By Alexis Calcavecchia
Before I graduated college, I knew I wanted to do something more than just completing assignments and projects planned out over fifteen weeks. I wanted to discover my potential in the world and I chose to do it 10,000 miles away from home. I was studying Journalism so it helped that it was English speaking, but with of course, the accents.
I was always drawn to the laid-back Aussie lifestyle and the natural beauty in Australia. The day of my departure, my Jack Russel terrier, Snoopy, nudged into in my black suitcase overflowing with clothes, he really wanted to come with me. My mom, sister and I drove down to John F. Kennedy airport and that was the moment it really hit that I was leaving. As I turned to cross through security and they were waving to me in the distance, I held back a few tears knowing that this trip would change my life. It did.
I chose to spend five months in Wollongong, a rural, laid back beach town about an hour and a half from Sydney. Studying overseas helped me discover what I really wanted out of life, it made me realize what I was capable of, it helped me recognize my strengths and weaknesses, adapt to a different culture, adapt to different climate and cuisine, travel independently, meet and live with people from all over the world.
Here are six essential things that helped me succeed and live my life to the fullest while studying overseas.
MEMORIES ARE EVERYTHING
Journal every day. I often journaled when I had moments that I wanted to cherish, they were usually funny memories. Even if it’s at least ten minutes a day, write down the little things that made you laugh, the best parts of your day, the worst and the funniest. Acknowledge your emotions during this because writing captures memories that photographs simply can’t.
“As I laid on fairy meadow beach, to my right, a child named Joshua shuffled the wet sand off of his swim shirt. The soothing melody of my roommate, Alec's guitar strummed as I looked further down towards the white lighthouse, built along the edge of Wollongong. Two Dalmatians were running with freedom leaving their footprints in the sand, just as I left mine in the sands of Australia.”
2. LIFE IS HAPPENING NOW
Leave your phone at home and focus on the now. I left my phone at home a lot when I went to the beach with my friends or when we all hung out in our dorm rooms. Those were the most genuine and memorable moments, especially before we went out on the town. For me, it was easier to avoid checking social media because I was in a completely different time zone. Even if I wanted to catch up with people, it was nearly impossible. I felt more compelled to live every day to the fullest even more so than I already tried to do, since I knew I only had five months of this experience.
Indulge in other cultures and learn as much as possible. Pay attention to the different ways people interact with each other, the languages and the unique cuisines. I lived with three guys for the majority of the semester. My roommate, Alec was a vegan who dreamt of one day opening up his own cafe. I went on adventures with him and we cooked together, but also ate out a lot to explore. Did you know the best way to try Vegemite was spreading just a little bit on buttered toast? One of my favorite memories was having a bonfire and making the Australian version of s’mores when we introduced s’mores to our Aussie, Swiss and Norwegian friends all while sitting under the stars.
4. CHALLENGE YOURSELF
Remember, you have absolutely nothing to lose. Time goes by too fast. In Australia, I explored nature as much as I could even while being a broke college student. Introduce yourself to people who crave the same adventure as you, and surround yourself with good energy. I’ve always been afraid of swimming in the open ocean and ended up taking a full day charter boat to snorkel in two different locations at the Great Barrier Reef when my friends and I decided to take a 10-day trip down from Wollongong and a two-day and fourteen hour trip to Cairns for Spring Break. We chose to start in Cairns because it was the furthest north with an airport. From Cairns we then went to the Cape Tribulation, Daintree Rainforest, Airlie Beach, Brisbane, Byron Bay and the Whitsunday Islands.
5. BE PREPARED
Always be aware of your surroundings and look after yourself. Being prepared when traveling is a must, especially if it’s your first time traveling alone. Print out your itineraries, plan ahead, make notes, make sure to adjust your phone plan, and locate WiFi hotspots.
6. TRUST YOUR GUT
Our early twenties are the years where we should be traveling, exploring and discovering who we really are and what we want out of this life. If you don’t feel right about a certain person or activity don’t do it. It’s okay to feel scared, nervous and confused about the unknown, but there is a difference between acknowledging those feelings versus recognizing your intuitive instinct.
Alexis Calcavecchia is a blogger based in Upstate New York. She loves writing about fashion, lifestyle and travel. When she isn’t writing she is working, walking her dogs, or styling outfits for her next adventure. Follow her on Instagram @lexcalc.