In less than 3 weeks, I’ll be back home in New Hampshire as sad as that is to say. As not much will be going on throughout these next couple of weeks with school projects and finals around the corner, I would like to take a moment to sit down and look back on my experience abroad this semester.
Thinking back on the person I was before I took off from JFK en route to Sydney, he is a completely different person than who I am today. I have certainly grown in many important areas over these past 3 months, however, the area in which I have seen the most growth is with my independence. Over the course of my life, I had always thought I was always a pretty independent person. I would enjoy being by myself and was never very reliant on anyone for anything. It wasn’t until this trip however, where I believe I was able to be truly content by myself, and not yearn for the company of others. This is something I have touched upon previously I believe, in describing my trip to Milford Sound in which I traveled several hours alone with complete strangers to one of the most beautiful places in the world, but I now see myself no longer hesitant to book activities if nobody else has interest in joining me. I find the time I have alone not only great for reflection and thinking, but also a break from reality in which I can fully take in my surroundings and the given experience without the distraction of others. This could be as simple as going on a run around the harbor, grabbing something to eat alone, or going to a show at the Sydney Opera House by myself. Out of every way in which I have grown both personally and professionally this semester, this has to be the one I am most proud of as in today’s society, I find it to be a rarity to find this kind of quality in a person.
As it’s the first week of April, thinking back, there are a few things that I wish I had known coming into this program that I believe would have enhanced my experience.The first is that you should try and see as much of Sydney as you can within the first couple of weekends. Generally, I feel like a lot of us here got caught up in the night scene, which is great and a fun time don’t get me wrong, but it takes away from the other things you could be doing such as the movie screen they had on the water for a harbour movie night, or waking up early and going on a hike in the Blue Mountains just a short bus ride away. In the two weekends I have left, I find there is still so much I want to do/see, and even after narrowing down my list, I still feel like there isn’t as much time as I would like. Additionally, I would say don’t be afraid to book your first trip within the first weeks of your arrival. We didn’t go on our first trip until about a month into being here, and I truly wish we had done it the weekend or two prior to when we went as I found we ended up having to go away several weekends in a row in March due to not properly spacing these trips out. Lastly, and I can’t stress this enough, BOOK TRIPS AHEAD OF TIME! For each trip I went on, for some reason we booked only a week or two ahead of time and if we had planned this out in advance, we would have saved so much money. On that note, not only booking flights ahead of time before they get expensive, but also book tours you want to go on as the popular ones sell out quickly. For example, if you go to New Zealand (which I highly recommend), book your Milford Sound trip several weeks beforehand as people travel from all around the world just to go there and I was insanely lucky to get the last spot on the tour I ended up going on.
Aside from your generic answer of being surprised by how beautiful the world is and experiencing cultures much different than your own (all of which is true by the way), I think I was overall surprised by myself the most this semester. As I mentioned before, I feel like I am coming out of this trip a much different person than when I entered, and in the best way possible. I’m very grateful for this semester abroad, and am excited to return to campus this fall and share my experience with other students as I truly believe global travel is something everyone should experience in their lifetime, and there is no more convenient way for students to do this than by taking a semester abroad.