“Please step aside to have your passport verified,” said the woman in the blue suit. I couldn’t believe it. I thought getting through Sydney Airport would be a breeze.

Now they wanted to make sure I was not an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, or perhaps a spying Russian with microphones in my heels. “We’ll need to check your luggage,” said the woman. She directed me over to a chair, where I sat down and took in my surroundings.

It was not the first time I’d been at Sydney Airport – I had been studying in Australia for a while and decided to take a short holiday to visit my family and friends in Sweden, Hungary, Finland, Italy, Czech Republic and Thailand.

Why me? On my return trip I was very tired after numerous hours of check-ins, luggage pick-ups, screaming babies on planes, headaches as a result of screaming babies on planes, delayed flights, too much turbulence and too little sleep.

Besides, I was wondering why the air hostess had been looking strangely at me when I ordered another glass of red wine after dinner. Those glasses were as small as mouthwash lids for God’s sake. I watched the queue of people walk past me. None of them had to step aside, just me.

Why me? I was asked to step into a room with white walls and a green light. Two customs officers quizzed me as they went through my bags. “Why is your perfume bottle so full? Why are your shoes packed on top of your clothes – don’t girls normally keep their shoes in the bottom of their bags? The buttons on your shorts, what material are they made from? What book did I read on the plane? Why do you have so many books in your hand luggage? Is anyone picking you up from the airport?”

Unfortunately, I answered all the questions incorrectly. I said I packed my shoes on the top of my bag because I had worn them recently. I didn’t know if anyone was going to pick me up because I hadn’t been able to contact any of my friends for the past 48 hours. They were all busy working. I had to explain my problem with jetlag and sleeping in airports and using my books as pillows instead of reading them and why I had sleeping tablets from Thailand in my wallet, and why I did not know the address where I was living in the Czech Republic, and why the brace behind my teeth was still there even though I got my real braces removed many years ago.

The people in blue suits looked at me while I was denying any knowledge about filled perfume bottles and button material. They chucked my clothes back into my bag and told me to do this and to do that. Security reasons. I nodded and let them go though my pockets; showed them the contents of my laundry bag and watched them throw away a statue I had bought in Thailand.

Thanks for nothing The woman, who knew how to talk very fast, gave me forms to fill out and asked me why I was taking so long. I explained that I was a student, a journalism student, and I wanted to read everything before I signed. After that everything changed. “I see, I see, a journalism student,” she said. “Well, I am not going to waste your time any longer. I hope you understand why we do these random checks now and then – it’s nothing personal. Purely for security reasons. I hope you enjoy your studies here in Australia. Thank you very much for your cooperation. Have a nice evening.”

I walked out of the room with my bags. They took everything I had that day, including my own certainty about myself. But at that stage I was too tired to care any more. I was finally home.