A letter from Sydney

By John Leung

It’s almost been a month since I left Calgary and arrived here in Sydney, and through that time it has been a complete roller coaster of emotions.

At first, I was totally happy that I was leaving the terrible weather of Calgary for the tropical climate of Sydney. In this cosmopolitan and modern city, I thought I was in my own urban Paradise. Here was the city of my dreams: the people were friendly, it was beautiful and it had perfect weather.

That soon changed when things began to go wrong.

Looking back into the journal I began keeping a few days before I left Calgary, it reveals a myriad of emotions. Take, for example, the entry on the day of my arrival.

“I can’t believe it! I’m here! Sydney, Australia! Somebody pinch me, this has to be some sort of a dream…”

In the days that followed, each journal entry was more and more upbeat. Each and every one of them documented the sheer excitement of being so far away from home, in a new place halfway around the world. It seemed nothing could go wrong.

How wrong I was to believe that. Things began going wrong Feb. 20:

“I’m really starting to hate Sydney bus services. I get into Parramatta station late… and then the 545 to Macquarie had to stop at every single stop!”

Lucky for me there was a trip up to the Blue Mountains (a distance outside Sydney) that weekend, where I met a bunch of other international students that I have now become good friends with. But, once again, after the honeymoon stage there always comes the hangover.

“I am increasingly always short of cash… Ever since that incident with my laptop that cost me $200 to fix, I’ve been shortchanged. It’s money that I no longer have. I’m totally broke!”

At that point, nothing seemed to be going right. My money was going down the tube faster than I could have ever imagined, my new roommates were a bit of a nightmare, and I was getting sick. I finally hit rock bottom.

“I think I am now effectively depressed. For the first time in Sydney, I want to go home! I miss not having to count money so much, I miss my grandma’s cooking. Yeah, it’s cold, but I just want to go home!”

I had learned from the staff at the International Student’s Centre before I left that this was called “culture shock”. However, I believed that by selecting and being assigned the right location, I would be able to avoid going on the culture shock roller coaster. It is a mistake to believe that nothing will ever go wrong, doing so only makes hitting rock bottom even harder. Just because Australia and Canada are somewhat similar does not automatically mean everything will be the same. But that is a truth that must be saved for another day.

Wish you were here…

Leave a comment