My name is Alex Clemons, and I was given the amazing opportunity to study abroad at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, from July to October 2016. During the flights to my new home for the next four months, I was both super excited but a little nervous as well. I would be in a country that was not only in a different hemisphere but also on the other side of the globe! This would be my first time to be away from my family for an extended amount of time, and I wasn’t sure how well I would adjust to this complete and total independence. It wasn’t long, however, before I got settled and realized that the experience of living in a new country would be one that I would remember for the rest of my life. I have a few pieces of advice to make a seamless transition from UAH to whichever university that you’ll be attending while overseas.
1. You’re going to have to do stuff that may make you uncomfortable, so embrace it. I had so many firsts while in Australia, ranging from my first cab and tram ride to my first final exam in a room with over 1,000 people. Some situations might seem scary at first, but you may realize that they might not be as bad as you think.
2. Make many friends with the locals. I knew a couple of people from other states who were studying abroad with me that stuck to a group with only international students. That meant that they had no one to help them get accustomed to the area and no one to tell them important things like the cheapest restaurants with the best food. The day after I arrived to the house where I would be staying, I became good friends with two of my nine roommates, Pui and Tim, who knew everything there was to know about Melbourne and Deakin University. They were great people with great advice, and I’ll admit that I bummed a ride from Tim to the grocery store many times!
3. Call your parents consistently. I know you may feel like your days will fly by and you won’t have time for anything other than a few text messages, but your parents are most definitely worried about you. Their baby is in a completely different country, and they are probably concerned about you and your safety. A phone call is not only a great way to keep them updated on the amazing things that you’re getting to experience but also a good way to fight homesickness.
4. Lastly, there is a pattern that most study abroad students seem to go through, so you need to be aware that what you are feeling is normal. Most people feel excitement at first, thinking how amazing the new environment is. I know on my cab ride from the airport to the university, all I did was stare out of my window at the big city with strange sculptures. Walking on campus, I was fascinated by the different accents I heard swirling around me. The second mindset you get is annoyance. I know it sounds awful, but after a while, the novelty of things wears off, and some of the things that you thought were so cool before become not as great. I don’t know how many times I got upset because I started to walk into a busy street after checking the wrong side of the road for traffic. Pretty soon after this, you’ll start to feel homesick. The best way to combat that feeling is to keep in contact with your friends and family. Luckily, these emotions are just a few small ones you’ll be feeling amidst the excitement from doing new things and the amazement from how different people live their lives from those in America. Know that these various feelings are normal, and you are getting the experience of a lifetime.
I wish you all good luck with your study abroad programs! Remember to take lots of pictures to document all the sights you’ll see and the experiences in which you will partake!
One of the many beautiful beaches in the town of Byron Bay.
One of the Twelve Apostles, which are large rocks that have worn away due to erosion from the strength of the waves.
These are three of my roommates and me on a day trip to Tim’s farm and town. Pictured from left to right: Tim’s super cute dog Barney, Tim, Rachel (from New York), me, and Pui (from Hong Kong)