Student Reflections – Veronika Jones

“Are We There Yet?”

Traveling to a different country can be often surreal. There comes a point when you have to stop yourself, and take it all in. For me, this realization has already happened multiple times.

If the 18 hour plane ride wasn’t a good indication that we were halfway around the world, the Aussie accents would have tipped us off. And probably the funniest part about immersing yourself in a culture, is how quickly you try to imitate their dialect and accent. My most used lingo so far— say “Cheers” when you buy a beverage, even if it’s just a Coke.

What’s an even better indication that you’re not in Kansas? –Going to a local 8AM fun run in the suburbs of Sydney. I’m fairly certain our entire group was upset with Kyle when he picked a 4K as our service project, but it couldn’t have been a more perfect choice to start our journey. My realization is twofold. One, that Aussies’ are very much the stereotype we make them. That is, they really are ridiculously good-looking, tan, and fit. But maybe a surprising realization to their independent, outback nature is their strong sense of community. There were hundreds of people at the shore working out, encouraging and thriving. It was like being at a giant YMCA—in paradise.

After returning back to the city—and still wearing our SIU Law shirts, I convinced Kyle to go with me to the Rocks Market. It’s a market that runs in the district we’re staying in on the weekends. While looking at beautifully hand-crafted goods (clothing for me/art for Kyle), we were approached by two Americans. And get this—they were SIU Alums!

At the end of Sunday, we got drinks at the Opera Bar. Picture a super modern, outdoor bar, fluttering with thousands of people. And, everywhere you look, the night lights of Sydney amaze you. In the overwhelming wonder of the city skyline and opera house, I sat down on a bench. I looked up at the stars, and had another realization: We really are in Australia. But, no matter how far you travel, you’re never really that far from home.

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