Welcome to Sydney: Continuing the Tradition of “Pay Forward”


Some are coming while some others are leaving. The new comers turn up with millions of hope and optimism while those who leaving disappear with thousands of memories and expectations. This is the rhythm of life where the comings and the leavings are tight together as two interdependent phenomena. Never can someone stop a farewell by crying, neither to be too happy for a unity. They are both there to be enjoyed and accepted as they are.

We sometimes may only expect and pray for a “forever unity” but it is just as ridiculous as stopping the sun from rising up in the morning and setting down in the afternoon. They are both destinies nobody can deny, can you?

This month, as a part of long tradition, here come to Sydney seven of the best Indonesians, funded by AusAID, to study in one of the Australian best universities, UNSW. They, like others, come with questions, uncertainties and hopes at the same time. None of them could really hide their curiosity about the new environment they’ve just faced. Cross culture studies they’ve taken in Indonesia, undoubtedly, could not really cover every single phenomenon about this new place. They, simply, face new things. Some might be too simple, much simpler that what they anticipated, but more even complex, much more complicated than what they’ve prepared for. These are, once again, also part of the traditions: curiosity, underestimations, and overestimations. It is our unity that will put most of the things into their proportions.

Meanwhile, the former Indonesian students, again as part of tradition, continue the chain of regeneration. This is the day some of them become seniors, exactly as some new comers arrive. They, instantly, turn into people who “know everything” about Sydney and about being a student in UNSW. They know how to deal with academic matters, they know where to buy cheap winter shoes, they know how to manage fortnightly stipend and they know how to deal with collecting dumped households from the streets. They know everything, once again to say.

I smile to myself in front of a mirror, staring my face, a face of a senior student. It was not so long ago when for the first time I arrived in Sydney Airport and knew nothing. I owed so much to senior students who have dedicated their time and energy to comfort us and made us feel home in Sydney. Now, I think, is a perfect time for Pay Back. But wait! No, not back but forward! Yes, what I’ve just done to the new comers was a Pay Forward, instead of a Pay Back. It might worth nothing to do a Pay Back as none of senior students need to listen to my preach about Sydney Opera House, The Red Center, Calling Card and sort of things. On the other hand, my little mumbles about the place where to buy a sachet of Indonesian “Jamu” will mean really big to those who visiting Sydney for the first time. This is why we call it Pay Forward, assisting the new generation who need the most.

Floating thousands of kilometers from home, I feel like a little tiny dust in a universe that worth nothing. A friend is the biggest thing I have. However, I try NOT to FIND a friend but TO BE A FRIEND. I expect nothing but everybody does the “Pay Forward”! Welcome to Sydney!

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Author: Andi Arsana

I am a lecturer and a full-time student of the universe

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