As I wait for my flight at the Los Angeles Airport, I want to take the time to reflect on, as well as give advice, on studying abroad. I have learned a lot about myself, about Australia, and about the way the world views the U.S. It has truly been the adventure of a lifetime, thanks to the people I have met, the places I have been, and the things I was able to do. While it is fresh in my mind, and I am thinking back over everything for myself, I want to pass on a few pieces of advice for study abroad, or even travel in general.
Don’t Be Afraid…
To Travel Alone: Whether you are studying abroad alone or with a group, you will find yourself in situations where you are completely alone. For some that will be traveling alone on breaks, or maybe walking to work. Take these opportunities as a training lesson in independence.
To Try New Things: Sometimes, life seems to work like food. Picky eaters often have never actually tried the foods they say they dislike. In this case, it might be climbing a bridge, scuba diving, bungee jumping, etc that are worth breaking through your boundaries and expanding your horizons. There were several nervous scuba divers on our boat trip in Cairns, yet everyone reflects positively on the experience. Learn to break out of your comfort zone.
To Meet New People: It is far too easy to play it safe and hang out with the group of people you first meet when abroad. It is incredible how much insight you can gain from a single conversation, and you never know when global connections and friends will come in handy or when you will see people again, plus, social media makes it easy to stay in touch with the people you meet, even without any effort.
Get Out There and Do…
Things You Have Always Wanted To Do: Obviously, do whatever drew you abroad in the first place. I have now climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge twice now, and I will be sure to do it again when I visit again.
Things You Are Too Tired To Do: I can’t say I was the best at this, but the semester flies by, so you need to take advantage of opportunities when they come along. I would sometimes think that it might be nice to go into town, or to the beach, and then think about the bus or train ride and decide that I was too tired. Try to avoid this as much as you can. It will happen, but things usually end up being fun if you get out there and just do stuff.
Whatever You Have To Do To Not Have Any Regrets: When you fly home, the last thing you want to have is regrets, you want memories. Yes, there is a possibility that you may be back in Sydney, but wouldn’t you rather leave knowing you completed everything off of your bucket list. Don’t let opportunities pass by.
Be Prepared For…
Differences: Yes, will encounter various little difference that will affect you in a big way! Small things such as walking on the left side, or not tipping, and the like will take some getting used to! And funnily enough, the reverse will happen as you assimilate back into your home country. Just today at the airport I found myself naturally trying to step on the left escalator when I was supposed to go to the right now.
Low Points: Listen, I lived in one of the coolest places on earth. However, that doesn’t mean I was on a three-month vacation where I had no worries. I had many stressors, such as classes and my internship. You will have squabbles with your roommates. You will miss your friends and family. You will miss going to Walmart at midnight. You will miss feeling comforted. But that is the most important part, getting out of this comfort zone and allowing yourself to be vulnerable to a new culture will allow you to have one of the best experiences possible. Yes, there will be low points, but they won’t be what you remember.
Calling A New Place Home: As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, there is a massive difference in going on vacation and calling it home. Leaving Sydney earlier this morning was one of the hardest things I have done. You find yourself becoming attached, planting roots in a new place. I think it is safe to say I love Australia, considering I now have the national flower tattooed on my rib cage.
It is a bittersweet moment to leave Sydney. It will always have a special place in my heart, and I can guarantee it won’t be the last time I visit.
By Abigail Wright