As my time here in Australia starts to wind down, I am able to reflect on the choices I have made here – here are a few things I wish I would have known before studying abroad.
Culture shock is real
Even though American culture can be found in a lot of places, when I arrived in Australia there were many things that were different. Even though I have found many similarities between Australian culture and American culture, I still felt homesick at times because things were just not the same.
I thought to myself that I would not experience culture shock because I was coming to a country that speaks my native language of English, but I will never make that assumption again. The difficult moments will help you appreciate the really good moments that you have while your abroad, and you will learn a lot about yourself as a person when you are struggling to keep your head above water at times.
Being over-prepared is not a thing
Before I left the United States, I thought I was completely prepared for what was to come in the next five months – but boy was I wrong. You will never be prepared for what is to come when you travel, live and study overseas. You may have all the paper work and a budget, but that only gets you through customs at the airport.
I wish I would have known that no matter how much I planned (and my family and friends know that I am a planner) I would never be prepared to experience and encounter the things I have during my time abroad.
American stereotypes are real
Just as you may be bringing stereotypes with you about the culture you are visiting people may have stereotypical views of your culture as well. I have encountered stereotypical views ranging from “everyone in America eats way to much fried and processed food” to “you must smoke a lot of pot, since you are from Colorado.”
Some stereotypes that may be funny others may be a little rude, but either way you know what is true, so you can’t let these generalizations ruin your experience.
You are your experience
No matter how much you travel, how many friends you make or how good your grades ended up being at the end of the semester, no one can control your experience besides yourself. If you have a lot of expectations for your experience, then you are most likely going to be disappointed because plans change. Having fewer expectations will lead to a richer experience altogether. Studying abroad is your time and no one else, so make the most out of the time you are given.
Collegian Australia Abroad Blogger Michelle Buser can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @buser_Michelle.