For the friends I met in Malta, meeting up somewhere in Europe for the weekend is the most normal thing. Two of my Italian friends went to Rome with our Irish flatmates, last week my German friends visited Paris for our friend's concert. French and Dutch mates meet in Belgium and two Spanish girls caught up with someone in Sweden. Last Christmas my friend came over from Germany just to help us move to our new house. Even over here, my friends regularly hop to Sydney or Bali for the week. And when Noah or Aryaan comes to Malta, it's more of "just visiting Belle" for a few days than a vacation.
Travelling has become such an ordinary thing. Especially after going on exchange or living abroad, the world becomes a lot smaller. Malta to Vienna is about the same as Ċirkewwa to Marsaxlokk (though Malta-Berlin may even be faster, gotta love the Maltese buses). Flights are dirt cheap. My mum's round trip from Amsterdam to Melbourne was 600 bucks. Less than a month's rent gets you to the other side of the planet! Whether that's good is another issue, but for broke college students it's a beautiful thing.
I'm planning my fair share of trips in Australia, too. I want to make most of my time here. Next week I'm going tramping in New Zealand for two weeks. New Zealand seems like a dream to me, a place you might end up in your 30s if you're lucky and rich. It sounds like a heavenly utopia on the other side of the planet, and apparently it's unreal. But when you live in Melbourne it's so close that no one is impressed when you're flying to Christchurch.
"Oh sick, you're going to New Zealand? I'm heading to Woolies, need anything?"
A road trip trough Tasmania or a getaway in Brisbane is only the natural way to spend your weekend. It's because of the mindset of exchange students. We're just here for a couple of months, so we want to make the absolute most of it. It's an amazing way of life. Living in Malta is super exciting and adventurous thanks to my international friends. After an exchange you try to take that mindset home. Life is so good when you can appreciate it and make the best out of everything, even in everyday life.
So I'm planning my upcoming adventures. I'm still waiting for the exam timetable, but I mainly have research essays, presentations and projects instead of exams. Depending on my Chinese exam I've got a few weeks off in June. I have two friends in Japan and would love to visit them. It's ten hours away from Melbourne, but that suddenly seems super close (who would've ever thought?). I'm also looking for a nice dive school in the Philippines to do my Divemaster course this summer. If I manage to finish I'll be a dive guide by September! The next step is instructor, I want to do the instructor courses in my final year in Malta. On my way back to Europe I'd love to stay in China for a while to practice my Mandarin, and hopefully I'll get to spend some time in the Netherlands before I head back to Malta by the end of September.
Most people are pretty surprised when I say I'm studying in Malta. They always ask why I would do that. I get it - rationally speaking it doesn't make any sense. I can go to top universities with low tuition fees in the Netherlands, and the University of Malta isn't particularly famous for it's academic prestige (it's, like, pretty shit). But the more time I spend on this world, hopping around continents, the more normal it gets. Europe is just an extension of the Netherlands. And actually so is the world. The more you see and experience, the more it turns out that everywhere people live, eat, work, and study. And that language and culture isn't that much of a barrier. When Budapest is as reachable as Dingli and you can get to the other side of planet earth in 24 hours, the world is like a marble. We're just floating around on a tiny spec of dust.