Being content in the present is surprisingly difficult. I’ve tried everything: guided meditation apps, breathing techniques, simply trying to feel grounded in place and time. However, without constant conscious awareness (which is virtually impossible), moments slip by like the sand running through an hourglass. Each granule of sand––each moment––drops away and before long, an entire sand dune has accumulated.
This is how I feel with less than three weeks left in the semester: buried in this sand dune of lost time. I think back to all the days where I should have been out exploring Sydney, but instead stuck to some comfortable routine, or spent the day locked away studying, or was simply too hungover to actually leave the dorm. This is compounded by the untimely coincidence of rapidly-approaching finals and a dwindling number of days left in Sydney. It’s a sacrifice that’s hard to make, but prioritizing academics over adventuring is one of the only things that will validate the past four incredible, vacation-like months in Australia.
I resent the fact that I spent so much time on academics while I could be out learning in the real world via more experiential ways. However, it has made me realize that in order to make learning as effective as possible in the classroom, I should start focusing on things that actually make me excited to crack open a required book or pick up a pen.
Luckily, back in New York I can dive right in to this kind of learning. As Gallatin puts a lot of focus on developing one’s own curriculum and course of study to maximize learning potential, I would love to eventually create an independent study that delves deeper into one aspect of my concentration––self-representation. Though classes such as autobiographical writing, amateur filmmaking, and media studies have laid a general foundation for this path, I want to explore the ins and outs of telling one’s own story, and what implications this has depending on the individual and context. I think that this independent study would be perfect for my concentration, as it would touch on themes such as developing a narrative, producing artistic and written content, creating meaningful connections and social understanding.
For this realization, I can thank my Anthropology of Indigenous Australia class here in Sydney. Our sweet, elderly professor may not have always presented the most riveting lectures, but the course definitely opened up the discussion about self-representation in marginalized communities. Though we mostly focused on concepts of relative autonomy and representation of Aboriginal people, I want to bring the same conversation back to the United States and apply it to underrepresented groups in America.
I currently write this blog post while rooted at my desk, looking out at the perfect blue sky. The sunshine is so close, yet so far. I have been practically chained to my desk the last few days, frantically preparing myself for the tests, papers, and group projects to come. While it’s miserable watching friends come and go, heading to the beach or going to drinks at Coogee Pav, I have to constantly replay the mantra that studying in this moment will pay off not only when my first deadline rolls around, but also in shaping my future academic career. Though time seems to slip away right now, the lessons and themes I’ve learned during my time studying abroad are actually building up a more powerful knowledge and familiarity of life in Australia.