It’s hour 19 of my flight from London to Sydney. The reality is that sleep is unlikely at hour 13 of the flight; a baby is crying two rows down and my legs are numb from being seated for so long. Three hours still remain before landing and then I have to get through the passport line. As an Australian international student this difficult experience has become something of a routine. The process of flying home begins months before take off. At the start of the academic year I handed my CV into every store in Leamington Spa with the hope of obtaining a part time job. Once secured, I attended my weekly shifts with my customer service smile intact to earn the money for my very expensive plane ticket.
Next in the process was to book the very expensive plane ticket, a deceivingly complicated task. Booking more than six months in advance means not knowing what everyone’s plans will be. This can result in either having to hang around once everyone has left or missing out on plans and events. The decision is then made over where to depart from. The debate on whether the hassle of catching three trains with heavy suitcases to Heathrow airport is worth saving the extra £30 to fly from Birmingham. To clarify this- it is not.
The inability to pop home for a comforting hot meal or a hug when the stress is too much can be difficult
A return ticket to Sydney will usually cost somewhere around £700 (£765 with Etihad this November). However, cheaper tickets can be found if willing to make three stops and travel with a questionable airline no one has heard of. Unfortunately, airline costs skyrocket around peak travel times such as Christmas and Summer, which happens to be when I want to fly. The most I have paid for a ticket has been £1550 to arrive home in time for Christmas.
Most students can’t afford a sum that large to be taken from their bank account regularly. The impact of being unable to visit home can be felt throughout the academic year. The inability to pop home for a comforting hot meal or a hug when the stress is too much can be difficult. Not to mention the realities of cutting down on buying coffee out or turning down a night out to save money. With thirty-five percent of Warwick’s student population comprising of non-UK students, 9325 students are struggling with these sacrifices for their education.
After an excruciating term struggling to spend as little as possible, it’s finally the week of my flight. A week of assessments and end of term parties conflicts with my desperate need to pack. You might think that after two years of flying back and forth I would be somewhat of a packing expert. This is not the case. Five minutes before I have to leave, I can be found frantically stuffing items in whilst sitting on an overflowing bag. The pride attained from being able to shut the suitcase is fleeting as I meet my arch nemesis, the luggage scale. I try and distract the check-in lady from my nervous sweating and overweight bag with smeet smiles and small talk. She definitely sees right through my act. My rucksack is stocked with more reading material and snacks than I’ll ever need for the flight. The airline movie selection has been updated and the man asleep to my right ensures there is no risk of awkward conversation.
Is all of this worth being able to see my family? Absolutely
In spite of all of this, I’m still not ready for the 22 hours ahead of me. Is all of this worth being able to see my family?
Absolutely. Every time I step out of the airport and see my parents and brother I experience the same wave of overwhelming emotion. This could be partly due the delirious state I’ve reached. I would do the 22 hours three times over if it meant we were able to be together.
If I’m willing to endure those twenty-two hours there must be something pretty special waiting on the other side
The cliché that ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ rings clear at this moment. Spending some holidays alone or being unable to visit on my Mum’s birthday has made me truly value the time I spend at home. Living away from the comfort of where I spent the first 18 years of my life is incredibly rewarding but involves much sacrifice. There have been moments such as hour 19 of the long-haul flight where I regret my decision to move so far away. Melodrama aside, the flight is certainly the most emotionally exhausting part of living on the other side of the world. I can say with confidence that if I’m willing to endure those 22 hours there must be something pretty special waiting on the other side.