The DOs and DON’Ts of Studying Abroad
1. DO make new friends as soon as possible.
This photo was taken a mere 4 hours after I landed in Sydney for my program orientation. When I first arrived to the hotel, I was scared, tired, and worried about having to make new friends.
It is always hard to leave your friends at home and start fresh with completely random people. However, I swallowed my fear and asked one of my roommates to do everything together: “Do you want to walk down the street with me to see the harbor? Do you want to go to the information session with me? Let’s try and be in the same group for the tour, okay?”
I knew it was going to be weird interacting non-stop with this girl, but knowing I had a new friend almost instantly made me feel better about being in a new country.
To this day, Ashley Gagnon is one of the closest friends I have ever had and I am so happy to say that!
2. DO bring a little taste of home with you.
Going abroad is hard especially if you are very close with your family or you have a boyfriend. Both applied to me which made being away from them even harder.
One of the best ways I coped is seeing quick reminders of the people I love all around me in my room.
This picture was taken the very first day I moved into my room at Urbanest Brisbane and shows just a few of the pieces of home I brought with me abroad.
Of course I do not recommend flooding your room with only things from home, but it is nice to have something to look at when you are missing some people the most.
3. DON’T be afraid to try new things!
As a collegiate athlete, I would say I am very competitive; I do not usually play or compete in things I am not immediately good at.
However, while I was abroad, I got the opportunity to do amazing things that I have never done before. This picture was taken at The Gold Coast in Australia when a group of friends and I took a surfing trip with University of Queensland.
Let me just say that surfing is HARD! It took me at least 10 tries to finally stand up and ride a very small wave. This opportunity of going abroad let me shed my fears of not being the best at something and to just do the activity for fun, win or lose.
4. DO interact with the wildlife.
The best part about Australia is the amount of wildlife that they have. Having spent my entire life as a citizen of the United States, I was never very familiar with the kinds of animals that inhabited the largest island in the world.
Once you get to Australia, you will very much want to interact with as much wildlife as possible, and I encourage you to do it! This picture was taken at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary within the first weeks of my trip.
absolutely recommend to try and do as much touristy, zoo activities as possible -hold the koalas, feed the kangaroos, marvel at the parrots- because the more you do and the more you know, the more integrated you will feel into the country that you are now living in.
5. DO go to a sporting match!
Everyone who is anyone loves and talks about rugby in Australia, so as a new resident of Australia, it is important that you know what they are talking about! Integrate yourself into the host country’s culture and really dive into activities that the natives are enjoying.
IFSA-Butler set up this event and sent the whole Brisbane group to the Brisbane Broncos game. Although I did not understand all the rules, it was so exciting to cheer and scream at one of coolest sporting events I have ever been to.
6. DON’T be afraid to treat yourself!
While abroad it may be hard to stop yourself from spending a lot of money. There are so many cool places to see and exciting foods to try that you cannot seem to help yourself.
Although I do not advocate for wild spending, I think it is important to recognize that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Set a budget up for yourself and leave room for a little self-indulgence.
My best friend, Ashley Gagnon, and I would eat at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar in South Bank, Brisbane once a month for special occasions. The location became so special to us that I bought her a bracelet with the navigational coordinates engraved into it for her birthday.
Running out of money may seem scary and can be a real issue, but if you budget carefully you can do all sorts of things without any worry.
7. DO take selfies!
Along with the people that you meet and the places that you go, photos can serve as a great memory booster for when you return back home.
However, it is important to know the line between taking a few good photos and overwhelming the situation by only taking photos!
Make sure you are interacting with your experience and creating memories rather than taking a bunch of photos so you can remember those memories. The more fun you have, the better you will be able to remember your study abroad experience!
I took this selfie with a stingray off of the coast of the Heron Island Research Station. It is one of my favorite photos and it took at least five minutes of me following the stingray to finally capture it!
8. DO travel as much as you can!
Traveling is one of the best parts about going abroad. Although it does cost money, it is really one of the things that are absolutely worth it!
Planning ahead and making a trip really thought-out can make it better in the long run; spontaneous trips are fun but if you take the opportunity to plan out a trip, you can get more bang for your buck!
My new friends and I started planning a trip to Bali, Indonesia in early March even though we were not leaving until mid-June!
The long wait made the trip even more fun and spending five days in an exotic place was really worth the wait!
This picture was taken in the Monkey Forest in Bali, one of the best experiences I had while abroad!
9. DON’T be shy to cry when you say goodbye.
The friends that you make while abroad share a bond with you that some of your friends at home might never be able to understand.
The IFSA-Butler group became my best friends and I was not afraid to let them know. A few days before we all left, the group of us sat in a circle and said what we appreciated about the people next to us.
We all told each other how each new friendship changed our lives and made the trip the best it could have been.
Even though leaving was sad, sitting down and looking back at our experiences together, made the departure that much easier.
10. DO plan to visit your abroad friends at home!
Once back home from traveling abroad, it is always sad to know that you cannot wake up and run to your abroad friends’ rooms just to have breakfast together.
Although that may seem like an awful reality, it can be a blessing in disguise. Now that you have gone abroad, you have made connections and friends all over the globe. Planning a trip to see your abroad friends can make even the hardest days back at your home country, brighter.
Here is a picture of my friend who I met while studying abroad in Brisbane, Leigh Mathieu. She traveled to my soccer game against Boston University 5 months after we returned home from studying abroad!
Make the most out of your opportunities and keep in touch with your new abroad friends; they shared a special experience with you and it is always nice to remember that.
Maddie Loos is an Animal Behavior student at Bucknell University and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Queensland in Australia in Spring 2015.