God, I got depressed in exchange. I went into the experience hideously unprepared – I brought my ticket the week before I left, did zero preparation and believed it would all magically come together. Trust me, it certainly did not.
I left the sunny shores of Sydney Australia for the four hours of light a day of Denmark. The instant seasonal depression was real! I’d just come out of the busiest year of my life, had a packed social calendar and felt pretty comfortable in life. Turns out going halfway across the world with no friends or family was a pretty quick way to blow up all that. Within a few months, I’d lost three phones, a laptop and my dignity. I’d gone off my ADHD medication and made a speedy descent into quasi-alcoholism. Studying abroad got real dark, real quick!
TBH I often wanted to throw in the towel and book a trip home before I went any deeper into the ongoing disaster that was the supposed “best experience of my life!” Instead, I decided to keep fighting and ended up my time studying abroad pretty proud of myself – at the very least it taught me a hell of a lot.
Realise You’re Not Alone
Reality check, studying abroad isn’t all pretty Instagrams and #livelaughlove for everybody. Many of us feel lonely and out of our depth – we just feel like we can’t talk about it. So don’t be afraid about being honest about how you’re feeling. I spent so much time in a depression k-hole overseas because I was so scared of acknowledging I wasn’t going great. Boring! It is only natural to struggle in a new environment, so go easy on yourself.
Pick Up the Phone
Often, all you want to hear is a familiar voice. Thanks to modern technology we can now also see a familiar face. Honestly, it was phone calls with my mum that so often got me through a tough day studying abroad. I also relied on my friends heavily, who reminded me of all I had waiting for me back in Sydney. Most of all, keeping in touch with those you’ve left behind is a great reminder that not a whole lot is changing back there – before you know it you’ll be back so why not arrive with some great stories?
Make an Effort, Fix Ya Shit
It wasn’t until I went travelling after my semester studying abroad finished that I truly felt my time overseas take flight. However, I wish I got there sooner. I should have looked harder for my type of people, moved out of this shitty room I was forced to share with a weird mute and made the choices that would have allowed me to carpe diem to the max whilst overseas.
Why Not, Take A Crazy Chance
My best memories are all the times I did take a chance, went to the party or got exploring the unfamiliar lands of Europe. Luckily, I got my shit together eventually – how else would I have discovered Berlin nightlife goes off so insanely that you can cook it up on TUESDAY!
Appreciate the Life Lessons and Growth
I think every day you spend studying abroad you should remind yourself that this is the one chance you’ll get to access everything this privilege offers. Looking back, I now see such an experience is often one of intense highs and difficult lows. But what really matters is how much I learnt – I wouldn’t have the confidence to move cities after graduating and deal with adulthood as well if I hadn’t spent time studying abroad. So sometimes the going gets a little tough, but at the end of the day it’ll be worth it. Keep going!