Every experience, whether good or bad, leaves an impression on you and, sometimes, these impressions even teach you something. I can say without hesitation that my experience in Australia has been good overall, and that I learned a thing or two from my friends, from Australians, and from my own reflections. So, here is a list of five things (in no particular order) that I learned while in Australia.
You don’t have to take yourself so seriously
This is something that I learned from my roommate. Personally, I’ve never really laughed at myself enough. Whether that’s due to insecurity or wanting to present myself a certain way to other people, I don’t know, but what I used to do when someone playfully teased me, was to make a mental note to never do the thing again. It never occurred to me that it could just be the person being friendly in their own way and picking up on my quirks. It’s still a habit for me to go on the defensive, but hopefully, I can teach myself to break out of that.
Self-care is Important
I learned this over the course of about a week in the middle of the experience when homesickness and the cultural differences really hit me. When the homesickness first hit me, I tried to force myself to enjoy the experience because I felt that, if I wasn’t enjoying it 100% of the time, I wasn’t doing something right. This is far from the truth. I learned that, when things happen and you can’t help but feel down, it’s ok to take some time to yourself. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling.
Outside of Your Comfort Zone is Where the Adventure Begins
This can be applied to social interactions, going on hikes, or even just walking around the city. To me, this statement means that discomfort is not always indicative of a bad situation. In fact, discomfort could simply mean that you’re charting new territory in your life or you’re gaining new knowledge.
School Isn’t the Most Important Thing
This is a strange statement coming from me. Being from an immigrant family, school as always been the top priority for me and my family. That degree that I’m working towards has always been the key that unlocks a better future, a pathway to success, and a way to have a better life than my parents who fled a war-torn country. While this mentality is good to have in many respects, it often comes at the cost of other experiences. If I had applied this mentality to my time in Australia, there would have been no point in going if I was going to sacrifice the experiences. So, I relaxed a little. I did the important things and I still did my best, but I got better at making time for hiking and exploring and going to the beach.
School is still my top priority, but I learned that it doesn’t have to consume me. I don’t have to work on things until they’re absolutely perfect, and that there is a different school in session outside of class: life.
Despite Everything, Studying Abroad is Not a Vacation
*Cue the Study Abroad Office*: “We TOLD you.”
I know now. But I didn’t pay attention when they told us this in the beginning. I thought it was going to be a breeze but, no, there are still classes and assignments that you must do to pass the courses and they still require brainpower.
Maybe my mistaken approach, in the beginning, is what contributed to me learning point number four (above) but it definitely sideswiped me when we got halfway through the Collarts trimester and I realized that there were real assignments that required my attention and not just some half-written BS. If one of the probably-three people reading this are thinking about studying abroad, don’t learn this the hard way.
Overall, my experience in Australia was really good. I don’t think I would change anything about it. I was able to meet a lot of awesome people, I got to better know the students from Drexel who went with me on the exchange program, and I saw lots of amazing sights. I’m especially glad for getting to know my roommate even better. She and I did this experience together and I don’t know what I would have done without her.
So, yeah, I’m satisfied.