Home Away from Home - by Sebahat Cicekli

I can’t believe how fast this adventure has come to an end. I don’t know even know where to begin. Let’s talk about Tasmania first. Tasmania is the only Australian state that is an island. It is the size of The Netherlands and half of Belgium together, with a population similar to The Hague, half of which lives in the Greater Hobart region, which shapes the metropolitan territory of the state capital and biggest city, Hobart. Tasmania has more reserved wilderness than any other place on the planet – and it’s right on the doorstep of its cities. Outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing and camping are an easy afternoon or weekend activity. And it has animals that simply don’t exist anywhere else in the world. This place is pristine and quite simply, beautiful.

July 10, 2016

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It was winter when I arrived in July 2016. The summer had just started in The Netherlands (Dutch summer is barely two weeks, so you have to grab all the sunbeams you can get), but before I could even enjoy the sun and the heat, I flew to Hobart. The sky was grey and the freezing wind from the Antarctic wasn’t pleasant either. Didn’t Australia have only one season, the summer? At least, that’s what me and everyone I know was thinking. Family and friends back home were assuming that I was chilling in the heat, while in reality I was freezing my bottom off.

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The shopping centre in Hobart closes at five, and after that, the streets are pretty much dead. So you can imagine how isolated I felt the first two months and, saying it in the nicest way, disliked Tasmania. I questioned whether I, a tornado, would ever survive on the edge of the world. Luckily the temperatures were increasing from September on and I realised how wrong I was about this little piece of heaven. It is by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean, Tasman Sea, people of Tasmania inhale the cleanest air in the world, enjoy pure water and rich soils. How could I have ever hated Tassie?

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Mate, I fell in love. Not only with the state, but also with the people. Tasmanian's are probably the politest people you will ever meet. They are so polite that saying no is pretty much rude. It happened to me many times that I had an appointment where I got ditched. I’m not making this up. It’s their way of saying no. I figured it out soon enough and therefore, I always triple checked to avoid dogging. Also, they are the most laid-back people you will ever meet. Everything just takes a little longer than what I was used to. I had to integrate in their way of living and I kind of became one of them. During my travels in the mainland and even Asia, I proudly said that I am Tasmanian. Yes, a puzzled look came across many faces since my accent is too obvious, but I kept insisting that I am Tasmanian. I mean, I walk in Blunnies (Blundstone), drink my tea with milk and a scallop pie next to it.

Sandy Bay

The University of Tasmania in Sandy Bay is located high on the hill with a gorgeous view over Sandy Bay. That’s one of the reasons why I was often in the library, which is also located at the Sandy Bay campus. The vibe is peaceful and who doesn’t want to sip their coffee/tea looking at a breathtaking view? Another reason why I was often in the library is because I had to study as well. I didn’t fly all the way down for just having fun. WORLDREP gave me the opportunity to do my honours degree in journalism down there. I had one class per semester, one class a week, which means lots of self-study time.

In order to prevent isolation, I volunteered at UtasLife Hobart, which is an organization that supports UTAS students in creating networks and engagement opportunities with other students and members of the broader community in Tasmania through social events, sports and volunteering opportunities, whether you are 'new to town' or a Tassie local. Furthermore, I volunteered at Amnesty International UTAS, Edge Radio - a community radio station in Hobart -, and did a voluntarily internship at a digital media studio (more about that in the next paragraph). There were so many great experiences, conversations and remarkable people I met over the past year through volunteering at all of the above. Many of these people became friends and some of them I’ll call my family.

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UTAS is a research university while HU is an applied science university. The switch from practical research to theoretical research was challenging and interesting at the same time. I already had an idea about mythesis and in order to realise this, I volunteered at the local community radio station and did voluntarily an internship at a digital media studio to be familiar with the field that I wanted to be in, and to have extra knowledge and support for my thesis. I was aiming to make either a radio or a video documentary and needed to interview people. This was unfortunately quite challenging because of the Media Ethics Committee. In order to interview anyone for university purposes, you need their approval. I’m not going to lie, it is truly a struggle to get a green light, since they have strict guidelines. And it also takes quite long for the chair to reply because they gather only once a month. I like challenges so I kept applying until I realised that I had one month left. You already guess it, I had to write a 12500-word thesis in three weeks which was a race against time. I’ve never experienced something so intense, sleepless nights, pulling all-nighters at the library - an obligatory part of the university experience for disorganised students according to The Guardian -, having powernaps under a desk or simply on a library couch every now and then, and coffee as breakfast, lunch and dinner. No one had time to prepare food or buy it from the supermarket. I still wonder how I managed to live like this and still deliver a nice product. I underestimated myself a lot, but thanks to WORLDREP I discovered a side of me I am very proud of.  

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As I read through this column, it blows my mind that it’s been a year. This wouldn’t be possible without WORLDREP and I am truly grateful for the opportunities I have been given to participate in this program. It’s an experience that I would never trade.