Emotions that will happen when in a different country alone
Let me be completely honest: at every moment leading up to boarding the plane for my study abroad semester in Australia, I was being told that the trip would be non-stop, without a doubt, 110% the adventure of a lifetime. So far, my time in Melbourne has been that, in some ways.
But there’s also been plenty of less glamorous moments involved in picking up and traveling alone to a foreign country that people don’t talk about. These are moments of lying in bed at night in your new apartment, a literal world away from where you once were, and wondering how the hell you got there and where you’re going when you leave.
These are moments of gloominess, confusion and self-reflection that are all part of the study abroad experience. And they are all vital to personal growth.
These are three things that people nobody told me about studying abroad, and how you can deal with them, learn from them and hopefully become stronger for having been through them.
I have wanted to visit Australia since I was probably 10 years old. Once I learned it was within my means to go to Melbourne on an exchange semester, there was nothing that could stop me.
But, no sooner than when I landed and started unpacking my bags, I was hit with a South-Pacific-Ocean-sized wave of self-doubt and worry.
Why had I done this? Was I really ready to spend over four months of my life in a country where I knew no one? Where I’m separated from my family and friends by entire continents, oceans, hemispheres? Where I don’t even know what the nearest store is where I can buy tampons?
Starting your study abroad semester will probably kick the part of your brain that creates anxiety into overdrive. And yes, being in a new home, city, country is scary because there are so many unknowns. But you can beat this by taking a deep breath and tackling each challenge one at a time.
I started by getting familiar with the beautiful La Trobe University campus that I’m living on. Once I conquered that, I started expanding my exploration to parts of Melbourne City Centre. Now, I can genuinely say I can get all the way from the central business district to the suburbs across the Yarra River without looking at a map.
They key is to remember why you came here and take things one step at a time. Learn how to do this and you just might be able to learn how to do anything.
Even though I’ve had so much time to make new friends in my new city and to adjust to living away from home, I still get homesick and I still get lonely. I have a feeling that, no matter how gregarious a person you might be, you’re probably going to experience this too.
I haven’t found a perfect solution to this aspect of studying abroad yet, but there are some things that help. What has worked best so far has been to make extra certain that I take time to enjoy things that are special just to me. And, most importantly, to be as mindful and present as possible when I do those things.
Studying abroad is going to force you to do things on your own that you probably never thought you would have to do without help, no matter what type of person you are. So, why not take it as an opportunity to become comfortable in being alone by yourself? Maybe it will make you more comfortable in just being yourself.
My mom used to read me this picture book when I was growing up called “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” It’s about a kid who, as you can imagine, is having simply the worst day. So bad, in fact, that he threatens to move to Australia. After all sorts of horrible hijinks, like getting gum stuck in his hair, going to the dentist and eating lima beans for dinner, Alexander learns a valuable lesson: “Some days are like that. Even in Australia.”
Turns out, it took me literally moving to Australia to learn this lesson for myself. I have wanted to visit here for so long, and everyone around me has been so excited for me to go. I think because of this, I built up my study abroad semester in my mind as being some sort of idealized once-in-a-lifetime experience that is, in reality, unachievable.
No matter how confident I may now be with living in Melbourne, no matter how well I’ve learned to deal with homesickness and especially no matter how beautiful Australia is … my moments spent here are still never going to be perfect. There are still going to be terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.
The important thing is to not let those bad days ruin your experience with the days that are unquestionably good and wonderful and exciting. Because some days you may find yourself sitting on green grass in the Royal Botanic Gardens, having a picnic that you made just for you. The weather is calm, and you look up to realize you can see Melbourne’s skyscrapers, rising beyond the trees.
You have traveled over 9,000 miles to get here. And maybe that is the adventure of a lifetime.
Those days are like that, especially because they are in Australia.