Mckenna Groeneveld shares the ups, downs and turnarounds of being an international resident at UON.
Moving 7,500 miles away from home was not an idea that just happened overnight. Months of prayer, discussion, tears and reevaluation were required before I decided that I wanted to commit three years of my life to a different place and live outside of my comfort zone. I grew up in a small rural town called Snohomish, just forty-eight kilometers north of Seattle, Washington. My hometown was known for coffee, rain, and farms. I was lucky to have the best friends, two loving parents, countless encouraging family members, and three fur babies. Even then it feels like a terrible understatement. Yet because of these amazing people in my life, I have the best support system to help me embark on this daunting and nerve-wracking journey.
This will sound crazy but I hadn’t exactly done a lot of research about which school I wanted to attend in Australia. In fact, it was a friend who knew someone that attended the University of Newcastle and loved it that first gave me the idea. Instantly I was thinking, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Scrambling like a kid on Christmas morning, I did my research and projected the costs of going to school in Australia and quickly asked for my parent’s opinions. I had been studying Nursing in the states, taking all my prerequisites before applying to various programs, so this would be a very similar route as back home. Long story short, I didn’t really look into other schools after I heard about UON. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling, and that’s exactly what I did. After I received acceptance letter in June, however, I took my time contemplating if this was what I really wanted to do. I turned to prayer until I was sure this was ultimately the best decision for me. By late September I made my decision and signed away my life (just a slight exaggeration, but I knew this decision was important!). So now I’m here in Newcastle, enrolled in the nursing program and loving it!
Living on-campus is an absolute must. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come here not knowing where anything is, be unable to drive, and won’t know a single soul. Living on-campus may seem expensive, but it’s the best way to emerge yourself in the culture here at uni. I am currently living at New Res North Tower on-campus in a six share, which immediately meant I would meet some new people. It also provided me with easy access to campus, transport options, a community of people who feel the same way I do and a safe place to live. I also have an RM (Residential Mentor) who is encouraging, always keen to help me and was my very first friend here. Living on-campus is probably the easiest way to make that transition from your comfortable home life to living outside of your own comfort zone.
“Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling, and that’s exactly what I did.”
Speaking of which, let’s talk about homesickness. First things first, you need to know that being homesick is completely okay and normal. I honestly feel homesick a couple times a week! There’s nothing wrong with admitting you miss your mom’s home cooked meals, and your dad’s hugs. When you want to talk to people back home, do it! I Facetime with one of my friends or family members every day. Let yourself be homesick, but don’t let it take away from the opportunities you have here. Take advantage of being on your own. Learn how to be comfortable being alone and venture out to make new friends because I guarantee the people around you are feeling the same way. Go to the beach, ask the person sitting next you in lecture to grab some coffee, try something new with your floor mates, pick up a new book or go to a workout class. You’re not going to make your best friend in a matter of days, weeks or maybe even months, but let yourself be open to meeting someone.
It’s going to be scary, but be scared and do it anyway.
To keep up with Kenna and her on-campus journey, you can follow her personal blog Be Bold Aussie Girl that’s updated regularly with blog posts and vlogs, just like the one below!
Feature image: Mckenna (far left) and friends. Sourced from Mckenna’s blog.