My days abroad have come to an end. Right now I am sitting on a random cousin’s couch (if someone has the same last name as you, no matter how distantly they are related, they qualify for free accommodation) in London staring at my battered- and unpacked- suitcase. Somehow I need to figure out a way to cram in my European fashion purchases and over-priced souvenirs – then use my willpower to bring it down to 30kg. Alternatively, I could reflect *procrastinate* by sharing a thing or two I learnt while studying abroad.
On the night of my year 12 graduation, my parents gave me a little globe pendant for my charm bracelet and gave a, “The world is now your oyster.” speech. This cliché moment was the only little nudge my inner “Dora the Explorer” needed. Although I was able to spend the Summer holidays in South Korea teaching English, I was just beginning to create and master the dream plan of escaping Adelaide and flying to the lands of Jane Austen, the Eiffel Tower and cheap booze.
Somehow, I was successful. In the last 200 days I have visited almost 20 countries- some twice. I am not rich, I am not a hugely social person and my parents often likened me to a cat because I get in weird moods if there are any changes to routine. Somehow, in spite of all this, my trip has been successful so I thought I might share some wisdom to help those with upcoming “I AM ABOUT TO FLY HALF WAY ACROSS THE WORLD WHAT THE HECK” feelings.
You will need to take advantage of the pass/fail idea. I was adamant before I left that I would enjoy the academic side of things. But when you are given a 5000 word essay to do over the holidays when your boyfriend is visiting- the beaches of Greece, architecture of Budapest and Prague and the party scene and museums in Berlin and Amsterdam are going to distract you. Be assured your tutors know your type- mine would ask me questions about my travels while he asked everyone else about their assignments- so let yourself go. No one is going to know about that scrape of a pass on the essay you wrote at 3 am in a hotel lobby.
Europeans are the best friends you will ever have- At first, they won’t really get you. “You travelled this far? To study in ENGLAND? And you are missing your summer for our winter? WHY EXACTLY?” Besides their initial confusion, they will love you -you are their icon Aussie friend- and you will have the best group of mix matched friends possible.
Enjoy the rare feeling of privacy. Beside what you choose to post via social media and relay back to people on skype, no one knows what you are really up to. I loved that. Before I left, previous students who had studied abroad really try to push this, “You’re so free- party every night!!!!!!!!!! Never say no to an opportunity” mentality. I ignored that (don’t tell me what to do). I thrived by knowing I could socialise with no one for weeks- and no one would care! When I partied every night of the week, I had no one judging my life choices! I forgot the small world that is Adelaide where sometimes all your movements feel like they are on display. I gained new skills – pottery, pole dancing, portraiture, tried wacky new fashions and went to Turkey by myself for 3 weeks to save Caretta Caretta turtles! It was liberating to have the freedom of exploring my interests and the peace to be introverted to my heart’s content.
Australia is the greatest country on earth. The canals of Venice, Alps of Switzerland, food of Italy and art culture of Amsterdam were enough to make me cancel my return ticket home. Biased as I am, though, no place in the world can compete with the good coffee, the beautiful open spaces and people of home (as stereotypical Aussie as they get). Studying abroad allowed me to clear my mind and know my water by being out of it. Ever since I graduated high school, I wanted nothing more than to leave, but now I know the reasons to stay.