G’day guys! If you are new to my blog, you may not know that I spent the first half of 2019 studying a semester in Melbourne, Australia. I don’t want to sound too cliché, or fit the typical ‘study abroad stereotype’, but my time down under was genuinely life-changing, and has helped shape the person that I am today. Before I embarked on this surreal adventure, I felt as though I lacked insight, advice and genuine honest opinions. My home university held presentations; and previous students gave us general advice; some of which was helpful… But I really did feel as though I was walking into this chapter of my life blindfolded. I searched for blogs, vlogs, and articles, in hope that I would hear a real voice talking all about their real trials and tribulations, but to be honest with you guys, I was left disappointed with the lack of volume around this topic. I swore to myself that once I returned home, I would write a piece summarising my entire experience, pointing out all the highs and the lows that I encountered throughout my time overseas! So, to anybody out there who is contemplating studying abroad, here is some advice, (and I’m sorry for the constant cringe-worthy quotes, they’re just so fitting, I can’t help it).
Just do it!
My first piece of advice is go, go, GO and don’t look back, I promise that you won’t regret your decision! It’s so easy to get side-tracked and fuelled with nerves and uncertainty. I remember being filled with so much self-doubt; I must have told myself a million times over that I wasn’t capable of doing this and seeing it through. I thought long and hard about how much I would realistically miss my family, my friends, my life, not only this I considered if I was mentally strong enough to face such change. This colossal doubt dampened and disheartened my views towards this opportunity, but I decided that I didn’t want to cave into my insecurities, rather I wanted to prove myself wrong. So, if you too feel anxious and unsure of your capabilities, trust me, you can do this!
Don’t be put off by the lengthy process!
I first began my application at the beginning of my first year and I didn’t receive the confirmation until a month prior to my departure! So that’s a whole year worth of waiting around, filling out application forms and cover letters, in hope that I would get the go-ahead and gain a place at another university! I originally wanted to study in Sweden but for my course, Australia was the only realistic option (I’m not complaining)! But trust me, be patient and take your time with your application, it will all be worth it in the long run!
Pack like a pro!
Remember this isn’t a holiday (although it may feel like it for the majority of the time), you are going there to live, so be sure to pack all the essentials! Write a list of all of the things you couldn’t possibly live without and be a savvy packer! Don’t repeat my silly mistakes and take 5 too many jackets to a country that really doesn’t require many layers of clothing. Research your chosen country and its seasons, get chatting to people who have been before; and don’t waste your valuable suitcase space on unnecessary clothing!
WARNING- Saying Goodbye is sh**!
I love my family with every inch of my being and we really are inseparable, so saying goodbye (or as my dad said: See you later) was horrendous! I blubbed like a baby at Gatwick’s departures and I never wanted to let go of my parents… But I’m proud that I did and I feel like I have gained so much independence in doing so. Saying goodbye isn’t easy and I don’t think I can prepare anyone for that initial blow; and the realisation that you’re not going to have that immediate guidance for a little while. But trust me, it will be ok, in fact, it’ll be amazing!
Sort out your timetable ASAP
This was such a tedious task when I first started my studies in Melbourne! The system over there differed to ours at home and I had to allocate my own timetable which at the time felt like an impossible task! Classes would fill up and modules would overlap! My advice to anyone studying abroad is go in and talk to the timetabling team at your new university, don’t leave it too late, else you may not be able to study a topic that you love!
Say YES to new opportunities!
I can’t stress this point enough! Please say yes to trying new things! I took a helicopter ride above the Australian Grand Prix, I camped beside spiders and dingos on Fraser Island, I bathed in the jelly-fish infested waters on Whitehaven Beach and swam with the turtles in Lake Wobby… These are just a few of my favorite moments where I stepped out of my comfort zone and grasped onto every opportunity thrown my way.
Travel as much as you can while you’re there!
Make sure you explore every single day! Whether it’s the city itself, or the suburbs, or a nearby beach, go explore! You’re in a new and exciting place, embrace it! Venture further and fly to nearby destinations, that you may never have the chance to visit again! My bucket list was ecstatic when I visited Sydney, Airle, Whitehaven, Brisbane, Fraser Island, Mornington, The Great Ocean Road and New Zealand (in fact ecstatic is an understatement- I’m still pinching myself as I reminisce).
Save your pennies before you go!
This one follows on from the above point, you need to be able to fund all your travels and experiences while you’re there! I would hate to have spent my time in Melbourne denying opportunities because I hadn’t saved beforehand. Work and save as much as you can before you go; and plan how much you think you will spend a month on rent/ food/ transport/traveling and try and take as much as you can with you.
You are more than likely going to get homesick!
Personally, it was inevitable that I was going to feel extremely homesick, I’m a home girl at heart and my parents are genuinely my best friends… But I did have a strategy in place to help when these hard times confronted me. 1) I would keep in contact with them pretty consistently- time difference was a bit of a bi*** at times, but I knew at a certain time we would talk every single day; that routine really helped me! 2) I would distract myself with hobbies and plans- If I ever felt down about missing home I would hop on over to the gym and try and channel my sadness into something productive. 3) I reminded myself on a daily basis that this was helping me grow into an independent person.
Be social! Go out of your way to make friends!
This one may seem a little obvious but trust me, when you’re really far away from home loneliness can easily creep up on you. Homesickness and loneliness are a nasty duo that you really do want to avoid at all costs! Go join a sports team or a society, try and see if the student union is a social environment; and chat with people in your lectures! Consider getting a job as this could be a great way to meet new people! Have a look at what’s happening at nearby hostels, are there any events/ nights out coming up? Check travel/ student-based Facebook groups and see if there are any organized events on the horizon! I really want to place emphasis on this one, because having people around you when you’re somewhere unfamiliar is key and can really enhance your experience.
Don’t forget that you’re there to study!
On more than one occasion I may have lost sight as to why I was in Australia… One day I walked to the tram stop with every intention of going to my lecture, but my feet decided to hop on the opposite tram, heading in the wrong direction, towards the beach (weird)… Joking aside, make sure you attend your lectures, engage in your seminars and keep track of your deadlines! My grades were still converted and sent over to my home university and count towards my degree! So realistically it’s important to concentrate and work to the best of your ability! Thank you so much for reading, I am so grateful for you guys for taking the time out of your day to take a look at my blog, I really appreciate it! I will write another post all about my experience at RMIT University; and how a university in Australia and university in England are two completely different ball games! Until next time, Charlotte
By Charlotte Longstaff / blog available here: www.charlottemaetravels.wordpress.com