“When a piglet is weaned from its mother,” our pig specialist lecturer droned in the sweltering afternoon heat of the crowded lecture hall, “it undergoes a significant period of stress because it is taken away from its mum, experiences a drastic change in its environment, is exposed to unfamiliar piglets and is moved from a liquid diet onto solid feed.”
He paused to take note of the class, some of whom were watching him with eyes glazing over from drowsiness, some playing Candy Crush on their phones and a couple in the back who had given up the good fight to stay awake altogether and were full-on snoozing in the last row.
“Much like yourselves when you first came to university,” he continued. “It is a stressful time because mummy is no longer with you, you’re put in a new environment away from home and you are introduced to new friends. The only difference is…” he stopped and smirked. “Most of you move from a solid diet to a liquid one.”
He isn’t wrong. Moving away from home to study overseas was overwhelmingly scary for me. At that point, I had never even gone on vacations that have taken me over my country’s borders before, so heading to the end of the globe on my own for five years was unthinkable.
I remember having second thoughts and panic-stricken nights approaching the day of my big move. I remember putting on a brave face for my family when I said goodbye at the airport then bursting into tears the moment I walked through the departure gates. I remember getting off the plane when I landed for the first time in Auckland and thinking how unforgivably chilly the February wind was, not realising at the time the full wrath of winter that was to come in a few months. I remember finally dropping my bags and falling in a heap on my bed when I made it to my dorm room in Palmy about 24 hours after I had left home, and having another long fatigue-induced, starvation-aggravated bawl.
I think of all that, and I smile. If you could go back in time and tell that weeping girl who was convinced she was going to be all alone in a foreign land that she was going to find long-lasting friendships with the most amazing people from all walks of life, she would have regarded you with unconcealed scepticism. If you had added to that same girl who was then terrified to get on a plane that she would have not only explored almost the entirety of New Zealand but also visited 17 different countries in total by the time she finished her degree, she would have laughed in your face.
But look at her me now! I’ve formed bonds with some of the best people I have ever met in my life, whose paths I have had the blessed pleasure of coming across. With everyone in the same boat coming from all parts of the world and being painfully far from home, we have turned to each other for solace and companionship while having heaps of fun on outrageous adventures along the way. The result: the development of a supportive little community akin to family, a part of which I will always carry with me even long after I have graduated from university and moved on to different phases of life.
On top of that, taking that first big leap to come here has shown me that travelling isn’t such a scary notion after all. The world is in fact a small and easily accessible place filled with wonderful things to see and do. Breaking out of my comfort zone and taking the decision to grasp life by the horns and travel while in university (before I get bogged down with commitments of career and starting a family, eek!) was by far the best one I’ve made.
I guess what I’m saying is that something I was so sure was going to be my bane ended up becoming the best possible thing I ever could’ve imagined happening to me.
And there is never a day where I look back and regret a single thing I’ve done in regards to that.