Keep a positive mindset and have the time of your life…
So I assume if you’re reading this, you’re studying abroad, you have studied abroad, you’re going to study abroad, or you're someone I know who follows my blog. I’m currently studying abroad in Newcastle, Australia at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. I’ve been here for about a month and a half now, and it is a dream come true. It’s everything I could have imagined and more, but I know that it’s easy to get homesick while studying abroad, or feel down in the dumps some days, because I myself have felt both. Some people experience homesickness more than others do, and some do not have it at all. A lot of people that I’m here with do not miss home at all, and never want to leave, but I couldn’t imagine myself never going home. I’m as much of a homebody as they come. Studying abroad was a huge leap for me, but it was something I needed to do in order to find myself again, and give myself some me-time, away from everyone and everything that I’m too familiar with.
But in all honesty, those people and places that I’m ‘too familiar’ with, are the people and places where my heart resides at. There’s no feeling like home, and there’s no people that will love you like your dear family and friends. I believe firmly in the idea of traveling. It is amazing to get out there and meet new people, hear their stories and then to make your own. Studying abroad is an amazing experience that I would encourage very strongly to all college students out there. No matter where you go, Italy, France, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, England or Ireland… There are SO many opportunities, so many beautiful places out there that will exceed your wildest expectations. DON’T be afraid of them. If you love to travel, have that wanderlust and desire to see the world, I am encouraging you to do it.
1. Do you know how many people are jealous of you, and wish that they had this opportunity?
Those days when you’re feeling down in the dumps, you’re missing home or you are just miserable… We all have them and will have them, even while abroad in another country. But even on the rainiest, coldest day; someone would rather be walking down the wet gloomy streets of Italy than to be sitting in their desk at college in the States. Just know, so many people wish they were you. I know that this a bold statement, but come on now. Who doesn’t wish they could travel the world? There may be some people out there who want to stay in one place for the rest of their lives, but I know for sure that I don’t. I want to go out into this world full throttle and see all that it has to offer. There are so many breathtaking views, too many teal waters, exotic animals, exquisite foods, and amazing people out there to be familiarized with the same ones for your whole life. I once read a quote that said, “We are not meant to stay in one place. If we were, we would have roots instead of feet.” This really spoke to me, and helped me when I was getting ready to leave for Australia. Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity, and I can almost guarantee you that all of your friends back at school wish they were right there living the experience with you.
2. You are afraid to leave your friends, family or significant other? They will be there when you get back.
Many people shy themselves of incredible opportunities such as studying abroad because they are afraid of being homesick, missing their friends and family or their loved ones. But I PROMISE you, that these people will be there when you get back. Communication is key while studying abroad, and if you stay in touch with the people you love the most, there will be no issue. Many accommodations will have Wi-Fi that can be used for iMessaging, FaceTime and internet access to share your pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Time differences can make communicating difficult, but plan out times to talk to people from back at home, set up Skype or FaceTime dates, and get in the routine of doing it daily or weekly. It’s only for a semester, and once you come home, you have the rest of your lives with these people. If they are the ones that support you through everything, there really isn't anything to worry about.
3. Remind yourself daily: This experience is like no other.
Studying abroad is not only a great opportunity, but it’s discovering a new way of life. I have only been here for a month and a half, and I can already sense a positive change in myself. I'm now able to detect my attitudes forming into positive ones each and every day. I am eating healthier, becoming wiser with my spending and saving, living each day in a positive light, and learning to become more social than I ever thought I could be. If you are someone who is shy, sort of anti-social, or just an introvert (like me), this experience sounds very scary, but could be life-changing for you. Studying abroad helps you to keep an open mind with each day that comes. You have to. If you are shallow, negative and close-minded, you will not live the opportunity up to its fullest potential.
4. DON’T brush school off, but DO have fun.
Many people assume that school does not matter while studying abroad. But the reality is, school always matters. You can’t just breeze your way through classes just because you are abroad. School still matters, and so do your grades. I only need what is equivalent to a 75 in the United States in order to pass. It sounds easy but if you really slack off, skip class every week, don’t turn assignments in on time, or don’t study to your full potential for exams, getting a 75 could be tough, especially since I only have 3 big assignments for each class contributing to my overall grade. Lab report (25%), Mid term exam (25%), Final exam (50%). Yup, three chances to do well. It’s important to try your hardest, just as hard as you would at home. It’s also important to not stress yourself out TOO much, and to have fun; after all, you are living in another country and should take full advantage of it. Treat yourself to a party weekend every once in a while, just not all the time if you have a lot of work. It can put a negative strain your grades (and your budget). Just keep in mind what you’re really there for.
5. Go out there and meet new people. There are more people out there than the ones you are studying abroad with. Crawl out of your comfort zone, IT IS OKAY.
I love the group I’m studying abroad with. There are 11 of us and we are as close as can be, but we also all know how to be individuals and live for ourselves. We try and plan activities together, but sometimes it doesn’t always work out. For example, for Spring Break, each and every single one of us is doing something different. Some are going to Bali, some to New Zealand, some to The Great Barrier Reef, the Philippines, etc. We all had different goals with coming here, different places we really wanted to see, and we are not going to hold back on that just because someone else doesn’t want to do it with us. If you really want to travel to New Zealand, but no one wants to go with you, GO ANYWAY. You will regret missing out on the opportunity that you may not ever get again. There are so many people from all over the world at universities with study abroad programs. I can’t even fathom how many people I have met so far from places such as India, Scotland, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, China, and the list goes on and on. So many people out there are just like you. Try just starting a conversation with someone and explaining how you’re a study abroad student. You never know where it will go, and you may end up making a lifelong friend. There is nothing to lose here.
6. BE SMART WITH YOUR MONEY!
I cannot emphasize how important this is. It is so easy to get caught up in the party scene, eating out constantly, or going on too many shopping sprees and falling out of your spendings. This is where frugal spending comes in. Make a budget, and plan out each category accordingly to your budget as well as the duration as to which you will be staying abroad. Categories can include things like Entertainment, Travel, Food, Personal Items, Medical, and Other. Those are the categories in my personal budget, at least. Everytime I make a transaction, I record it in Numbers, an Apple application that is almost identical to Excel. The spreadsheet tells me how much I have left in each category, and how much I have left in my overall budget. By doing this, I can plan what I should stop spending more of, things I need to save for, and how much money I’ll have left weekly to last me for my duration here. Buy groceries instead of eating out all the time, you’ll thank yourself in the long run. The occasional eating out is OKAY, but don’t overdo it. Skydiving is much more worth it than those ten $20 meals.
7. Start a journal, take pictures, make a blog, record videos, write in a diary... even just writing down in the Notes app on your phone. Document your journey as much as you can.
Almost everyone in the group I’m here with has some sort of way that they are journaling our time here. I myself created this blog, and three of the other girls made their own as well. Some of the group records in a journal day-by-day of what we do, even if it’s just a boring day of class. Looking back, you are not going to remember that time that Sally tripped and fell on the bus and spilled her entire water bottle on herself. Small memories like these were huge highlights of your day, but over the course of 3.5-6 months, things like this can be easily forgotten. Just document as much as you can. Take as many pictures as you possibly can, and be annoying with it. People won’t remember how annoying you were being with pictures forever, but you will be able to cherish those pictures forever. Buy a GoPro and bring it along with you! Digitally record those unforgettable moments. You won’t regret it when you are back at home missing your time abroad, and can reflect on every single memory just as vividly as they happened.
8. Have the time of your life.
Even on the boring days, have the time of your life. Go out there and make memories that will stay with you forever. Whether it’s gathering a group of friends and climbing to the highest point in the city to watch the sunset, walking along the beach by yourself to think back on your day, or going out on the weekends with your new friends from Germany. Do it all. Live it up. Don’t hold back on opportunities. Be safe, but do everything and anything you think you want to accomplish. If you’re afraid of heights, try conquering your fear by skydiving! Life is all about taking risks, people. Create a bucket list or a set of goals for your time abroad, and try and complete it before you leave. Some examples could be:
These are just a few examples from my personal bucket list, but the list itself goes on and on. Plan one ahead of your travels, and keep adding onto it as you go. Just remember, studying abroad is an opportunity you don’t want to live down. You want to live it up as much as you can, because the time flies while you are here. Make as many memories as you can, just go out there and climb out of your comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable and awkward, but I promise you, it will be worth it. When you’re 65 years old, your grandchildren will be far more interested in the time you skydived over the Great Barrier Reef and rode an elephant in Thailand than the time you went to a frat party and got wasted. This world has so many nooks and crannies filled with endless opportunities, you just gotta go out and find them.