Dealing with the temporary nature of studying abroad  

By Emma Colson, University of Auckland, New Zealand  

Studying abroad is so exciting for so many different reasons, but one anxiety I could not get rid of until I got here was the worry I wouldn’t make any friends. It seems ridiculous now, but it was a real thought in the back of my head – what if I’m on the other side of the world and I don’t really click with anyone? Fast forward 4 months and now my worry is that I’m not going to see those friends for an indefinite period of time after spending day-in-day-out with them for months. That is the temporary nature of studying abroad; your life completely changes for a period of time and then completely shifts back. With only a few more weeks left in Auckland, I thought I’d share how I’ve felt about my time in New Zealand, the change back to my UK life and how I’d approach a short time abroad having nearly completed mine.

People, including myself, have a tendency to worry about the future and the “what ifs”, just as I did before leaving to study abroad, and to constantly be thinking about what’s next. Whilst it’s important to think about those things (especially since if you’re like me doing a semester in year two you’re returning to start third year) try not to get wrapped up in it, as it takes you away from appreciating the here and now. Studying abroad goes so quickly, four months is such a short period of time and I’ve found myself in disbelief that the conversations have changed from me coming to Auckland to me coming home in the blink of an eye. I’m trying to stop myself focusing on the fact that my time is coming to an end, as I’ll never get these moments again.

I found that friendships abroad are built hard and fast; you find yourself feeling really close to people you’ve known for hardly a few weeks. You form a study abroad family, because everyone is away from home and you find a sense of familiarity in those around you.

The fact that the period of time you’re away is so short, especially if its one semester, can work to your advantage. It’s so important to put yourself out there to make the most of the time from the minute you arrive. The University of Auckland offers a pick-up service from the airport (it’s really useful for anyone looking to go to UoA) and I made plans with the first girl I met at the airport when I landed, to go to the beach later that day. This was the best way things could’ve worked out as I didn’t have time to overthink being here or feel lonely, so I’d really encourage you to reach out and make plans with other people as soon as you can. She also became one of my closest friends here! 

Both the blessing and the downfall of studying abroad is that everything will come to an end if you don’t make an effort to keep it going – friendships, coming back to the place you studied, even hobbies. It is very unlikely you’ll ever see people again if you don’t want to – so there is literally nothing stopping you from trying new things or doing things you wouldn’t do at home. The length of the time also gave me a peace of mind, because if I really didn’t like it (even though there was little to no chance of this happening) it was only 4 months of my life. Whilst that can seem like a daunting amount of time, especially coming to somewhere as far away as Australia or New Zealand, in the whole scheme of things, it really isn’t that long. 

Studying abroad is so many opportunities wrapped up into one – to travel, to make new friends, to find out more about yourself, to try new things. Seize that opportunity for the short time you have it, because as I am now realising the hard way, it comes to an end way too quickly. 

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