The semester was coming to a close. At this point, finals were done, summer had begun (remember, Australian seasons are backwards from the US) and, sadly, many people, like myself, were preparing to go home. That meant that a plethora of last hurrah’s would have to be packed into the few days remaining before I would return to a cold winter.
Study abroad is filled with expectations. Some are met and, conversely, some are not. But sometimes, maybe even more often than not, it is the things you least expect to meet your expectations that do. Sometimes it is the events you happen upon by chance that leave a firm imprint in your memory.
And sometimes, it is the things you go to out of obligation that become the moments you’ll never forget. I remember getting a text message from my friend coaxing me to come out as it was his last night in Australia, the same night I had already said yes to my final taekwondo dinner. This would be one of my last opportunities to hang out with the taekwondo club, the club that helped me to find my place here. At the same time, this would be my last night in Australia to hang out with a close friend I had made. So, I figured we could just put the night plans on hold and at least go to the team dinner first. They had made a tertiary reservation for my friend because, after spring breaks shenanigans and my midlife taekwondo crisis, he decided he would come to the last few practices that were left. And so we decided we would both go to the dinner and put our plans on hold until later.
What proceeded were the shenanigans and inside jokes I had loved come to live with and would soon have to learn to live without. I could easily say we were having a great time. Soon the dinner was coming to a close and final speeches were made for graduating presidents and jobs well done by coaches. And then a speech was made…for me. A speech was made and a gift was given to the exchange student who had been a part of the club for barely half a semester. People applauded and thanked…me. I was dumbfounded. I was speechless. Most of all, I was touched, sincerely. At that point I didn’t know what to say, but I had to say something so I stood up and spoke. I thanked everyone for being so welcoming and really making me feel like a part of the team. I thanked everyone for treating me like a family and really being my closest friends while I was abroad. And, as I was talking, I realized that all these things that rushed to my head that I just repeated without hesitation were completely true. In a nutshell, these people really helped to make my experience what it was and I can confidently say it would not be the same otherwise. Even days before I left, days after finals, I was still learning. And thus, things you expect to occur do not always do. However, sometimes, those expected things that don’t occur, or the expected one’s that do, make your situation better than you could have possibly imagined.