This year I decided to step outside my comfort zone and do something I had always wanted to do – sign up for an overseas study program.
This was something I had always hoped would be a part of my uni experience, but for some reason I kept putting it off.
Over the four years I had been at uni, countess opportunities to study abroad came my way and each time I found a fantastic excuse as to why I couldn’t go. Time, money, even my meaningless part time job.
I had travelled before, with friends and family and loved it. I actually considered myself to be a bit of a world traveller, someone with itchy feet. Family gatherings mostly always consisted of me relaying the events of my recent trip.
So why couldn’t I make the decision to just go for it?
Although I never wanted to actually admit it, it was fear.
What if I hated it? what if I didn’t make friends? What if it was too hard?
Now in my final year, I just knew that I would be kicking myself if I graduated and didn’t do this. And boy, I’m glad I did. My three and a half week program in Hong Kong was full of ups and downs, but mostly ups.
When I arrived, I was greeted with a massive dose of culture shock. I was living in a student dormitory with a paper-thin bed, one toilet for 26 girls and a common room that smelt of month-old noodles. I cried. I couldn’t imagine spending the next three weeks being happy here. And I wouldn’t exactly describe myself as anxious, reserved or even a worrier.
All my troubles were soon forgotten, and as Anika from Deakin Abroad explains, it was completely normal to feel this way.
“Every single student will experience it at some stage,” she said. “It’s hard to say if it will be at the beginning or the end, if it’s severe or not, but every single person does. If you don’t have any sort of reaction to a different environment, I would be worried.”
Anika’s tips for beating culture shock really rang true with me, as I found that doing most of these things really helped me to be smiling and worry free as fast as possible.
She suggests immersing yourself in the culture.
“Meet local students, someone that can explain why people eat certain food, why people talk a certain way, get someone that can help you get involved in their way of life,” she said.
Anika also suggested not spending too much time on social media, getting bogged down on what is happening at home.
If you’re not sure that traveling and studying abroad is for you, Anika thinks everyone should just give it a red hot go, you might surprise yourself.
“Anyone should go for it. It’s often the students that are the most scared and worried about it that get the most out of it in the end. They are the ones that really surprise us, they come home and they are suddenly bubbly and confident when before they were really shy,” she said.
Perhaps the biggest reason for people to seriously consider studying abroad are the endless benefits.
“It grows you as a person, you are so proud of yourself, you feel proud and inspired. After that, you can tackle anything. You also become more open minded, patient and it looks amazing on your resume.” Anika says.
Her final words of advice were to “have faith in your abilities, and just go for it. You wont regret it.”
Studying abroad was one of the best experiences of my life, and the smell of month-old noodles has been long forgotten.