**This post refers to my experiences at I-House, a dorm in Wollongong, Australia that housed international students as well as Australian students. If you’re confused about how I ended up in Australia (I kinda was too), you can read about it here.

The first thing I did when I got to I-House was cry in the shower. My information packet had advised me to take short showers due to Australia’s drought. But I stayed in the shower for over an hour that morning crying a deep-heaving, full-body cry. It’s possible I ended the drought with my tears.

After thirty hours of travel, it had just sunk in that I was literally half a world away from the nearest person who knew me. And why? Because of one dumb thing I read on Facebook one night? What the fuck had I done?

I counted months as I cried. Five months until I would see my family. Six months until I would see Chris. Six months until I would see Chris?Holy. Shit.

It was so clear to me now that this was all a terrible, outrageous, almost laughable mistake. I needed to get the hell out of this shower, head straight back to the airport, get on the next flight home, and never tell anyone this happened.

When I got back to my room, there was a knock at my door. An attractive blonde guy introduced himself as Tim from Colorado. He lived in the room across from mine. He wanted to know if I’d like to walk to the beach.

I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand, hoping he couldn’t tell I’d been crying. “Yes,” I said. “That sounds nice.” 

I-House lesson #1: Hallways are called decks and are named after letters of the alphabet. You, lucky you, live on H-Deck (or: hache deck, as we pronounce it in Australia). H-Deck is legendary for being the party deck—has been since 1975. The official H-Deck flag is an image of an animated letter H with a bottle of wine in its hand, a cigarette in its mouth, and textbooks strewn with abandon at its feet while it asks, in a speech bubble, “Is it freakin’ Wednesday yet?”

I-House lesson #2: Wednesday and Sunday nights are party nights. There is no logical explanation for this, they just are. A bus is sent every Wednesday and Sunday night to transport I-House residents to the bars. It is crucial that whoever sits in the first seat lead the rest of the bus in the following chant:

          I got drunk last night (I got drunk last night)!

         I got drunk the night before (I got drunk the night before!)

         And I’m gonna get drunk tonight (And I’m gonna get drunk tonight)!

         Like I’ve never been drunk before (Like I’ve never been drunk before!)

         Cuz when I’m drunk (cuz when I’m drunk)!

         I’m happy as can be (I’m happy as can be!)

         Cuz I am part (cuz I am part!)

         of the I-House fam-ily (Of the I-House fam-ily!)

I-House lesson #3: I-House is your family now. Whether you’re the big man on campus or the most socially awkward loser, you are one of us. You do not need to make friends outside of I-House. We are the best dorm. Everyone else is a rival. You will be on a first-name basis with all two hundred residents by the end of orientation week. All of our mail goes into one communal bin, so postcards will be enjoyed by all. On Thursdays nights we all gather to watch So You Think You Can Dance on the dorm’s only T.V. All of our meals will be eaten together.

I-House lesson #4: There’s not quite enough food to go around. The cafeteria doors open at 5:00pm. You’ll want to line up by 4:30. (Sidenote: avoid the green juice). The last ten people to the cafeteria each night will have to go eat at the Chilijs up the street, which has terrible service, because servers in Australia do not work for tips.

I-House lesson #5: All bathrooms are co-ed. You are not in the wrong bathroom. There is no such thing as being in the wrong bathroom.

I-House lesson #6: Tuesday nights are now your favorite nights because that’s when we have Supper. Supper is the best part of the week but also the most dangerous. Supper is when the staff sets out trays of miniature donuts. Doors open at 9:00, line forms outside the cafeteria at 8:00. All of your friendships must be put on hold when the doors open. It is perfectly acceptable to claw and trip people on your way to the donut trays. You have to be fast, brutal, and ruthless. Any donuts that are not already in your mouth can and will by pried from your fingers. If there was enough for everyone, would your donuts taste as sweet? At 9:03 your friendships will resume as though nothing happened.

I-House lesson #7: In Australia, we use the word “heaps” in every sentence. You should too. Examples:

I love I-House heaps.

           I got heaps bruises from supper last night.

I have heaps of homework. (This is only a grammatical example. There is no such thing as having heaps of homework at UoW).

           I’m heaps drunk.

           I just played heaps of basketball.

I-House lesson #8: “Playing basketball” is I-House code for getting high. Example: “Do you want to go play basketball and watch Die Hard?”

I-House lesson #9: Drinking is allowed and encouraged in I-House. We drink wine from bags. These are called goon bags.

I-House lesson #10: You will not spend much time on the computer. You have a limited internet quota based on megabytes, which allows you to check Facebook about once every ten days. You will not miss it. Your time will be spent playing pranks, jumping on beds, dancing to Mariah Carey, planning trips to rainforests, practicing your imitations of other I-House residents, and having lubricant fights with your deckmates.

I-House lesson #11: If you are bored in I-House, you are doing something wrong.