I am officially back in the states after the best semester of my life…
Saying bye to the friends I made was probably one of the saddest things I have ever had to do. I've never spent SO much time with the same people, so being away from them will be difficult. It’s pretty strange to be back home where I can take really hot showers, throw toilet paper in the toilet, and eat tofu. Not to mention, I forgot that it was December and walked out in shorts and sandals a few times…Reverse culture shock is definitely real.
Now reflecting back, I can already see a shift in my way of thinking as compared to back in August. To tie everything together, here are 5 pieces of advice and things I learned.
ONE: Let go of control and know it’s going to be okay.
I had a hard time leaving for study abroad because I knew I was going to be SO out of my element. But, that’s the reason to travel, right? I learned early on that I was going to have to just “let it be” and be okay with my cultural confusion. Rather than fighting it, I found that embracing the fact that I was basically a child really helped me have a positive outlook when traveling. Letting go of expectations and experiencing life for what it is was one of the best lessons I learned.
TWO: Show kindness to everyone – everyone has a story and something that makes them unique.
I spent more time with the same people more than I have ever in my life. Normally at school and at home, I see different people every day. Being abroad where I was stuck on an island with 50 of my abroad-mates gave me an opportunity to really get to know people. And what I found out about people was so interesting. I learned that everyone has such a unique story, and we can learn these stories if we approach people with more of an open mind.
THREE: Don’t be afraid to talk to people – be open and friendly even in another language.
I really struggled with this, and still my biggest study abroad regret is not speaking in Spanish as much. I used to get so nervous speaking in Spanish, and at first, I was embarrassed when I made a mistake. Toward the end, I learned how open and welcoming my host family was when I asked them questions about Spanish. People don’t expect you to have good Spanish, and the best way to learn is to speak it even if it is a little intimidating.
FOUR: Do what you want.
Easy to say, but hard to do. When traveling in a large group, it’s easy to just stick with everyone and “go with the flow”. However, I learned that it’s okay to do things on my own. If you have different interests than everyone else, then do them – solo adventures are a completely different experience! I went on a dive by myself once and had the best time getting to know other tourists, and that would have been harder to do with friends with me.
This also relates to taking care of yourself too. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore your health and sleep needs by following everyone else, but the number one thing is to follow what you want to do. Health above all!
FIVE: If you’re not inspired by something new every week, then you’re doing something wrong.
Studying abroad is such an inspiring experience, but sometimes it can be easy to get bogged down. Staying in the same routine and seeing the same people can be monotonous. I challenged myself to take new risks, and this helped a lot with me going on new adventures and getting to know more people.
SIX: And the most important: PACKING
I’m an over-packer. No shame in it because I have everything for anything. However, for this trip…Carrying 100 lbs with me was quite the struggle.
What you don’t need: 4 bottles of sunscreen (1 or 2 is enough for most people), more than 2 pairs of jeans (you never wear them), 5 kinds of games (1 deck of cards is enough), cute sweaters (1 warm one is enough), books (just use a kindle so you don’t weigh down your bag), 10 pairs of shoes (yes I brought 10…3 is enough), shampoo (you can bring this, but you can also buy it there), make-up bags (it’s too hot to even put on makeup)
What you DO need: A flash drive since there is limited internet, a back up hard drive in case your computer crashes, heavy duty bug spray (deet 30+), solid first aid kit with various medicines, sea sickness pills, binoculars, good nature camera (like go pro), versatile backpack (for class and nature activities)
Alright… So this concludes my blog postings! I hope I was able to give you all some insight about the Galápagos program.
Thank you all for reading, and to conclude my trip, here is a video of my experience!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(85, 85, 85); font-family: 'Lucida Grande', 'Lucida Sans Unicode', 'Lucida Sans', Verdana, Tahoma, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: 18px;">Senior at the University of Rochester studying economics, sustainability, and art. Pursuing a career in the corporate world but not-so-secretly a nature obsessed forest kid from Oregon and New Mexico.</span></p>