There is a saying that goes ‘home is where the heart is’. I’ve heard this phrase numerous times, however I never really understood what it meant until I studied abroad. The opportunity to study abroad allows you to learn so much about yourself. You are given the chance to gain independence, discover how strong you can be and most importantly find out who you are as an individual, away from your usual life. I have learned so much about myself since I first arrived in Australia, but one of the main lessons I have learned is that family is everything. My family has been supportive and backed my dreams and ambitions since I was young, and studying abroad was not different.
As my travels are coming to an end soon, I have decided to reflect on the lessons I have learned and how having a wonderful support system back home has helped me achieve all of my study abroad goals. Below are some of the main lessons I have learned from my family that I have implemented since embarking on my study abroad experience, and lessons that will hopefully help others when they begin their journey.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone and give this new life a chance
One of the things that my family told me before I left home to come to Australia was to take this opportunity to be brave and conquer my fears. They encouraged me to try everything I possibly could and not leave my journey with any regrets. Although this seems like an easy task, it can be difficult at times to make yourself break away from what you are comfortable with and try new things. A couple examples of how I acted on this advice was trying kangaroo meat and doing a high-ropes course at my program’s Adventure Weekend. For those of you that do not know me, I am one of the pickiest eaters around, and do not diverge from my comfort food of chicken and pizza very often. However, being in Australia meant that I needed to be brave and try new things. I tried a kangaroo burger soon after arriving to Australia, and I cannot say that I particularly loved the taste, but I can say that I tried it and have no regrets! The same goes with the high-ropes course. I am not a fan of heights, but I did the course anyway and made myself and my family proud by conquering my fears and trying new things. I can honestly say that I have given every experience my all and made sure I did not leave any day with regrets, because this is an amazing opportunity and one that I am so blessed to have. My family’s advice helped me see this importance of breaking away from my comfort zone and giving my life in Australia a chance, and I am very grateful for that.
Be open with others and meet new people
Another major lesson that my family taught me was to be myself and do my best to meet new people. It can be scary going to another country by yourself, and I had many fears about not being able to make friends or find people that I could experience this journey with. My family reassured me that I just needed to be myself and be open with others and I would meet amazing people. They were right, of course, and I found an amazing friend who has been my rock and my travel pal throughout the semester. I have become closer with her throughout my journey and we are leaving Australia as new found best friends. Without my family pushing me to be open and meet new people I may have missed out on the opportunity to not only meet her, but also miss out on the amazing journeys we have taken together! I am blessed for her friendship and my parents for encouraging me to be open with others.
The most important lesson that my family showed me was that no matter what happened, they would be supporting me and backing me every step of the journey. Studying abroad has changed my outlook on life and has shown me that we are only given one shot at life, and because of that we should live every day to the fullest. When I return home I am ready to use my experience to live a fuller life, and give back to my family in the same ways they have given to me. Study abroad has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life and without my family supporting and pushing me each step of the way, I do not know that I would have had such an amazing and successful journey. Seeing Australia has been a dream come true and has encouraged me to continue to travel and see more of the world. The best part is that no matter how far I travel, I will always have the support of my family and know that home is where the heart is, where my family is.
Lilli Southern is a Communication Sciences and Disorders major at Butler University and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at Griffith University in Australia in fall 2017. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA-Butler through the First-Generation Scholar Program.