Dear Future Study Abroad Students,
There’s a reason there are so many clichés about studying abroad and that’s because most of them are completely accurate. It’s easy to say “don’t be afraid,” “try new things,” or “it’s okay to feel homesick” because most of the time these things apply to everything you do. When you’re in a foreign country suddenly going grocery shopping can be the biggest adventure of your life or the most familiar thing to being back home. The truth is your study abroad experience is what you make of it. That’s the plainest advice I can give. I came to Australia with an idea in my mind of what my study abroad experience would be. I couldn’t be more grateful that it didn’t turn out the way I had planned.
First, you’re going to have a preconceived notion of what the country you’re going to will be like. You’ll be thinking of stereotypes as much as you’ll deny it and you’ll be expecting things to be a certain way. This notion will be shattered, you will be surprised, and you might even be disappointed. Don’t let this upset you. Did I wish that everywhere I went there would be koalas and kangaroos and other crazy Australian wildlife, of course, because I love animals and that was a large reason I came to Australia. What I didn’t expect was to instead experience the culture and life of a city I’ve begun to call my home. I didn’t live in the middle of an outback or surf every day, but I did live a different life here. Flexibility is so important when experiencing life abroad. Things are going to be different, and different is the best way to describe them. Nothing is wrong or worse than the way you’re used to living back home, just different. The sooner you can realize this, the sooner things will begin to seem brighter. Homesickness will fade in and out, and you can respect the lives people are living around you and if you’re lucky you can become a part of it.
My second piece of advice is to travel as much as you can. This does not mean buy a hundred plane tickets throughout the semester and visit big touristy places for 2 days at a time, it means explore the place you’re living. It can be so easy, especially once you start classes, to get into a routine. You go to university, come home, do work, and repeat. Break the routine and walk down a street you haven’t been down before. Take a bus or a train to a different town, walk around, and ask the locals where their favorite spots are. These places can end up being your favorite places in the entire country and half the time you wouldn’t realize that they’re just around the corner from you.
Lastly, there’s the worn out “try new things!” but I truly can’t emphasize how important this is. You’re going to be in an entirely new country, surrounded by new people and new places. Don’t fall into what’s comfortable, but rather try to push yourself into trying something you would never be able to try back home. It’s terrifying, I know, but the result is worth the cost. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy and just taking the leap to up and leave everything you know behind is incredibly brave. Give yourself credit for what you’ve already done and remember that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’ll be so thankful in the end of your journey if you look back remembering all the things you tried rather than all the things you watched pass by.
You’re going to have a wonderful time, wherever you go. Everything will different, and sometimes different is the greatest thing you could ask for.
A Study Abroad Student