When your friends and family are an ocean away, it's so important to develop a loving, supportive relationship with YOURSELF. For tips on cultivating confidence, check out my FREE guide below :)
It’s a buzz word that I heard on nearly every college campus tour that I took as a 16 year old junior in high school. It was this magical concept encompassing new countries, foreign languages, unique food, wild experience, a little bit of studying, and a lot of fun. It’s crazy to think that that was over 5 years ago, and now I am just recovering from my aussie jetlag…
The way I see it, there are 3 important phases of my study abroad experience that I want to share (because I think it could be relevant to your life too)!
The first part was the “before”. Choosing to move to Sydney, Australia for 4 months was NOT an easy decision. All of my life, I was sure that I would study abroad in Paris. I’ve been taking French class since I was 13, and I studied there for 3 weeks in 2013 and absolutely fell in love - of course I wanted to move there for 4 months! Many circumstances - including the program and my classes - prohibited me from considering Paris as a place to study abroad.
Heart break #1.
After I got over the disappointment of not saying “bonjour” to my dream city, I moved on to the list of potential places. During my freshman and sophomore years, I would go to the study abroad fairs in a daze - people shoved brochures at all of the students and tried to convince you that country X, Y, and Z were the most fabulously wonderful places on earth, perfect for YOU! I would return back to my dorm with an armload of papers and a confused mind.
Then it was second semester sophomore year, and I seriously had to choose. The first time I considered Australia was in the spring when I realized that I would probably have to take some science classes while abroad. This meant that I needed a large university with classes in English - bye bye Europe!
While I had never been attached to the idea of studying abroad in Europe (except for Paris, RIP), I hadn’t really given much thought to any countries in the southern hemisphere either. I started to think about all of the things that I could do in Australia - helloooooo Bondi Beach and endless breakkie - and really liked the painting that I had started creating in my head.
Then, the summer before my junior year, I had a week long panic where I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to take the science classes I needed in Australia (long story, pretty boring). When the idea of NOT going to Australia seemed like a real possibility, I truly realized how badly I did want to go. I became super determined to make it work and decided to sacrifice some classes and accept that my senior year class load would be pretty hefty - #NoRegrets though because I was choosing Australia!
In the fall of 2017, I finally sealed the deal and applied to study at UNSW in Sydney. Although I was beyond excited about the semester ahead of me, I also had to wrap my head around the fact that I would not be able to see or visit my school friends, boyfriend, or home friends...heartbreak #2.
I have always been the type of person to do my own thing and not follow the crowd - I’ve started countless solo businesses, was never peer-pressured to drink in high school, went to summer camp by myself in middle school, changed high schools without any friends...solo adventures are kinda my thing. That does not mean that there were no meltdowns or tears when it was time to say goodbye. Because there were. So. Many.
Now comes the fun part...phase 2, aka actually studying abroad!!!
If you’ve been following my Instagram, then you’ve been in the loop with all of my travels, food adventures, and wellness discoveries. I won’t bore you with an extensive recap of my 4 months in Sydney. What I WILL do is tell you that I had the absolute most amazing time and give you my top 5 tips/reflections to apply to your own study abroad experience and life in general!
1. Be an adventure-seeker NOW! My friends and I absolutely jam-packed our semester in Sydney with countless outings - hikes, beach walks, restaurants, yoga classes, art exhibits...you name it, we probably did it! Even though 4 months seems like a long time, you will get busy and the semester will come to an end. If you have a free Saturday, GO DO SOMETHING! Don’t wait until another free weekend because you never know what else will come up in your social or academic calendar.
2. Travel! Ok duh...but actually, if you have the opportunity to travel, go. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to hop on a 9 hour plane ride somewhere! Travelling is all about visiting somewhere new. You will learn so much about yourself, the new location, and your travel companions, even if you just venture on a 2 hour road trip. Get outside of your city’s bubble as best as you can, as often as you can.
3. Go solo! I can’t tell you how many solo lunch dates, beach days, and walks I went on. YES I prefer to be socializing with friends as I do these things, but at the end of the day, your abroad experience (and life, ha!) is totally up to you. If you’re bored, go outside and find something to do. Don’t wait for anyone else to offer up a plan or an activity. Appreciate being alone with yourself. Listen to some cool new music or learn about a new topic on a podcast or audiobook. There is so much reflection and processing to be done, and being alone is the perfect time to let all of your new experiences and reflections sink in.
(#3 is so much easier when you practice self love!! Don't forget to check out my free guide for self love tips!)
4. Don’t expect anything! I definitely went abroad with a few expectations. I tried not to, but I did. Some experiences totally surpassed my expectations, and others fell short. What I realized though, was even some of the things that happened that felt difficult or annoying at the time happened for a reason, and I learned something very valuable. Living in a new country for 4 months with new people in a new home with new classes and professors is bound to be a wild ride, and you simply don’t know where it will take you until you’ve arrived! Embrace that unknowing, and buckle up your seatbelt anyway.
5. Prioritize! A lot of people will tell you to “say YES to everything while you’re abroad!”. I’m going to disagree with this one a little bit. If you say yes to everything, then you will probably come back home sleep-deprived and broke with not-so-good grades. Your semester abroad is definitely a time to ~live it up~, but you simply cannot do it all. Learning to prioritize what I truly wanted to do, who I wanted to hang out with, which friends I wanted to make an effort to FaceTime frequently, and how I wanted to spend my free time abroad was super crucial and helpful in ensuring I had a fulfilling experience in Sydney.
So now we get to stage 3...coming home and back to school. Honestly, I’m only a couple of days into this phase. Therefore, I’m going to state some intentions for this next chapter in my life post-abroad…
1. Keep doing all of those things that I listed above! Just because I go to school in Nashville and not Sydney now doesn’t mean that I can’t seek adventures, travel, hang out with myself, keep my expectations at bay, and prioritize the things and people in my life. IN FACT, I fully intend to. I’ve heard tons of my friends return home with ideas like “WOW we need to keep exploring Nashville and go on more trips next year”. I couldn’t agree more, and I’m so excited to continue to create new epic memories in the USA.
Yep...that’s pretty much it! The point is: studying abroad is absolutely incredible, and anyone who gets the chance to embark on such an experience should consider themselves extremely lucky. That being said, I don’t necessarily believe that the few months of my life in Sydney should be or will be the best months of my entire life. In fact, I hope they’re not. I hope (and know) that I will continue to learn, grow, and experience incredible events in the months and years to come. My time in Australia will absolutely be one of the most memorable times in my young adult life, and for that I am so grateful. Whether you loved abroad, hated it, are nervous to go, can’t wait to jump on the plane, never went, or never will, I hope that you can all take a little something from this article. As always, if you want to chat with me about your personal experience, come say hi! :)
P.S. If you are planning to study abroad in Sydney, then download my FREE K&K Sydney Study Abroad Guide!