Author: Sarah Tubbs
Location: Newcastle, Australia
When you hear the words ‘studying abroad’ what comes to your mind? Is it a whirlwind adventure every second of every day? Do you see yourself constantly traveling, meeting new people, living on the edge, and feeling free? While some of these things you may find true, studying abroad is much more than what is advertised when you are looking into it.
When I started considering my study abroad adventure, I really had no idea what to expect. No matter how many people I talked to, or how much I researched Australia, none of it could have prepared me for what I actually experienced being here. When talking to people who have previously done the same program I chose, of course they talked about the highlights and the best moments they had while abroad. This happens a lot within those conversations people have when looking into studying abroad and trying to get a grasp of the unknowns that it brings. These conversations can unintentionally sway people who are preparing to study abroad to believe that it is a consistent and crazy adventure. But in reality, it is a lot different than most may believe and also something that is hard to describe unless you personally have studied abroad before.
Studying abroad is exactly what it says it is. It is studying and taking classes while you are living abroad. You are taken away from the blanket of security you have created when at VU. Knowing almost every face you see when walking down the hallway, with friends and teachers you recognize, places you know have great coffee, the best study locations on campus, and even the language that you grew up with. The constant things in your life that you never really thought had such an impact on your daily mindset leave your life for a short while. You’re taken to a place where you really don’t know anyone, you don’t know what places have the best coffee, heck you don’t even know where those places are. But I’m not saying all of this to scare anyone out of studying abroad. It can feel like this for quite a while at the beginning, but these feelings fade overtime. As you push yourself to grow in a new location, you find your footing and learn more about yourself than you ever have before. You slowly realize and stop pinching yourself that you’re actually there. Studying abroad and living in a brand new place of your choosing. You then begin to see that it’s not such a dramatic change as you may have previously thought.
When talking to people from the US here in Australia about their experiences so far, a lot of them have told me how studying abroad isn’t what they had expected or assumed it would be like. Many of these new friends of mine talked about how it’s not a vacation. They mentioned how when they were first researching study abroad, all anyone ever talked about was the wild and crazy things that they did throughout their studies. Failing to mention the mundane and simple things of life that you experience more of when being abroad. Doing laundry, going grocery shopping, figuring out public transportation, and many more things are briefly spoken about while traveling abroad, going out to parties, and other extravagant things are what the majority of the conversations are about. These things do happen and are incredible, but a majority of study abroad is simply living life wherever you are choosing to go and becoming a part of the community that is found there. This is when you will start to feel more comfortable. When you know where the best coffee places are, you know how the buses work, you know the people around you as they smile and know your name. It’s moments like these that truly make studying abroad this beautiful experience that so many people remember and cherish throughout the rest of their lives.