My experience of studying abroad is one of the best things that I have experienced in my life so far. Last year I have gotten a chance to spend a semester in Australia and no kidding, it was life-changing. I feel like I was fast-tracking in gaining what feels like a few years worth of life skills in just a few months. Oh and also, my liver is still recovering….. HA!
On another note, I have to be real about the studying abroad experience. Of course on a big picture, it was awesome and exhilarating. But if you’re like me, then you might have the tendency to romanticize everything in your head and unconsciously form a higher expectation about certain things. I feel like if I knew the things that I know now, I would not be surprised as much. In a way that, I would adapt much more effortlessly and save myself from all of these unnecessary struggles if I knew…
It’s not all magic and rainbow
Oh, the fairytale of packing your bag to go to live in another country and then go on days full of adventures. Imagine yourself eating your way through the cities, enjoying your glasses of wine in the vineyard (or vodka soda in the bar, whatever your choice is) and grinding on exotic gorgeous local who you fall in love with after he bought you a drink (or after you swiped right). Yep. Hate to burst your bubble. Not saying that it’s impossible to happen but maybe just not in the way that you expect it to be.
Frankly, the fact is… nothing will be as what you expect it to be. There are a lot of things that happen unexpectedly (usually for the worse). The day I departed for Australia, I never expected that my flight would be canceled for 24 hours. Then because it was Saturday, the airport pick-up service was closed and no one replied to my rearrangement email. So by the time I landed in Newcastle, Australia, I got a big ass luggage and a backpack with no one to pick me up and no plan on how to get to the university. Right. I don’t wanna go into details because it would turn into whole another post but this story is just for an example that sometimes things would not go as how you planned it.
Tip: Don’t stress! You’re not in a familiar place and you don’t know how things work. Peeps, chill.
It’s great if you have plan a, b, c and all the letters in alphabets but some things you just don’t have control over them. I spent too much time being batshit crazy up in my head about it not going how I imagine it to be. It kinda threw the fun out of the journey, so the best advice is just know everything is going to be fine and enjoy the ride.
Homesickness is real
But I will be having too much fun to feel homesick,
are you kidding? I’ve waited to get out of this country and live somewhere else,
but I will be too drunk to feel anything.
I can testify, no matter how you feel or think that you won’t get homesick, you will and it’s not going to be pretty. I was one of those people who didn’t believe I would ever get homesick. WRONG! The worst thing is, it’s not going to be the first week or even the second when you started to feel it. It will just kind of hit you in the face all of the sudden and you will start to think that this is the worst decision that you have ever made.
For me, it was about a little over a month when I started to cry constantly about missing home or the people that I love. I started to get emotional about everything, I brought a detergent from home (I know, weird, who does that? no one, blame my mom) and the familiar smell made me teared up. The food craving was one of the worst things about being homesick, I would ride the train to Sydney for about 6 hours in total just to eat Indonesian meal. My point is, homesickness is kind of inevitable so when the feelings creep in just acknowledge it and go from there.
Tip: Don’t get trapped by the feeling of homesickness! GET OUT!
I hate to say this because I experienced it firsthand but sometimes you feel sad and you let yourself be comfortable being sad. Homesickness can be really rough and understandably so because you are stripped away from everything that you know, every habit, routines, and cultures. Bringing some stuff from home (not detergent) and call family and friends might help. So do those things and just acknowledge the feeling, accept it, cry your eyes out then let it go. Force yourself if you have to, you don’t want to be too comfortable eating ice cream in your room and skyping people for weeks and missing out on exploring places and meeting amazing people just because you don’t feel like going out.
Surprise! You have to put in the work
Studying abroad offers you an opportunity to learn in a different culture. So the whole studying, doing the assignments and going to classes are parts of the experience. If you don’t want to do these things then just go on a vacation because it honestly would take up a lot of time. Yes, I know it’s so hard with so many places to visit and parties with free flows but you need to find the balance. If you’re able to get on top of this, over time you will gain time management and priority setting skills which are killer skillsets in life.
I learned that the education system in Australia is very different than back home. Luckily, I was only going to classes Monday to Wednesday but the workload was heavier than in Indonesia, there were a lot of weekly quizzes, essays, readings, big group projects, and presentations. I really needed the credit to be converted at my university back home to complete my degree so I made the priority clear and that was to do well in classes while not forgetting to have fun! sometimes it means pulling an all-nighter and showing up to the morning class hangover but that was just a little price to pay for experiencing the best of both worlds!
Tip: Learn and adapt to the education system, spare enough time to make sure you at least pass the class.
What worked for me was planning the travels around the studying activities. If you know well about the system and important dates, you can sacrifice one or two days or even a week not going to classes but occasionally you might have weeks where you should just focus on your study.
Warning: You’re going to overpack!
We all have been there. How often do we think that we are going to need to wear more clothes than we actually do? Yep. A lot of time we think there are so many occasions to be dressed for. That was how I thought I needed a dress if the prime minister invited me to dinner, a gown for dancing in the ballroom with my prince charming, oh and maybe a coat if there was a blizzard as an unexpectedly global warming effect. HA okay, that is definitely an exaggeration but it happens sometimes in some ways.
Same things happen with bringing things from home. I guess when we pack, we completely don’t think of the possibility that we are going to be curious about trying new products or that we will just do more shopping for pleasure. So most of the time we are going to fill our bags for the things we think we need but never wear or use because we will make excuses for ourselves to buy them there.
Tip: Pack Smartly! Only pack the things that you’re absolutely going to use.
When it comes to clothes, I learned that I should have packed clothes as an outfit rather than pack what I like as one individual thing. Therefore I would have clothes that I’m sure would go together and I would definitely wear. Another tip is to stick to basic colors and cuts so it would be easier to mix and match it into another outfit. Besides clothes, just think of the things that you will use immediately, which means essentials that you must already have on hand when you arrive at where you’re staying. Lastly, I didn’t do this but you can also bring comfort items to ease your homesickness, just don’t think you need all five of your stuffed unicorns to console yourself!
Be ready to answer lots of questions
You might look like a mysterious hot tourist and people are going to find you intriguing and start to ask you questions. Personally, I like answering questions and have an open conversation rather than have people judged me before they get to know me. Even though sometimes the questions and the statements people make are…. cringy or weird. But maybe that is just because sometimes we don’t really know how to answer or react to them.
I got questions and comments like How can you speak English so well? Where? oh where is Indonesia?, Is it in India?, Isn’t it an Islamic country? (it’s not), do you have …..(American fast food chain) there?, you must be really rich in Indonesia that you can afford to go to school here, I’ve been to Bali but never been to Indonesia, stuff like that which can be funny sometimes or a bit offensive but I try not to take it too seriously and just treat it like a chance for me to educate or open their minds about my culture.
Tip: Be open to these questions and be informative!
Really guys, some people genuinely don’t know about some things and really want to know the answer. The best thing is we get to be the one who shed some lights into these unknown part of the world for them. Take this chance to be informative and educative! You’re sharing your culture to people and that should be strengthening your pride of your own country.
Have you ever studied abroad? What are the things that you wish you knew before going?
let me know in the comments!
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