It doesn’t feel real yet. I have spent a total of three days in Australia. Each day has been scheduled with tours and activities organized by the University’s Melbourne Welcome program. I honestly don’t know how I am doing it all. There’s not even time to feel the jet lag that has overcome my body and its feeble attempts to recalibrate itself to a fourteen-hour ahead time difference.
All of us who flew together admit to believing in this false notion that we are all merely on vacation. It doesn’t really set in until we are forced to deal with the many new challenges and tasks that present themselves such as buying all the necessary items for living in a foreign country for a year. Priority number one on everyone’s list? Buying a cellphone.
It was the first day of Orientation when myself and several other Holy Cross students rampaged the streets of downtown Melbourne searching for a mobile phone retailer during our “free time”. The look on the sales people’s face at each service carrier was priceless when our herd of Holy Cross students requested ten of the same phone models, always finding ourselves out of luck and on to the next phone store. After several blocks walked and many of prepaid plan pamphlets read we all settled on a similar [in-stock] device that we purchased at a local post office.
After a good three hours searching for phones, it was time to activate our new prepaid devices. To none of our surprise, we were directed by the lovely automated voice of Laura after having dialed the activation number. Soon a cannon of voices attempting to set up our mobile phones rang out over the courtyard. Yet, no matter what people tried it wasn’t working. “ Laura just hung up on me AGAIN!” shouted one kid who had already called six times. Another tried reasoning with the automated voice speaking softly, “ No thank you Laura, can you please connect me with one of your associates.” It was twenty-five minutes later before Laura had connected me with one of her living and breathing associates. Fifteen minutes after that I received my new international phone number.
Slowly, one by one, we were all assigned numbers. Thankfully, despite our many frustrations with Laura, we were all now able to communicate with one another. And for once, it started to feel real, but we were not alone.
* **For perspective study abroad students interested in studying in Melbourne, my personal suggestion for mobile phone purchase would be at a Post Office. There they offer all the phone carriers and will not try to coerce you into purchasing a phone plan or any other unnecessary gadgets.***