Making Friends Abroad (Introvert Edition)

Claire Muller – University Of Sydney 

Hey Guys!

So, I wanted to talk to you guys today about how I dealt with making friends, whilst being an introvert studying abroad. Studying abroad can be an extremely stressful situation; you are going to another country and culture, where you know no one and you have to try to find a way to thrive whilst also focusing on studying at the same time and being an introvert (making socializing a task in itself). You know… stressful. Anyway, I’ve come up with some ways to help you in navigating through your study abroad experience.

  • Everyone is in the same boat

As cliché as this might sound, it is actually true. Other exchange students are experiencing the same emotions and fears as you most likely are. Everyone is looking to make friends with others and are quite sociable & talkative, which makes the task of socializing much easier for an introvert. You might also surprise yourself by being quite talkative (Came as a shock to me).

  • Make the first move

As terrifying as this may sound, making the first move can actually make you seem much more approachable and make others feel at ease. This was one thing I was completely petrified about, I’m not usually one to talk to people; I usually wait until they talk to me or we don’t talk at all (#introvert). However, I noticed pretty quickly that other people are also afraid to make the first move and that if someone doesn’t make the first move, you are sort of stuck in a very awkward situation. Therefore, by making the first move, you are more likely to get people talking and making friends much faster.With all these new things to do, you can easily make the first move and ask people to join you in doing these new experiences. If neither one of you ask to do something together, you are extremely likely to never see that person ever again during your study abroad experience. Therefore, if you like the person and wish to become their friend, I would highly suggest that you ask them to join you to do an activity or visit a place. For example, during my first-semester orientation, I was in a queue with some other exchange students waiting for a waffle. We had to wait for 1h30 to get a bloody waffle, but at least it gave us some time to get to know each other. Once we got the waffle, we talked some more. Before we decided to part ways, I decided to ask them to join me visit the Sky Tower Sydney, to which they agreed and we exchanged other numbers and Facebook profiles. It gave us another opportunity to get to know each other and become closer. 

  • Tutorials are your friend

I know this may sound like a joke, but I actually met quite a few of my friends through tutorials. Whenever you have to talk to others around you, it gives you the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself to others and get to know them. It is also particularly helpful when it’s group work because you are forced to be around them, which gives you more time to befriend them (although only if they also take part in the work, otherwise it just sucks).

  • Keep Yourself Busy

I would definitely recommend participating and planning loads of activities if you feel that you are the type to likely get homesick. For example, there is so much to do in Sydney that you wouldn’t have enough time to do everything (e.g. thrift shopping in Marrickville, surfing on Bondi, walking from Coogee to Bondi, bushwalking in the Blue Mountains, seeing Harry Potter in the Opera House for $110 [worth it but still bitter], bar-hopping in Newtown, etc.). Just ask someone to tag along and the rest will naturally fall into place.

Anyway, that’s most of the tips I have for you guys to help with making friends whilst being an introvert abroad. I hope they help you along the way during your study abroad experience. And remember, your experience doesn’t have to be perfect! Now here are a bunch of pictures from my time abroad of the things I did with some friends I made along the way. Enjoy!

Claire

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Finding Accommodation In Sydney: Thinking Outside the Box

Claire Muller – University of Sydney 

Hey guys,

So, I wanted to talk to you guys about the evidently stressful topic of trying to find the right accommodation for your time abroad. When researching options, you could be lucky and find an absolute gem or be faced with your worst nightmare. However, by doing the right research and keeping an open mind, you could be surprised by the options out there.  I’m going to give you a few options that might be of interest to you, all depending on what your needs and expectations are. I’ll also include some pros and cons to spice things up a little.

  1. University Student Accommodation (Halls of Residences)

The 1st option is to live in University-owned student accommodation, such as Queen Mary Building (800 maximum capacity) or the many colleges located close-by to each other. They are usually within close distance to the campus, sometimes within ‘walking across the street’ distance. They offer catered and non-catered options, depending on whether you would prefer to cook for yourself or have meals cooked for you (#me). You are pretty much a guaranteed place to stay upon arriving in Australia and you get to meet other international and exchange students. However, the accommodation can be quite expensive for some, with prices ranging from $220pw at the Terraces (non-catered) to over $600pw for college residences (catered). Another issue to take into account is that most Australians do not live in halls of residences. They actually live at home and commute to university, because it is much cheaper. Therefore, you are likely to only meet Aussies in your lectures and tutorials.

Here are a few links to some of the options mentioned above: University Residences and Residential Colleges.

Queen Mary Building
Queen Mary Building (~5-10mins away from USYD)
  1. Independent Student Accommodation

The 2nd option is to live in a 3rd party-owned accommodation building, such as Urbanest, Iglu, and UniLodge. They are relatively close or at least within walking distance to the campus and there are many international and exchange students living there. Much like University Student Accommodation, you are guaranteed a place upon arriving and they offer catered and non-catered options. The probable issue with this option would be the price, as it can become quite expensive. For example, Urbanest offers a non-catered twin share studio for the price of $399pw per person as the cheapest option.  Similarly, to University accommodation, Australians are scarce here.

Here are a few links to look into the options mentioned above: Iglu, Urbanest & UniLodge.

Urbanest Glebe (~5-10mins away from USYD)
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UniLodge Broadway (~5-10mins away from USYD)
  1. Student Boarding Houses 

The 3rd option is to live in student boarding houses, such as Flo Harris Lodge or Arundel House. Surprisingly, there is a mixture of Aussies and International students living (most of these Aussies are from the countryside and are unable to do the commute to and fro from their hometown). In similar fashion to the previous two options, you are guaranteed a place upon arriving in Australia and they offer both catered and non-catered options. They are located either within walking distance to the campus or you would have to take public transport to get to campus. One issue that could be potentially problematic for some is that the boarding houses are directed by churches.

Note. I am currently residing at Flo Harris Lodge for my second semester (I was also here in Semester 1). Now, I wouldn’t call myself, in any case, religious and did not find any issues when it came to living here. I never felt obliged to take part in anything or doing anything I didn’t feel comfortable doing. Therefore, that aspect is definitely not something you should worry about. I am currently staying in a catered single room for about $325pw.

Here are a few links to look into if you are interested: Flo Harris Lodge, Arundel House, The Terraces.

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Flo Harris Lodge, Lewisham (~15-30mins away from USYD)
  1. House Hunting

The 4th option is to house hunt, either once you have arrived in Sydney or before arriving. By searching outside of the campus area, you will have more options to choose from compared to the previous options, and you could get a really cheap deal in a relatively good location. Whilst searching for a house, you will also likely meet other exchange students or international students who are in the same situations as you. In some cases, they can become your future flatmates. You are able to befriend new people much more easily than through the other options previously mentioned. However, if you start looking after arriving, it can be quite stressful trying to find something decent and at a decent price, whilst trying to find ‘decent’ flatmates. If you looked online and found a place, there is a possibility that the situations could become messy, because you haven’t met the housemates before.

Here are a few links to look into some of the options mentioned above: Flatmates, Rent, Property, Gumtree, House Hunting Tips.

  1. Being an Au Pair

The 5th and final option is to become an au pair to a family, living in Sydney. If you are thinking about going on a study abroad exchange and money is a bit tight or you are worried about money, becoming an au pair could be an option for you. You usually get a room or even a granny flat to yourself (rent free), with meals included. Some families can give you pocket money, which can range between $100 to more a week for helping out. Time could potentially be a problem for some because you are quite restricted to helping out the family and taking care of the kids. Most of the children are usually at an age, where they go to school or daycare, therefore, you will likely have to bring them and pick them up from school (8am and 3pm). This means that between that time period, you are free to go to university classes and visit the city. However, if you have classes after 3 or before 8 (highly unlikely), this option isn’t the best, because you will have to pick the children up.

Note. At the University of Sydney, you can change your tutorials timetable to suit you better, but lectures are fixed. Therefore, if you have to pick the kids up at 3, but you have a lecture, this could potentially be problematic.

Note (2.0). When looking for a family, make sure that they are not phony or liars who are trying to profit off of easy labor. I would recommend maybe going through an agency who can match you with a family if that worries you.

Here are a few links to some websites where you can find more information families or sign up to an agency: Au Pair World, Au Pair Australia, AIFS Au Pair.

So, these are the possible options that I came up with, if you guys have any other options, please share with others. I hope this helps you in some way when you are looking at your accommodation options.

See you soon,

Claire

Earning Money Abroad: Thinking Outside The Box

Claire Muller – University of Sydney

Hey Guys!

So, I wanted to talk to you guys about the different ways you can earn money whilst you are abroad, if you want to earn a little extra pocket money or you aren’t able to get a more ‘stable’ job, such as a waitress, but still want to earn a bit of money. I’ve included a few options in this post in order for you to get a better idea of the options out there.

  1. Tutoring

The 1st option is to tutor young children in a particular class. For example, I speak fluent French and decided to tutor children who needed help in French. Thankfully, in Sydney, there is a French international school and when I published an ad, I got a response back from a lady who wanted me to help her son in Math and French. The good thing about tutoring is that you are in charge, therefore you can set up your own timetable and define what your hourly pay rate is.  Once you start to set up a network from word of mouth, the money will be flowing in (although it might take some time).

Here are some links to set your profile up or you could go through an agency: Gumtree & Superprof

  1. Psychological Studies

The 2nd option is to take part in psychological studies. At the University of Sydney, they have a website where you can sign up to take part in these studies. The pay rate is usually $20/hour and the study could last between 1 hour to several hours over the course of a few weeks and focus on a range of different topics. You get to pick when you do the study, so if you have an hour to spare during the week, you can take part in that. It’s actually a win/win situation for both you and the research, as they also need participants to take part in their studies and finding them can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are is the link to sign up to the SONA systems website of the University of Sydney: SONA Systems

  1. Babysitting

The 3rd option is to become a babysitter, taking care of younger children. You are able to set your own hourly pay rate and once a network is formed, you will have money flowing in (much like tutoring). You are able to go through an agency if you would like or go through an advertising website like gumtree or other babysitting websites. You won’t really be able to set your own timetable as much as you would like because sometimes you have to suit your time to the parents.

Here are a few links to look into if you want to go down this route: Find a babysitter, we need a nanny

  1. Small Jobs here and there

The 4th option is to do small jobs here and there, where you get cash in hand. A few examples of small jobs would be gardening, cleaning, repairing or building something. If you have skills that might be of use to someone else, you can utilize them and get paid for it. You are able to set your own timetable and your hourly pay rate.

Well, that’s all the options I have for you today. The websites I have linked above are reserved for Australia only, however, there should be similar websites in other countries. I find that these options are a lot better than trying out the online survey route (which honestly is pretty much a scam). So, tell me how it goes if you tried one of these options and if you have any other ones that could be useful to someone else, please share!

See you soon!

Claire

Semester 2: Reality Check

By Claire Muller, University of Sydney, Australia 

Hey guys!

So, I wanted to talk to you guys about my personal experience at the start of semester 2. So, to give you a bit of context, I have been studying at the University of Sydney since July 2018 and I am currently completing my second semester here. Now, before semester 2 started, I was feeling slightly apprehensive, because I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out compared to semester 1. In my opinion, semester 1 was absolutely amazing: I met so many interesting people and made unforgettable memories along the way.

I was thinking to myself: ‘Will semester 2 be just as good as semester 1?’.

Continue reading “Semester 2: Reality Check”

Getting a Job: Sydney Edition

By Claire Muller, University of Sydney, Australia 

Hey guys!

So, I wanted to talk to you guys about a few things concerning getting a job in Australia. I arrived in Australia in July and started looking a few weeks after I had settled in. However, it took me nearly 2-3 months to finally get a job. I’ve learned a few tips and tricks along the way, so I thought I should share them with you.

Continue reading “Getting a Job: Sydney Edition”

Arrival and Initial Week in Sydney

By Claire Muller, University of Sydney, Australia 

Hey guys,

My name is Claire. I’m a third-year psychology student, currently on exchange at the University of Sydney for a year. I arrived back in July 2018, so this article is long overdue, but I wanted to tell you guys about how my arrival and the initial week in Sydney went.

I officially left Europe on the 17th of July. Saying goodbye to the fam at first wasn’t that bad, I was probably too excited about the journey ahead. However, once I reached Doha (Qatar), that is when reality struck me like a ton of bricks. I was thinking to myself: ‘Why did I have to pick an exchange destination literally across the other side of the world? What was I thinking? I mean I’m going to be gone for an entire year, if something happens, I stuck there.’ I might have also been panicking a little because I had never taken a 13hour flight by myself before.

Continue reading “Arrival and Initial Week in Sydney”

Road Trip – Western Australia

-We went in semester two, British semester one, during Australian winter/spring (but tbh there is only one season here in WA and that is summer!!).

-I live in college so we went in a group of ten (both Aussies and exchangers) from my college.

-It took us a week in total to drive up to Exmouth and back down again.

-I broke my finger the day before we left so I could only snorkel for one day as my cast was not meant to get wet.

-My top three favourite places we visited were:

  1. The pink lake! It looks even pinker in real life, and the ground is covered in a thick layer of salt.
  2. Turquoise bay, which has officially ruined beaches for me, as it is so lovely.
  3. Monkey Mia because when we were hanging out during the night, a dolphin came and swam alongside us for about 10 minutes (sadly I didn’t manage to film this).

 

 

The First Day

By Issy (University of Sydney, Australia)

The First Day

Morning

After around 32 hours of travelling between time zones, at 9am local time I arrived at my Halls of Residence at the University of Sydney. With hair like a bird’s nest wrestling my heavy luggage into the building, the sight of me inspired pity in two girls that I will now forever remember as my ‘first friends’ in Sydney. They clearly recognised from experience the state I was in! After an extra sweaty check-in to my bedroom having mistaken the heating unit for air conditioning, I decided that it was time get a few of the important administrative bits and bobs out of the way so I could kickstart my new life.

Afternoon

PHONE – I didn’t manage to get my SIM card unlocked before I left the UK which delayed the process a little so get that sorted if you can – but don’t panic if you don’t manage to either – It just means I had to wait for around two days before I could purchase a new Australian SIM card.

BANK ACCOUNT – Commonwealth Bank in Australia is definitely the one to go for! Take along your passport, confirmation of enrolment and national insurance number for a smooth process – I rang my Dad at 4am English time asking him to rummage through my room at home for my old pay slips to find my national insurance number (This didn’t go down so well with him but the Aussies at the bank found it hilarious!) I suggest sorting your bank account out after you’ve sorted a SIM card as you can set up your Online Banking straight away then.

OPAL CARD – In Sydney, students are entitled to a Concession Opal Card which provides you with city travel at a much better rate than an Adult Opal Card. However, it requires an online application that I hadn’t yet completed. So, if you’re really prepared, get that sorted before you set off and use your accommodation address so that your opal card is delivered ready for your arrival! If (like me) you’re not quite as organised, I’d recommend just using an Adult Card temporarily which can be bought at most corner shops while your Concession Card gets processed – it will still be a life saver for those buses that are ‘PREPAY ONLY’.

DUVET – Taking a bus to Broadway Shopping Centre (with your swanky new Opal Card) is a great way to finish settling in. With a few different shops stocking homeware, I was able to compare prices and sort out a duvet and kitchen supplies on a budget. Even better, there is also a supermarket so you can get that fridge full all in the same trip. Make sure you take note of the size of your bed – I didn’t even know that ‘king-single’ was a size until I realised that the single sheet I had bought wasn’t going to fit!

Evening

Although the sleep-deprivation still prevailed after a power-nap, I decided to explore my Halls of Residence a bit more. It was during this jaunt that I bumped into the girls that had helped me earlier and we arranged a trip to Glebe Market (it has every stall you could possibly imagine as well as live music next to a massive picnic area) for the coming weekend – Our first of many trips to come! Despite being so tired and ready to curl up for the night, summoning up the last dregs of energy really taught me the importance of putting yourself out. Even now, I will always use the communal spaces instead of doing little tasks in my room like working or filling in my diary – coming across new people during these mundane activities is such a good way to engage with others. Who knew that writing a shopping list could spark such great conversation?!

An Ode to Rotto

Where: Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

When: November 2018 (Coming into Australian summertime, so it was hot!)

Rottnest Island a ferry ride away from Perth, is one of the ‘must see’ places I had been told to visit since I moved to Western Australia. For any of my fellow geographers, Rottnest is a sandy, low-lying island formed on a base of aeolianite limestone. Alongside Garden Island, Rotto is a remnant of Pleistocene dune ridge. The island was separated from the mainland about 7000 years ago due to sea level rise. However, human remnants have been found on the island dating back 70,000 years. The indigenous people of land known as the Noongar people, call the island Wadjemup and lived on the island before it detached from the mainland.

 The island is around 20km and we managed to explore it in a day. We hired bikes, stopping off and enjoying hidden beaches throughout the day. However, we plan to go back for a weekend and camp over-night.  The wildlife in Rottnest is what makes it so special. Extensive reefs surround the island, that you can see in the incredibly clear water as you arrive by ferry, and snorkel in the warm waters. Bottlenose dolphins and migrating humpbacks are welcome visitors of the island and the Perth canyon just off the island is one of the main habitats for blue whales in Australia.

Overall, the absolute highlight of Rottnest or as the Aussies call it Rotto. Aside from the great views, beautiful beaches, amazing snorkelling or enjoyable cycling tracks are the super friendly quokkas. These little creatures are marsupials, and like kangaroos carry their joey’s in their pouches. They are about the size of a cat and just as friendly, allowing you to approach them seemingly unfazed by humans. The island actually gets its name from the Quokka. In the 1600’s Dutch colonisers believed the Quokkas to be giant rats, and thus named the small island ‘Rotte Nest’ after the Dutch word Rattennest meaning rats nest. Rotto is one of the few areas in the world where the native quokka can be found. This is due to the exclusion of natural or introduced predators. Their only predators being snakes, who thankfully aren’t as friendly.

Known as ‘the worlds happiest animal’, Quokkas are celebrities on the island with many trying to get a quick pic with the creature.

The picture that made the Quokka famous (2012).
Roger Federer and a Quokka.
If you close one eye and squint, it looks like Michael Buble and a Quokka.

I can’t wait to go back and visit this rare and uniquely beautiful island, and hopefully meet up with some more Quokkas.

Several months back into normality

Georgi Fogarty (University of Queensland)

It’s been seven months since I waved goodbye to Brisbane and five months since I returned to sunny, sunny England (to clear up confusion the two-month gap was not all spent in transit, although the flight can feel that long – I spent this time working in Greece). The time has absolutely flown and the tan has definitely disappeared, but now I’ve just about had the chance to take a breathe since being home, it’s time to reflect on the ups and downs of returning from such an incredible experience of a year abroad.

The down sides.

Despite returning in late August when the days were long and the air was warm, writing this now in bitter January makes warm weather seem like a very, very distant memory. One of the questions I’ve been asked most since being back is ‘don’t you really miss the weather?’. Yes. Yes, I do miss the weather. Please stop reminding me about how warm I was this time last year while I’m in my draughty student house without heating.

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Almost as beautiful as Oxford Road

Another aspect I’ve not been enjoying adjusting to is regaining the academic mindset I’d built up during first and second year at Manchester. Not only did I find my course content easier last year, I also didn’t feel such extreme pressure to achieve the top possible grades due to only having to pass the year, so found myself a little more relaxed  than usual. Now coming back to my fourth and final year of university I’m finding myself having to having to mentally re-train myself to pile the pressure on, as there’s no way I can be coasting at the most important stage of my academic career so far. Don’t get me wrong, having a more relaxed year is never something you’ll hear me complain about; however having to hit the ground running again when I’d gotten used to strolling was a bit of a shock to the system.

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Back to living in the library

Finally, I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I miss my job. I spent many, many hours last year working in an extremely high-quality, high-pressure restaurant which I didn’t particularly enjoy. However, the fact that the minimum wage in Australia is twice what it is in England meant that despite the higher living cost I was living like a queen to some extent. I definitely took this for granted at the time; although I’ve been lucky enough to get my job back at the same lovely family-run restaurant I worked at during first and second year, pay-day doesn’t quite have the same thrills and it feels extremely frustrating being paid half the amount for the exact same hours.

 

The positives

Coming back from Australia definitely has not been all doom and gloom. Seeing my friends for the first time in over 14 months had to be one of the best feelings in the world. One of the things I did dislike about Brisbane was being in a completely different time zone to most of my friends – if we wanted to call, it would have to be planned in advance so we could do the maths in terms of time difference, and the internet was so poor in my house that calls were usually distorted and cut off prematurely. One thing that I’d missed so much about Manchester is having all of my friends a stone’s throw away, and this is so great to be able to experience again. Many of my friends also went on a year abroad meaning they’re now back in Manchester which is extremely lucky, and being able to properly hear about all of their experiences face to face has been incredible. Saying goodbye to all the friends I made last year was hard, don’t get me wrong, but this was made easier due to the fact that most of the people I met in Australia actually go to University in Leeds. This means if I do need someone to moan to about the cold to or take a stroll down memory lane with, they’re only an hour or so away.

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An Australia-themed reunion with friends from Brisbane in Leeds

Despite what I previously mentioned about having to pile the pressure on myself for fourth year, I quickly realised upon beginning classes again that having an extra year of knowledge has been more beneficial than I could have ever imagined. Classes I took last year have given me an entirely different perspective and background knowledge on topics involved in the modules I’m studying this year, meaning I’m far better able to form opinions and arguments. I am very aware that I’m stating the absolute obvious here and that of course an extra year of studying at university will give people an academic advantage, but I’m finding it incredibly beneficial and it’s always good to address.

Lastly, as strange as it sounds being framed as a positive point, one thing I’ve found extremely positive about being back is knowing that I only have one more year of commitment tying me to living in the UK. Having experienced living abroad has only increased my urge to live in different places and try new experiences. Although I am enjoying being back home and finishing my degree, I’m finding it so exciting knowing that this time next year I could be anywhere in the world, and having a home base and being surrounded by supportive friends and family while I explore all my options is such a good feeling. Having an open road with no set plan after summer is a little scary, but I’m definitely looking at it as although one door is closing, countless more are opening and I’m excited to get back out there.

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See you soon, Syd.

Bhumi Shukla, University of Sydney

I feel like I have overused the phrase “Australia has really changed me” but I can’t stress this enough. Studying abroad has given me a new perspective on life, a new passion to travel and new traits to enhance my character.

Although I returned home quite a while back, I still feel connected to Australia. Even in simple conversations, you are bound to bring up the fact you were abroad – “When I was abroad…” “In Australia we had…” Will people get tired of hearing your stories? Absolutely. Will that stop you from telling your stories? Absolutely not.

The memories you create and the people you meet will always stay with you on your journey. Some of my best friends I made on my time abroad still hold the same value in my life. (Thank you Steve Jobs for FaceTime!) Of course studying abroad means you literally have to study abroad, but making time to socialise and really step out of my comfort zone has helped me in life in more ways you can imagine. For example, I spent part of my Summer 2018 in Singapore with a friend from exchange who was local to the place and offered me a place to stay as well as be the best tour guide you could have! You never know how the people you could meet abroad can help you in life. And vice versa!

I can’t say studying abroad has been all fun and games – because it hasn’t. There were days when I would get homesick, days when I felt down, and days when I was just uncomfortable. But that’s okay! This was all part of the process. This was what contributed to change me as a person. This was what made me adapt.

When you are abroad, you will have times when you feel lonely, the best way to overcome this is keep in touch with your family & friends back home. I can’t stress this enough! I also realised that keeping busy helps! As an exchange student, I met heaps of other exchange students on the same boat as me (tip: ‘heaps’ is Aussie for lots!). For me, spending time with these people and sharing stories really helped me feel better. It’s all about patience and baby steps.

I truly can’t put into words how lucky I feel to have lived my dreams. Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Check! Feeding kangaroos? Triple check! Experiencing these things at the time doesn’t feel so overwhelming, but over time looking back at the pictures really humbles you and you become grateful for this opportunity you had been given.

I strongly recommend the Study Abroad programme, I promise you it will all be worth it.

Thank you for the memories Sydney. I can’t wait to see you again. 

 

 

 

Looking back on Australia

Vitoria Spoorenberg, University of Sydney

Reflecting on my time abroad is difficult because truthfully, I never wanted it to end. The hardest part of studying abroad was leaving. I can confirm reverse culture / re-entry shock is real.

The reason why so many clichés about studying abroad exist is because there is no other way to put it; studying abroad truly was the most incredible experience of my life. I made friends that I know will be there for life, who bring out the best in me and make me laugh for hours on end. I travelled to the most insanely beautiful places and made memories that I will carry with me forever.

Continue reading “Looking back on Australia”