What They Won’t Tell You About Studying Abroad

Spoiler: It’s Not One Huge Vacation

With the increasing popularity of studying abroad in today’s day and age, it would be safe to claim that every twenty-something year old knows at least one person who went abroad. It’s a college staple at this point– especially within the social media hype of the century. Everyone can view the world at their fingertips, which is why so many young people are drawn to these foreign countries to experience for themselves. Traveling is the new craze among millennials, and honestly, if you ask me, it’s been a long time coming. Traveling is something that nobody will ever regret or say anything bad about. Seriously, nothing bad can really come from travel, as every single travel experience brings something new to be learned.

I guess that’s why I was so drawn to Australia. I remember seeing people post at the opera house and with sea turtles at the Great Barrier Reef even in high school, and instantly wanted to go. Not going to lie to any of you though, I was extremely nervous. So nervous, that if you had asked me if I was going to go abroad 6 months ago, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. You see, I am in love with my college. I have school pride washed over me in every aspect, and I am so confident that I made the right choice in terms of my schooling. Merrimack College has introduced me to quite literally the best people I know, and has transformed me as a person. It is my comfort zone, my familiarity in every regard. Which is why I knew in my heart that it would be best to try this crazy experience out. After all, everyone that I spoke to regarding this matter said that it would be the most incredibly worthwhile experience that I could ever engage myself with.

But shortly after saying a tearful goodbye to my family at Logan Airport mid January, I was slapped with the harsh reality that nobody has ever said that this journey would be easy. Seriously, how many people do you know that have moved themselves across the world for any period of time? I can guarantee you that NONE of them would EVER say that it could be considered easy. And if they somehow have the audacity to claim that, they are lying to you.

I’m very lucky to live the life that I do. I grew up in a happy household, with parents who gave my siblings and I the world, and an extended family that I remain very close to. I go to the perfect school, and consider myself good friends with many, many people. I’ve always had people on my side, cheering me on within everything that I do. I’ve never had to go into anything completely on my own. Even moving into Merrimack, I was fortunate enough to know my roommate from prior events and to have someone to experience all of the “new” with.

But I didn’t have that here. I flew on each flight by myself, filled out the housing form alone, and quite literally did the damn thing by myself. I had no close friends by my side. I just had my two suitcases, my journal, and every bit of life and familiarity that I could cram within those things. And I’m going to be upfront with you all, it was rough.

Because not only do you have to start over somewhere completely new and foreign, you have to fend for yourself. You cook for yourself, are responsible for taking complete care of yourself, budget your own money and your own time, and have to work damn hard to be the best version of yourself with quite literally no form of familiarity. You’re not only here for traveling and immersion, you’re here to live your best life, just as you would at home. And that doesn’t seem hard, but it sure as hell is when school starts back up again and all of your friends are still going on with their lives, just as they would with you there.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and that was another harsh truth that I realized the moment I got here. You don’t realize the true value of your individual relationships for everything that they are until you’re waking up at the crack of dawn to call your cousin on her 5pm commute home from work, or forcing yourself (or some of your friends) to stay up into the late hours of the night to catch up. You realize within these small hours who really has your back and who doesn’t. The people who go out of their way to speak to you every day makes a world of difference and shows you quite literally who has your back more than anybody (you know who you are). I guess I have moving across the Asian pacific to thank for showing me who my truest friends are, but then again, I also have the country itself that I chose to thank me for that.

Nobody ever said that in the midst of my loneliness and heartache upon arriving that I would be introduced and/or become closer to quite literally some of the best and most interesting people I have ever met in my life. Here, in the peak stages of ultimate vulnerability, like souls will gravitate. Some souls will have lived within yards of you at your own college for years, and some will come from all across the world. But you all have your interests and emotions and values to compare and contrast, and that’s where the best of friendships form. You’ll meet people who you care so deeply about and love dearly within a few short months. When settled, you’ll develop a longing in your heart to live perfectly as you are, with these like souls, as happy as can be, forever.

Not a lot of people will probably tell you that you’ll more likely than not fall in love, either. Only this time, it might not with a person. It’ll be with the world, the country that you hand picked to transform, challenge, and grow your entire being. Traveling can be ugly, traveling within these countries even can resonate some harsh truths with your mind. But in the middle of the ugly, traveling is simultaneously the most beautiful thing that anyone can ever do. It fills your heart to the brim with the best kind of love for the most beautiful of places, and shows you everything you need to know about yourself. It matures your heart and your mind, it teaches you more about yourself than any classroom or experience could ever teach you. As you live and thrive on your own, you realize you have everything to thank the country you gave a little bit of your life to. And that, in and of itself, is enough to make anyone fall in love with both the country and yourself.

Would I change anything I have done these past two months, any place I’ve been to, any person I’ve met, and any experience that I will have within these next five weeks for the world? Absolutely not. I will be the first person to advocate for a semester abroad for anybody. But will I tell you that the whole thing is sunshine, rainbows, beaches, and parties? Never. You’re here to do life. And life isn’t pretty, never will be. But it most certainly will always be worth it.

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