As I enter my final week abroad, I can reflect on what I have learned and experienced. I did not know what to expect, so all I could do was jump in with a sense of curiosity and excitement. This period of life introduced me to new people, places, and things. I learned a lot about myself as well. One of the things studying abroad taught me was time management. Sure, being away from home at CofC does include a sense of autonomy, but there’s something different about being in another country. There’s a lesser sense of security knowing my friends and family are not nearby. This forced me to act instead of dwelling over my circumstances, simply because I had to. I learned about things such as travelling alone and taking full responsibility for my behaviors with people and commitments. I was also introduced to new cultures and seeing the American identity from an external perspective. People in other places live as successfully as we do, just in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to live – only to discover what works best for you.
In addition to these realizations, I was also reminded of how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. The new education/grading system was challenging, and I had to deal with lower marks compared to what I am used to. No matter how hard I tried, I would never be fully accustomed to their expectations in such a short amount of time. This reminded me to be easier on myself and acknowledge the fact that we can’t be good at everything all the time. Our world often focuses on the good or bad, not the middle ground. Therefore, we create unrealistic expectations that we stress over by comparing ourselves to the highlights of others. The key is to appreciate the ongoing journey and not put so much pressure on ourselves to figure everything out immediately (at least for perfectionists like me).
My time in Australia did allow me to grow and develop in various ways. However, the “golden answer” or improved self I was searching for didn’t reveal itself the way I was hoping. The result I found was not tangible maturity or some other life changing moment, rather a culmination of daily existence that adds to my story. There is no need to sit down and analyze my experiences in search of a conclusion. Only acceptance and appreciation are necessary. By patiently moving forward, the “results” of my past will reveal itself on its own. This is my advice to future students studying abroad: let go of expectations and trying to control the outcomes of your experiences. Enjoy each moment for what it is and understand that life will never be quite what you expect. Keep being curious, humble, and kind – it’s all about the journey!