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My heart belongs to San Francisco

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One thing you notice while on exchange is that you are constantly in love – believe me it happens fast and you fall hard. But I’m not talking about that special someone. This love consumes your every movement, your every action, and shapes your entire perception. You get dizzy from the aroma of cafes and street food, you become weak from the sight of a cable car, you are enchanted by the rhythms of the busker. And then you realise “I’m in San Francisco.”

Before leaving Sydney, I didn’t know what to expect from the exchange program or from my new home city. The only expectation I really had was that being in California, San Francisco would be an eternal city of summer and sun — unfortunately this was not the case:

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(This is SF on a nice summers day. That is a carpet of fog.)

But that couldn’t taint my love for the city. San Francisco is absolutely beautiful and now I understand why so many people, especially Americans, dream about this little place I’ve been calling home. Even though people recognise SF for its icons, like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the essence of the city lies is what is hidden and what you can find within each of its layers. Each neighbourhood has its own flavour — from the hippy vibes of Haight-Ashbury to the Spanish influences of the Mission to the vibrancy of the gay-lesbian Castro district — and with it comes an abundance of warm, friendly people and interesting characters.

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Honestly, the amount of times I’ve had to pinch myself on exchange is probably considered self-abuse. San Francisco State University (SFSU) is a pretty campus that to me extrudes positivity and creativity. It is so refreshing to be on a campus where there is grass and just general shrubbery (love you UTS). I am majoring in Cinema here, and the film school is pretty good, offering a comprehensive range of subjects so I didn’t have trouble finding subjects I like.

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(First day of school with @benjaminstrum)

As for the people I’ve met so far and the friends I have made, it would be an understatement to say they are amazing. It sounds cheesy, but I feel really fortunate to have made exchange best friends and to have formed an “exchange family.” The friendships that you make on exchange are indescribable and I don’t know where else you could form such connections with people as you do while studying abroad.

Whenever I speak to anybody from home now, I can’t help but stress the importance of going on exchange. So far this has been the best experience of my life – I have tried so many new things and engaged with a world of cultures, met life-changing people and developed as an individual. And it’s not over yet! San Francisco, thanks for having me.

~I will leave you with some photos of our adventures throughout the semester~

Mona Malamiri, San Francisco State University, 2013

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