In his second blog post for World CP Day, guest blogger Christian Karlsen from Norway talks about his experience as an international student in Australia…
I haven’t travelled much in my life, and when I have it hasn’t been longer than to neighboring Scandinavian countries. When you have a disability, or an extra need for security, comfort, familiar people or control in your life, it feels easier to stay at home where all is safe and familiar.
Travelling may seem scary with the challenges we have in our lives, especially alone. I think that if we challenge our fear and chose to take the opportunity, we may end up rich in good experiences, great memories, and a better understanding of who we are.
My name is Christian Karlsen, I have cerebral palsy that is affecting my whole body and in addition diabetes type 1. I’m a psychology student from Norway who has just attended a semester at the University of Sydney, which is on the other side of the globe from Norway.
During my time in Sydney I took psychology, cultural and philosophical studies, and lived in a student accommodation building called Queen Mary Building in Camperdown.
Facing the fears
The thought of travelling for the first time alone across the globe was terrifying, but I knew that giving in to my fear would rob me of the opportunity to experience one of the greatest times in my life.
I believe that being scared or anxious is good, because it motivates us to plan ahead and keeps us prepared, but it can become a problem when we let the fear dictate what we do in life. The fear can be quite convincing. I’ve been convinced by it many times in my life, but most of the time the fear isn’t based on the reality of the dangers and problems that may arise, nor truly based on our ability to solve them or receiving assistance.
I knew my fear of going to Sydney wasn’t based in reality, and that I overestimated the dangers and problems that I could face during my time in Sydney.
That isn’t to say that I wasn’t scared when I lived in Sydney, or that there weren’t any unforeseen problems. The population in Sydney is 5 million, the same as my entire country, and I lived almost in the center of Sydney. This led to many complications for me at first. Everything from travelling the city, buying groceries, going on trips outside of Sydney or knowing what to do in case of an emergency.
Luckily the Queen Mary Building arranged many social interactions and activities, and when you are an international student it gets easier to find friends in other international students. I found several Australian friends, which I feel is because the student community in Sydney is very friendly. When it comes to my disability, I didn’t feel it was an obstacle. Maybe it was on a rare occasion, but mostly people looked passed it and focused on who I am.
We learn and adapt to challenges that comes along the way, and during my time in Sydney the challenges were solved. I figured out how to live comfortably in the city. Some of the first places I went to in Sydney were places I could either ask people for assistance, or be directed to someone that could give me assistance.
Some of them worked at the student accommodation I lived in, or at the university disability and information services. An example of assistance I needed was getting to and from my classes, which was challenging for me. The University of Sydney arranged for the campus security to drive me each time.
Take the leap
Most universities in the world, or travel agencies, have people or departments with the sole purpose of helping people with disabilities or other issues. The key is to reach out to them and work with them on finding solutions!
When you shift your focus from the fear and thought of how problematic the complications will be, to find out how they can be solved, you might see that travelling may be far less complicated than it seems at first.
If you are scared of travelling then be sure that your fears are representing real dangers, focus on the solutions instead of the problems, plan ahead by examining who and where you can find and receive assistance. The solutions are out there, along with the great memories you will get along the way.
Take the time and experience the world!
If you would like to contact Christian, his email is: firstname.lastname@example.org