learned so much from my international friends. We talked about how we celebrated Christmas in our different cultures and families. We talked about politics and travel. So many attitudes were so different in our respective cultures, yet it all meshed in friendship.

I don’t think my experience would have been as exceptional if not for the people I shared it with. Many of them broadened my mind or challenged my lifestyle choices.

I remember before departing for my exchange program how nervous I was about making friends. That fear seemed so foreign as we languished over how long it had been since we last saw each other–when it had only been three days. Now looking ahead, I can’t imagine parting ways for months or years or longer.

Many things felt more intense on exchange–from the wonders of seeing new places to the accomplishment of memorizing bus routes. However nothing compares to the intensity of friendship I have felt while here.

When I first arrived, I thought my newfound joy and self-confidence were tied to the geography. As if these feelings could only belong in this place in these moments. But I was wrong. I realized as my friendships deepened and we teased each other for our faults and praised each other for our strengths, these feelings are something I can take with me.

We broke out of our bubbles by coming here to the Southern hemisphere. I remember my friend Josefine saying how she hadn’t realized how busy she kept herself back home and her freedom here made her reevaluate her priorities. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to break free of the constraints I had felt were imposed on me by crumbling social groups and demoralizing prospects. Getting the chance to be torn away from my comfort zone was the best thing I could have done for myself before graduating.

I am going to miss the people I have come to rely on here. Yet I hope I don’t lose the person who I have become, who they have helped encourage. Sometimes you really do need to feel lost to find yourself again. I am forever grateful to the streets of Brisbane and the embraces of my friends for helping me rediscover myself and feel at ease with who I am.

 

False tweet: How should news organizations deal with social media fails?

Social media has created a new avenue for breaking news and has shifted people’s expectations about news coverage. With platforms such as Twitter or tools such as Facebook Live, people can tune into news at any hour.

Major news organizations manage a Twitter account to push articles and draw readers into their website. The affordances, or the possibilities for action, of Twitter has enabled people to follow along the reporting process and get instantaneous information through live tweeting. The question though is, should news organizations always use this affordance?

A live tweet fail

On September 21, 2016, protesters for the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in Charlotte, North Carolina in the United States. The protest turned violent as a police officer was killed. During the night, news agencies were live streaming the incident, tweeting updates, and posting articles.

The Associated Press (AP) was actively updating about the situation on Twitter. However, that night, it released a tweet correcting itself on a false report about the death of a man shot during the riots.

AP tweet that states: AP deleted 2 tweets after Charlotte officials incorrectly stated that a man shot during protests had died. A new tweet is coming.

This represents a common social media fail and issue within the news industry. Already, newspapers issue corrections for their printed copy when a name is misspelled or a fact is wrong. This specific tweet demonstrates two different issues: Spreading the wrong facts and dealing with it on a platform that does not enable editing.

Often these types of errors on Twitter and social media come from pressure to get information out first and the new establishment of updating people during the reporting process. Before, old media would have kept people aware of the basic information, but the full report would not come out until the morning paper or broadcast on the evening news. Now, people turn to Twitter during the event.

How do you manage the affordances of instantaneous information with people’s expectations and proper journalism?

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Graduating 8,846 miles away from uni

As the four-wheel drive lurched over a bump for the 236th time within the past hour on the sandy path, my mind jumped back across time.

I was among nine passengers on a tour of Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Two of the passengers were my friends and two more were one of the girl’s parents. The rest were strangers from around the world. We were pressed together in the back like a squadron on patrol, sitting on parallel benches, knees brushing.

Having chosen the hot seat, my body frequently lifted off the last seat on the bench as we sped over mini sand pits. I looked out of the back window and watched the path slip behind us. I adjusted my college jersey and swept back my hair. I had no cap or gown. I had no ceremony. I was due to graduate from the University of Alabama in two hours, at 9 a.m. on May 7, while people crowded in alphabetical order at 6 p.m. on May 6 in the U.S.

Staring out my window, the sandy path blurred and I watched the past four years emerge. The excitement of new independence and a new beginning. The stress of trying to achieve dreams. The adventures around the world. The development of romance. The growth along a personal journey.

A twinge in my chest took my attention back to the track. How symbolic. Here I was about to start a new part of my life and I was staring at the path we had just crossed.

I liked this imagery. I was on the other side of the world, studying abroad in Australia for my last semester of college. While I had no type of closure, this path gave me a platform to project my graduation. (more…)

Love across continents: 5 tips for dealing with distance

Sometimes my boyfriend’s absence manifests itself into something physical, as if my palm can grasp the space where his hand should be, or my lips tingle with the pressure of nothingness, or my body aches with the emptiness in my bed.

Going abroad is a wonderful experience, but sometimes it also means sacrifice. For the second time during our three and a half years together, I left my partner to journey around the world for five months. Luckily, I am not alone. Several of my friends here in Australia are also juggling time zones for Skype dates, turning away flirtations, and struggling to keep romances alive through devices.

Long-distance relationships are not unique to studying abroad. Many have done it throughout university, through first jobs, or on an annual basis as work trips tear couples apart. The difference with a long-distance relationships across the world, especially during student exchanges, is, well, the distance.

My boyfriend cannot make an impromptu weekend trip to see me and be back in time for his exams the following week. He cannot afford a plane ticket whenever I am feeling down or whenever an event comes around. The assumption for a couple where one is abroad and one is home is that the partner will visit once if possible. Luckily, mine is able to visit me and tour Australia at the end of my exchange–a pattern many of my friends’ partners are doing as well.

Through my time and experience abroad, I have come across advice, figured out some tricks, and observed experiences. Here I would like to share some of the tips I have found. (more…)

Falling in love with Tassie

I believe the color green was born in Tasmania.

DSC_0190Artists dip their brushes in the dewy moss that clings to the trees and earth in the rain forests on the Australian state’s west coast. They dip their brushes into the sun-draped fern leaves when they want  something bright; they dip the bristles in shadowed eucalyptus leaves sprouting from scorched bark when they want something dark. Then there’s the green glinting off mountain tops that only comes from a certain texture and blend.

Tasmania is a gem that ranges from rain forests to sea cliffs, sand dunes to mountains, an English-style countryside to an exotic oasis.DSC_0573-2

With only two big cities, the landscape is relaxed. Most of my time in Tasmania was spent sitting on a bus, following winding roads through the diverse fauna. At times, the rust-colored and golden leaves danced onto the road, reminding us autumn was in full swing. Other times, trees taller than 20 people stacked on top of each other reminded me how small I really am.

Crunching along dirt paths through forests and mountains, I felt like an intruder. The silence hung off branches and hid under roots, enveloping me like the moss on the ground. My thoughts clattered in my head as I trekked in a world that seemed hardly touched since the days of explorers.

DSC_0908At night, my breath caught in my chest as I saw the cloudy cluster of the Milky Way. I cannot remember how long it has been since the last time I saw so many stars. A shooting star would streak across the sky and wishes were sent to the heavens. In the dark and cold, I felt connected to the strangers lying next to me like the constellations traced above me. For the first time, I saw the Southern Cross, a constellation only seen in the Southern Hemisphere and depicted on the Australian and New Zealand flags.DSC_0177

While I did not see a wild wombat, platypus or echidna, I saw a wallaby barely a meter away from me and a couple of the marsupial’s Tasmanian cousins, pademelons. Unlike the Looney Tunes’ depiction, Tasmanian Devils do not spin wildly, although one paced impatiently in circles waiting for its food at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo.

DSC_0816I climbed sand dunes in the middle of a rainforest, huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. At least as I panted, I breathed in some of the cleanest air in the world as we walked along a longitude only shared with stretches of ocean and a piece of South America.

Some of my favorite moments were swerving around bends and bumping over bridges on our tour bus. Music played and we would sing along. My eyes darted across a landscape, soaking in an unparalleled beauty. My soul soared, bringing along a smile I hardly noticed had crept on my face.DSC_0100

These are the moments I share to show the wonders of traveling. These are the moments that make me choose to book a flight over buying the latest technology. These are the moments that transform me into something beyond anything I could be by staying on my couch. These are the moments I live for.

Surviving a travel nightmare

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan or how experienced you are, despite your best efforts, things fall apart. Sometimes, everything falls apart.

My phone buzzed as I walked into my third winery visit in the Borrassa region in the south of Australia. My mind was on Shiraz and how to transport all the wine I want back to the States when I answered the call.

For three days I was touring Adelaide with two other friends before they went on a tour of the Outback and I flew to Tasmania to join a girl from my home university. I met her on our exchange in Brisbane and we bonded, deciding to spend our week-long Easter break exploring Australia’s island state.

I had exhausted my eyes scanning the internet for tours in Tasmania, wanting to see the splendor of the East Coast. On a site called Tours to Go, I found a three-day tour with accommodation, transport, and meals included. My friend agreed to the price and itinerary, so we booked it and scheduled our flights around it.

Little did we know, two days before our flight into Hobart and four days before the start of our tour, they would cancel.

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