Not in Kansas anymore

My first lesson learnt in this experience, is that no amount of preparation, study or research will prepare you for Buffalo in winter.  Let me paint a scene, I was sweating at the Brisbane International airport in jeans, a singlet and boots. My friends and family wishing me farewell were wearing shorts and thongs, the typical attire for Queensland summer. After a gruelling near- 24 hours of stop over flights, customs and delays, I flew back in time to touch down at the Buffalo airport late Sunday night.

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My excitement was draining; I only had the thoughts of a hot shower and hotel bed running through my mind. I queued in line to collect my luggage… that didn’t arrive. It was still stuck at the Detroit airport. My fatigue overtook my emotional stress; I called a cab to my hotel and took my first weary steps outside the airport, screamed loud profanities in front of chuckling security guards and ran back inside. Like I said, nothing will prepare you for a winter in Buffalo.

I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. The cold swirl of snow and sleet felt like a blow to the face, after a few seconds any exposed skin starts to tingle and your fingers turn numb. My thin coat made for Australian winter was not suitable for my new surroundings. Travelling from a land renown as ‘The Sunburnt Country’ where a cold day in winter was 20 degrees Celsius, to negative 20 degrees Celsius, was a shock to my system.

My first morning waking to falling snow was indescribable. It feels like it shouldn’t work, falling delicately from the sky yet is crunchy to walk through.  It’s rare to find snow in Australia, unless you live inland in the southern states. I woke up to snap chats and photos of my friends on their way to the beach, their skin glistening from the heat and humidity, while I was experiencing my first winter wonderland.

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I was greeted by the International office from State University of New York (SUNY), Fredonia who were most welcoming and helped me settle into my first week living on college. My luggage with my winter clothes and bedding finally arrived, and I was wearing five layers of clothing each day, which felt unusual at first, compared to my usual attire of bikinis and shorts back home.

The campus at SUNY Fredonia feels magical under a layer of snow. Visually, it is a stunning college with beautiful buildings forming icicles. Temperature wise it feels like I’m embarking on an Antarctic expedition just walking from my dorm room across campus to the cafeteria. The wind has already blown me literally off my feet four times, and landing in a pile of snow isn’t how movies or books portray it to be. I have never felt like more of a fish out of water, or in this case, a frozen fish out of an ice pond, but I have also never been more kindly received, then by the Global Student Ambassadors here at SUNY Fredonia.

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Although I was missing one of our hottest summers, I had no regrets swapping our golden beaches and warm oceans for the white Narnia I had just entered.

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