Upon arrival in Sydney, I expected to easily find my way around and to have a fairly easy transition to this new environment. The thought of no language barrier and the anticipation that it was a small, beach place similar to my hometown in Florida were the thoughts that I kept telling myself to feel comfortable and stress-free. However, the minute I landed in Sydney those initial thoughts immediately disappeared and I was faced with reality. The Australian accent got a little bit difficult to understand at times and the phrases that people would use in Sydney were confusing and difficult to process. I was in a large, busy city just like New York City and it was nothing like what I had expected. I soon came to find out that everything is very spread out and all of the places that I had previously looked up and marked down were all at least a twenty-five minute car ride away. This large, unfamiliar city initially seemed like New York but it was more spread out. This meant that it was time to face the fear and anxiety of learning to find my way around.
The first couple days with my roommates were difficult as we ventured out into the streets looking like a pack of tourists who all had google maps pulled up. We would stand in one spot for a couple minutes at a time to try and figure out which route the maps was recalculating us too. Our second day in Sydney, after hours of orientation we decided to find an açaí bowl cafe that was on our top list of places to go. It was 4 p.m Sydney time which meant that it was midnight in America and our terrible jet lag was beginning to kick in. Exhaustion and hunger hit all at once, as we were roaming the crowded, sunny streets practically walking in circles. We were on a mission to find this cafe and continued to go in circles till something came over me. The exhaustion, hunger, and heat suddenly all hit me at once and I froze up. A million thoughts went through my head in that one light headed moment…..”What would happen if I were to fall in streets in this foreign country” I thought to myself. I quickly ran into a random chocolate shop on the side of the street and frantically asked for cold water. I quickly pulled some snacks that i had stuffed in my bag from earlier that day. At this moment I felt defeated and realized that adjusting to a new country and atmosphere wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I realized that it would take time until I figured out where I was going and I needed to take it easy. We eventually found the place that we were looking for and it ended up being in a small food court in the mall. This task to find the so called “cafe” ended up draining all my energy after walking in a circle for an hour straight, and also didn’t meet our expectations.
It was moments like there where I wished that I was back in New York City where I could just leave my apartment to go grab coffee, food, or go visit friends all within a short walking distance. What I hadn’t realized is that everything takes time. I had a flash back to my first week of freshmen year at New York University when I called my sister crying because I was twenty minutes late to my first class and somehow got lost trying to find my way to a building that was only three minutes from my starting point. I also remembered the one time I nearly had a panic attack on the NYC subway when I was trying to figure out how to use it by myself for the first time and nearly ended up in Brooklyn. However, adjusting to New York City took time just as adjusting to Sydney, Australia will take just as much time and patience. Luckily, I have my roommates in all my classes and I never have to be left alone in the confusing streets of Sydney. However, I now know that in moments where I find myself to be lost in the streets, I need to remain calm and either look up directions on my phone or ask someone around me for directions. At first, I was scared to ask the pedestrians for directions because just like in New York, the people on the streets look as if they’re always in a constant rush to get somewhere.
I’m now approaching my fourth week here in Sydney and I’m finally finding my way around and adjusting. I now know how to get to class, the supermarket, where to grab morning cafe, etc. I’ve also taken the public transportation to the beach and to a music festival and unlike the time i tried in NYC, no panic attack was involved. Thinking back to my second day here when I nearly passed out in the hot, crowded streets I now understand that all I need to do is to take it easy and to let myself adjust to things one step at a time. It’s important to realize that finding your way around an entirely new, foreign place will take practice, time, and exposure. In the mean time, if you happen to get lost in the streets, make an adventure out of it. Take the chance to explore the new area that you’ve accidentally stumbled into. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite cafes, record shops, or parks to sit in.