Studying abroad feels extra abroad because of all the traveling that happens when people go abroad I feel. For example, when students go to Italy for a semester, they book their weekends to be in other countries such as Germany, France, Spain etc because Europe is all so close together and it is easy to travel around it when in the area. In Australia where I am studying, people book breaks or long weekends to go up the gold coast, New Zealand, or even parts of Asia like Bali. It definitely makes sense to do this (if you can afford all the travel haha); it makes sense to visit these places when they are so close. Another reason I feel like people travel around so much when they are abroad is because it is what everyone else abroad is doing. Other than the geographic convenience, there is a bit of social pressure to “make the most” out of a study abroad experience I feel. Especially seeing other abroad friends on social media and where they went every week, it feels that you need to check off a list of certain things when abroad almost. Now at the end of my study abroad experience in Australia, I am reflecting on my time and what it really even means to “get the most” out of ones’ study abroad experience.
One thing I have noticed study abroad students do in Europe to “get the most out of abroad” is that they have a myriad of pictures and stories about amazing 2-day experiences from many different countries around Europe, but can not tell much about the actual country they were based out of. For example, they lived in Florence Italy and took classes there, but never really saw Florence. They visited many countries around Europe, but only stayed for a couple of days and never really saw those countries (apart from the tourist destinations). In Sydney, Australia now, people have many stories to tell even about different exotic Asian countries, tales of New Zealand, and all the trendiest spots around Sydney...but not many of them have been to all the secret little spots around the city they were living in.
Living in Sydney, Australia for the past few months, I feel I have had a very different study abroad experience than usual. I feel that I made a life in the part of Sydney I’ve been living in (called Newtown) as I haven’t traveled away from it so much. I have made mostly Aussie local friends that are not part of the school I have been studying through (USYD). I think working in a local clothing store helped as that’s where I made a lot of connections and friends locally. I am really friendly as well, and don’t mind talking to people I don’t know. I went to a lot of local places and found some hidden ones as well. I felt like a part of the city instead of just a visitor for once which I feel whenever I usually travel. I feel I have actually made some of the best friends in the world here in Sydney. They are like an Aussie family I now have and can come back to. They are the kinds of people I feel like I will know forever and not just from a study abroad group or experience...although I have found friendships in those types of situations that last forever as well. I feel I have really “gotten the most” out of my study abroad experience in a different way.
I guess what I am getting at here is to not let anyone else define what “getting the most” out of your study abroad experience means for you. It will mean different things for different people and that is fine, I would just make sure to keep track of how you are feeling and know why you are doing what you are doing. For me personally, if I feel the need to travel every weekend because everyone else is, that is not a good enough reason for me to travel every weekend...I would rather get to know where I am living and make real lasting relationships there. I have found more meaning in staying longer in one place as opposed to a short time in many. I have found more meaning in going off the beaten path to strange art and wear house events where creative locals work on their projects and show me their world, as opposed to going to tourist attractions to take photos and sound “impressive” to others when they ask “so how was abroad?” Travel has made me think this way, and going abroad a few different places has made me come to this realization. I definitely was the person who used to go places for the photos, and to talk about how many countries I have hit. But everyone comes to their own conclusion about how they like to live and travel based on their own experiences; this is just mine. Now I am getting ready to board my flight back to Boston (my hometown) after being abroad, and I keep thinking about a quote my friend told me before I left that says “wherever you are, be all there,” and in more ways than one, I’m realizing this is what “getting the most out of abroad” means to me.
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<p>I love to write, and I have for as long as I can remember. Being by nature, listening to all genres of music, dancing, playing instruments, philosophy and film all interest me intensely. I love learning more than most other things, and I search for "off the beaten path" everything, when I go anywhere.</p>