A Small Letter Home


Yeah, hiya. Not some carefully constructed topic sentence leading into a slightly too-serious (but exquisitely phrased) meditation on some tiny aspect of my life. Just, um. Hello.

Today, this is blog. Blog of the standard, this-is-what-I-have-been-doing-and-how-I-am sort. It tends to get a bit lost amid all the fluff and pomp on here, I think. Fluff and pomp will return with a vengeance, I’m sure. But I did start all this blog stuff partly just to try and keep in touch with people. So yeah, hi. I may have already said that. (Speaking of which, this is kind of a summary, so for anyone who does read Reasons to Remain often, there’s probably a lot of repetition of previous entries. Sorry ‘bout that.)

It’ll be three months on Tuesday since my plane left Heathrow for Australia. That was July 12th. My plane back will touch down there on July 6th next year, which is just under nine months away. So what does this mean? That I can now run around impregnating Australians safe in the knowledge that I won’t have to face the consequences? Well, yes*. But also, I’m a quarter of the way through (or into) this whole exchange year thing. 90 out of 359 days. 25.06964 per cent.

I have to say, it feels like I’ve been here a long time. I genuinely don’t think I can grasp the concept that I’m only half of a half of the way through. July is just an inconceivably distant notion. I don’t mean this in a bad way, just that I really can’t imagine spending another three times three month periods before I get to go home and pat the dogs and play my guitar and all the rest of it. Year’s a lot of time, man.

So how am I finding it? It’s hard to summarise. It’s ups and it’s downs. If I was going to try to sum up the year at the one-quarter mark I’d probably have to come out with some bullshit line like “challenging but stimulating”, or something. Basically, it’s like living for a year in a country a very long way away. Shocker.

I do think I’ve made it a bit needlessly hard on myself, in all honesty. I definitely came out here with a very ascetic (ascetic, adjective, “choosing or reflecting austerity or self-denial as personal or religious discipline) sort of approach. You know, self-improvement, personal growth stuff. But eventually, you have to sort of chill out and accept that personal growth quite simply may or may not happen. I mean, I’m quite happy with myself in general. I’m keeping afloat, doing lots of writing and stuff, doing well in all my courses, all that jazz. Head above water, y’know.

I’ve definitely moved here wholesale, not just arrived in cotton wool at a university which then takes over looking after me until it’s time to send me back. University here’s different, anyway. It seems to be treated a lot more like a job — you go to uni, do your classes, and go home. There’s much, much less social stuff built into the university itself. There is one campus bar, but it doesn’t really do anything except sit there in case you want a beer, and there aren’t fun little hobby societies and stuff — there’s no rock society, no musicians’ society, no creative writing society, none of those pleasingly ridiculous chocolate or Pokémon groups or anything. I think this comes a lot from the Australian culture, where students tend to either be a bit older, or if they are younger still living with their parents. People stay in their home city to go to uni, and so the university doesn’t need to have such a social role. It’s more sort of there to provide learning, the way that a bank is there to provide finance. The friends I’ve made here have mostly been non-Australians, either other exchange students or people who moved here quite recently, which I think reflects this set-up.

Speaking of exchange students, the exception to that societies thing has been QUEST, the exchange students’ society, which is brilliant. They do trips and movie nights (which always clash with my lit classes, but I still like them in concept) and general Good. I’m going to Stradbroke Island with them next week, which looks amaaaaaazing. Apparently there’re going to be free boomerangs. Boomerangs!

The other Really Good Bit has been my job. In case you’re not a regular follower of my, um, adventures, I’m working as a restaurant reviewer for a company called De Groots media. This involves interviewing restaurant managers mostly, rather than eating massive free dinners (although this has happened once), but it’s really cool. I’m responsible for arranging the interviews, persuading places they want to be interviewed, writing stuff to deadline, and stuff. It’s pretty nice pay, and it’s professional writing experience, which is awesome in terms of the ol’ CV. Last week, I had a week off uni, and while contemplating what to do with it I got a call from my editor, saying there was a load of extra restaurants which needed covered, and would I be able to do any? Having free time, I took them all, and so spent an entire week as a journalist, running around Brisbane making and keeping appointments, writing up reviews, sending emails, and other generally pleasantly interesting (if a bit stressy) things. Makes a change from stacking shelves, anyway.

So yeah, that’s about me right now. I’ve got a load of essays and stuff over the next few weeks, and then it’s the end of the semester — I still don’t know exactly what my summer (yeah, summer. Silly hemisphere) plans are, but I definitely want to get some travelling done. Meanwhile, I have that Stradbroke Island trip next Sunday, and then freakin’ METALLICA (supported by Lamb of God!) at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre two days later. Oh, and a 3000 word linguistics essay for the Monday in between. Lots of busy.

Anyway! That’s my life, how’s yours? I really mean that, I love getting emails (aranws@gmail.com, or just via Facebook) or comments or whatever (postcards, letters, parcels of chocolate) from people back home. Even if you’re not the sort of person who normally does, leave a comment! (I just know this is now going to end up with absolutely no comments.) Send me news and gossip and complaints about the Scottish weather and stuff. Or just raise a quiet glass** to me of an evening.

Yours, with love, and with kookaburras,


* Sorry mum. Just a joke mum.

** Not a noisy glass.

4 thoughts on “A Small Letter Home

  1. It’s interesting the differences between university cultures everywhere, isn’t it? Sad you haven’t met many aussies, though – the guys I met last year were the definition of awesome, and hearing that aussie university culture is one where uni/social tends to be separate spheres makes me respect them even more. It would surely have been easy for them to just shut out a strange and new university culture which seemed to them to unnaturally overlap with social life – far from this, they were the most involved of all of us, they embraced the new and strange ways so much. Kudos muchos.

    I think that’s a huge part of exchanges, though. You have to look at a new situation and think ‘ok, this is odd. I don’t like it. Not-odd stuff is better. But it is obviously here because it WORKS. Rather than not-liking it because it is STRANGE and DIFFERENT, I am going to find out to the best of my ability WHY THE HELL it works…’ Often when I really got to know the new and strange ways I found myself thinking that they were so much better than 1) I had at first dismissed them to be and 2) my “natural” university/social structures. You probably do this to a large extent sub-consiously even without trying though, I guess, so there’s some sub-consious self-improvement in a bottle right there for you :)

    Ha. Commented. Last paragraph defeated. Next year I want to work for a year before doing a masters somewhere as faaaaaar as possible from UK (somewhere with added interesting wildlife a bonus). Aus is apparently not too bad on the work permit fronts. Thoughts?

    As for travelling in your summer, how about couchsurfing? You could get to meet some Real Aussies that way (that and it’s the best thing since muller fruit corner). Playing football with a load of couchsurfers in Dundee on Wednesday – wouldn’t have even known what this MEANT pre-exchange. Sub-consious-world-opening-upping for the WIN.

  2. Cool and grey near this northern hemisphere east coast, crisping leaves on the pavements. Ibsen at the Rep and the Moomins at the DCA. The Scandinavians are completing the Viking epoch – Norwegian corporations are ringing the British Isles with offshore windfarms. Ikea everywhere, the recycling centres are overrun by flatpack cardboard. Skol!

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