I walked into the room and it smelled like cleaning product and wet paint. That may as well describe how I felt when I first arrived at Sydney Airport. I was sick from jetlag from the 16 hour flight I just sat on, but also sick with nerves.
I am finally back home and it doesn't feel like it. Not in the slightest. My mind thinks that this is only a short vacation and we will head back to America, back to my comfort zone, where I will resume school at George Mason, see my friends and continue cheerleading just as I have for the past two years.
A lot changes in two years and I must say it flew by so quickly. I'm now standing in my new house, in my bedroom which is seemingly smaller than the basement I had all to myself not too long back. I am in Randwick, Sydney where, once again I am to start all over again-- new school, friends, lifestyle, sports. But something about this move felt uneasy and having moved nine times in the past, this was not the usual feeling. I was always excited to start again with a fresh beginning and a new adventure to be had. Why doesn't this feel like home?
I arrived in America two years ago with a closed mind I must admit. I didn't like it at all. The classes were too long, school started too early and I had too much homework. It might be an exaggeration to say I drowned in my tears every night for a good two months but to be honest that's what it felt like. I missed the normality of my small town existence, and yet I wasn't the slightest bit upset to leave Australia and come here until I actually started school.
Yet, my time in America was unbelievable. I had watched it on TV and in the movies but it was so surreal when I became lucky enough to experience it first hand.
Not expecting to excel from my position as the new, shy, Australia girl, I got to live the dream that every girl where I come from dreams of. To say the least, I came back with some great stories and even greater memories.
It first started when I joined to cheer squad in the winter of 2008. Having never done anything like it before, I excelled and for the first time it was something I was really good at. First tryouts must have been the scariest thing I had ever done and I don't think I have ever felt so intimidated in my life. Afterwards I continued and cheered for another three seasons and became co-captain of the squad.
A lot changed during those three seasons. Girls came and went but one person that truly believed in our progress as a squad was our coach, Beth Bird. Her inspiration and commitment to the team helped us to be taken more seriously by the school as well as push ourselves to new heights. Without hesitation, she pushed us to be the best we could be and without her it couldn't have been done.
After cheer I got to know more people, got a boyfriend, on the football team I might add - pretty funny actually considering I was a cheerleader. Even though you guys might think that's nothing special, never did I think it would happen to me. I went to one prom, two homecomings, too many football games and experienced American Halloween. It doesn't get much better!
School, though, was different. I was at school at 7am most mornings studying for science with Mr. Lahy and staying behind for math and English most afternoons. The teachers truly inspired me as well and I always felt encouraged, motivated and challenged. Mason is very lucky to have such a dedicated bunch of teachers and looking back I took it for granted. Of course I went for help when I needed it but every now and then I would knock it and head to Starbucks after school with friends for a well needed coffee. But you definitely don't get that type of enthusiasm from teachers everywhere.
I started taking journalism at the beginning of ninth grade and I sure do wish they had journalism classes where I currently go to school back in Australia. The pure enjoyment of being a part of the journalism staff made me appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes in producing an online school newspaper. Even though every year the staff gets a new bunch of people, we all worked together as a great team. I know that I am mentioning this one specifically and it is because journalism was unlike normal English (well not normal if you had Mr. Walsh) and taught me much about the world around me.
As for those school buses...I don't think I have ever been more excited to get on a bus. That may sound silly but I had only seen those big yellow buses on TV. The schools are definitely much bigger in America than they are here and the majority of high school students go to religious, select or private schools for better education and opportunity.
As for the sports aspect, I don't think I have ever heard of seven hour football practices during summer let alone two and a half hour cheer practices every single day. I was surprised and impressed to say the least. Although they were long hours, it paid off as I definitely learned a lot about fitness and the importance of taking care of myself. There was such a wide range and never ending opportunity to join and be part of a sports team within the school.
When school was out, ten weeks of summer fun began. Despite pouring with rain our very first carefree day, my friends and I made the most of every single day. Long days were spent tanning around the pool, vacationing in Cancun, and in every other spare minute I talked about the upcoming cheerleading summer camp at Virginia Tech University.
My first days of school compared to the last certainly weren't the same. It started by continuously getting lost in the hallways, being known for my funny accent and shying away from social events on the weekends mostly because I wanted to be by myself. Through everything that happened, I walked away with incredible confidence, amazing friends and a boyfriend who I will never forget, and the greatest, most unforgettable experiences.
Even though I'm now standing in this plain blank room in a place I am completely unfamiliar with, it will in time, be filled with good memories. But I will never forget my time, despite seeming shorter than two years, in America.
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