Getting the necessities
When I arrived, I opened a bank account because the transfer fee for foreign currency would’ve robbed me blind. I opened a savings account to build a little money without effort. In doing this, I was able to avoid a lot of ATM fees any time I needed cash.
I didn’t have an international plan on my phone, so I bought a basic phone for $35 with unlimited texting and talking for $20 a month. It was a basic phone, but I also had my tablet and iPhone to connect to Wi-Fi in public. It was quite the transition going back to the T9 texing…
As far as school supplies goes,I bought mine when I got there so I have less to lug around.
I knew this would probably be the only time I would ever be in Australia. So I made a deal with myself the first week, that no matter what someone asked me to do, I would say yes. This opened so many doors for me, I went skydiving, bungy jumping, scuba diving, drove a camper van, went to a Bruno Mars concert and so much more. I decided overcoming my fear is much better than regretting my decision saying “no” later. I knew I would have thousands of dollars in debt later, but money will always be there, wallaby’s and exclusive night clubs will not.
I was a lone traveler, so I joined a program outside of my school for the diversity aspect called GlobaLinks. I chose this program because the cost included 3 days in Cairns, Australia where we were taught the culture of the country and were able to have some hand-on experience before semester started. We spent the first day in a meeting room setting at the hostel we stayed at and did some ice breakers. There were people going to a few different universities throughout Australia, but I found a few who were attending the same as me. The people that I met in this program quickly became my close companions and we spent the remainder of the semester together. We still stay in contact today and have even had a reunion and are planning on more!
Being a traveler
There’s a difference between being a traveler and a tourist. A traveler will go about their surroundings, engaging with the culture, the people and adopting their surroundings. A tourist will do all the stereotypical things: visiting famous monuments, popular restaurants, following the book. I’m not saying I wasn’t ever a tourist, I did visit famous and popular places. But I did’t go about it like it’s a “one-and-done” deal. I took my time, explored, got lost in the city, engaged with the locals, traveled with a local! This was one of the best parts of my trip, doing things out of my comfort zone with complete strangers, who would later become friends.
For Christmas, my sister and three of my friends bought me a GoPro and a checklist. The goal was for me to do everything on the list and document it and send it back! I reminisce on my time abroad by looking back at pictures ALL THE TIME. I bought a waterproof case and a wrist strap to take it scuba diving and bungy jumping so I wouldn’t accidentally drop it. When we went to the city, I took pictures of the Opera House, the street lights, the botanic garden and of course my friends and I! There were so many videos and pictures to sift through, I usually did this on the weekends or days when I didn’t have class to keep my friends and family back home up to date on what I was up to.
Making time for school
It’s exciting being in a different country, but I knew I’d need to dedicate time to studying. I needed to pass my classes so I wouldn’t waste the cost for a semester. While I was there, I learned some very valuable time management skills. I only had class three days a week because I was very lucky. Therefore I went out a lot, but I also dedicated my Monday’s and Tuesday mornings to school work. This way I could have my weekends free for fun activities!
This way I could also dedicate my week break between semesters to travel. I went with a group of friends to New Zealand and rented a camper van to drive down the south island.
Related Reading: Studying Abroad in College: Planning for your Trip, My 6 Months in Taiwan: Overview
The biggest piece I needed to remember was that as far as I knew, this would be my only time there, so I didn’t take my time for granted! I said yes to new experiences, made new friends, explored and had fun!