27th of March, 2010 - Townsville, Australia.
I remember sitting on a plane, flying over the Pacific between LAX and Sydney Intl Airport. Flying west (with the sun), I was leaving my known world behind in El Salvador in order to pursue a higher education in Australia. A fresh start, a fresh page and a new beginning. The plane landed in Sydney at around 10pm local time. It was Friday, 3th of February 2006. And so it started.
Four years in Australia. Four years. It feels like nothing, but it feels like a long time as well. I came to pursue a degree in Pharmacology, which I officially obtained today, by the grace of God. Today, sitting there inside that auditorium, wearing a full academic gown, having received my testamur and listening to the motivational speeches of those who are ahead of us, I finally felt that sense of completion. I came to Australia to study, and my goal was accomplished today. 4 years of hard work, of long hours of study, of lots of coffee, of Maccas runs, of study sessions, of nights in the JCU Library, of going into the lab at crazy hours of the night to continue my experiments. 4 years of exciting learning, of subjects that pushed me to take that step further, to think outside the box and to have fun while learning. 4 years of an amazing academic journey that teased my mind and made me explore questions I never thought of, and to taste the pleasure and the excitement of the scientific endeavour.
I came to Australia for that, and today, I can say that I finished it. I've reached that goal that was so distant at the start, but that has been completed now. Above all, I thank my awesome God, whose grace sustained me through these four years, and gave me the strength, intelligence and courage to continue. And I thank those friends around me, those who suffered with me, who laughed with me, those with whom I shared my University experience at JCU, with its ups and downs. And of course, I thank my family, who would always encourage, love and support me, even from across the Pacific. I couldn't have done it without you.
And yet, I leave Australia with more than an academic accomplishment. I came here expecting just that, but no - God had bigger plans for me. During my 4 years in Australia I have been able to get to know so many people, from so different backgrounds and nationalities. It has been amazing to make so many new friendships, and to experience the "mateship" so typical of Australian culture. This was specially true whilst living at the residential colleges at JCU - I will always remember the laughs, the craziness, the shared life we had, and the gathering of good friends around the college dinner table. I will never forget those treasured moments!
But not only that. I had powerfully experienced the love, care, encouragement and fellowship of those whom I call my brothers and sisters in Christ. God has moved in my life in so many powerful ways through Christian Union and my church in Townsville. It has been an amazing spiritual journey, to grow in my understanding of God, and to embrace a deeper relationship not only with Christ, but also with my fellow brothers and sisters who also call Jesus their Lord. It humbles and excites me to realise that God continues to transform, not only me, but the whole church, into the likeness of Jesus Christ. And what a joy we can have in the hope that stems and flows out of this powerful Gospel!
Australia means so much to me, and I will be always be thankful for the opportunity to come to this country. I have become part of this culture, part of the furniture and part of this nation. I will still remain a Salvadoran Chocolate Bear, but with an Australian filling.
And so it ends, today, as well. With that farewell party, I officially say Goodbye to Australia, to my second home, to my extended family that I leave behind. The actual final Goodbye will be on my last day, and I hope to report on that day as well (i.e. there is Part Two coming xD).
Sadness, excitement, melancholy, happiness: a mixture of all of them. As the chapter entitled "Australia" draws to an end, I leave to new adventures, to new excitements, to new frontiers and to new blank pages. So many opportunities lying in front of me! But one thing is for sure: I will never forget this Great Southern Land and its people, a nation that opened its doors for me and adopted me for life, if not legally, at least in their hearts.
Thanks to all the people with whom I shared my life in Australia. You will be missed enormously, and in spite of the distance, I will not forget you.