5 Lessons I Learned From Studying Abroad

I don’t want to say this… It’s over. That’s right, we’re done. Our close and intense relationship is over. I won’t tread on your territory anymore. I’ll try not to get sad when I talk about you. You were one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  You made me stumble home a few too many times. You made me spend all of my money (all but $20). You made me cry. You made me smile. You made laugh. You made me, me. You made me learn things about myself and the world that I never thought you would. I don’t mean to call you out in a blog, but Australia, you did a real number on me. One that I would do over and over again.

Studying abroad has been an extraordinary experiences. I’m not sure how I can highlight the past four and a half months, so I will explain the five biggest lessons I’ve learned from studying abroad.

1. Life goes on without a phone

That is right. Life. Goes. On. Before I left for Australia, I was GLUED to my iPhone. I have a horrible disorder.. I call it SMA, that stands for “Social Media Addiction.” I used to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube all of the time. I mean, I’d be at dinner or in a meeting and guess what I was doing? You’re right, I was on my smart phone checking social media sites, emails, or texts. How sick. When I came to Australia, I no longer used my iPhone (besides running) and I bought one or three prepaid phones. Okay, the total number of prepaid phones I bought in Australia was three. Don’t ask me why or how I lost them, you don’t want to know the answer. Anyways, I lost my third phone in Sydney, so about one month ago. That means I have lived without any type of phone for one month. I won’t lie,  life without a phone, smart or prepaid, is a love/hate relationship. It is nice to be “disconnected” and really develop relationships without any distractions… At the same time, if you don’t have a phone to text and/or call your friends to make plans, the relationships can be tough to get started. Thank goodness for Facebook and my stalking abilities. LOL, but seriously.  I would recommend this to anyone: try going a week without your smartphone. Delete all social media applications and shut off your email for just ONE WEEK. You’ll miss it at first, but after a while, it is refreshing to turn off the technology and really have a conversation (or martini) with no distractions.

2. Trust yourself.

Cliche, right? I know. Trusting my gut got me to Australia in the first place. I felt in my heart that I needed a change. I needed to explore the world and try to figure myself out.  I learned quickly that if I was going to actually experience Australia and have fun, I needed to trust my instincts. When you study abroad, there are many things thrown in your way at the same time and it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement. Having fun is always a priority while abroad, but when you feel that pull in your stomach or hear that little voice in your head or see the angel and devil battling out your options on your shoulders, take a step back and recognize what you want to happen. No one likes waking up the morning feelings ashamed of themselves. Taking advantage of opportunities and testing your limits is what studying abroad is all about. Don’t be quick to dismiss something that is “different” to you, but make sure to think before you act. I always think, “Would I want to tweet that I’m doing this?” It’s sad, but remember– I have a problem…

3. Say “hi.”

It is that easy. Hi is only a two letter word. It isn’t one of the nasty four-letter words. It doesn’t start with an “f.” You don’t have to say “double hockey sticks” when you’re spelling it out in front of toddlers. All you have to do is say “hi” and a relationship is born. Don’t believe me, try it. Okay– I might have lied. After you say “hi,” try to follow it up by introducing yourself and finding common grounds by actually talking about life and experiences. I found success in talking about going to the pool, shopping at the plaza and future travel plans. I guess those are obvious choices because everyone goes to the pool, shops at the plaza and is planning a trip. Saying “hi” is another way I pushed myself to step outside of my comfort zone to continue making friends and learning about myself.

4. Money matters.

Dad,

You’re right. I need to be more cautious of my horrible spending habits. It’s really not my fault, you taught me how to shop. Karma?

Love,

Pat

But really, being abroad has taught me a great deal about financial planning and budgeting. I traveled a lot in the past four months and I only had one hick up with finances…. Darn you, Syndey. Besides that, I was very conscious of my spending habits. General brands at the grocery store are just as good as name brand AND it is cheaper. Obvious choice- general brand. Going out to eat once a week = $25-30, making the same meal at home = less than $10. Obvious choice- making my own food. Buying all of my drinks at the bar = $$$$, pregaming with friends before I go out = priceless. Sorry, that last one was too funny not to post.  Money does matter. If I wanted to travel, buy new clothes and have internet (we have to pay for internet every month), I had to manage my financials. Part of managing money is finding tricks where you can save and then finding the appropriate time to splurge on a steak or something basic like a trip to New Zealand.

5. Smile.

Everyone loves to smile. When I would feel homesick or sad for missing a birthday or holiday, I made sure to start of my day by smiling for five minutes. My cheeks would hurt after two minutes or so, but it was hard to complain when I was smiling. All of my experiences challenged me in different ways. The people I most respect have always taught me that a situation is what I make of it. I’ve always been a positive person, but for a while, I was becoming negative and just meh. I’m not sure what it was. Maybe the Australian sun was making me crazy or I just missed home, but when I decided to smile more often, all of my problems vanished. Sure, I might sound crazy right now, but really– try it.

I can’t believe I leave Australia in less than twelve hours. Of course I still have to finish packing, but waiting until last minute makes everything more fun. :)

My experience abroad has been, well, I don’t know how to explain it. It leaves me speechless. Never have I been in a more relaxed atmosphere for such a long period of time. Never have I trusted complete strangers so quickly to consider them my friends. Never have I thought about leaving home for home.

Australia has been my home for the last 142 days. Incredible. I will miss this. A lot.

Australia,

Thank you for being you. Thank you for teaching me so much about myself. Thank you for showing me life outside of the norm. I’ll be forever grateful for this experience and I look forward to returning to you one day.

Best,
Pat

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