Kisha Patel is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A political science and gender/women's studies major at Ursinus College, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.
In this week's post, Kisha shares 10 things she's learned since she arrived in Australia.
This week marks the official halfway point in this amazing semester and I am feeling incredibly torn. I have fallen in love with Sydney and know that reality and LSAT prep awaits me at home, but I am also starting to get more and more homesick and miss my family and friends. I thought this was the perfect time to start reflecting on my semester and how Sydney has changed me.
These are the 10 reasons why study abroad has changed me forever and why I recommend every student goes abroad.
1. YOUR SENSE OF IDENTITY CHANGES. As a young person, identity is always a very big part of your life. It changes variously, and is contingent on many circumstances. For me, my identity has always had a really big association with land and location. Growing up, I moved around a lot around America and therefore I always had a hard time associating with where “home” really is. Being in Sydney has definitely changed that. I have found a new home, even if it is only part-time. I have changed so much as a person from my new experiences, and I am definitely not the same girl who arrived here bright eyed and bushy tailed in January.
2. YOU REALIZE THAT YOU ARE AN INDEPENDENT ADULT AND YOU ACTUALLY CAN DO IT. You really learn to be an independent person… and it is scary. Mom and Dad are not going to be there at a moment's notice to come rescue you. You have to make decisions, alone. You have to decide if going out another night is worth not having enough groceries for the week. Budgeting money is probably the biggest wake up call when you abroad, but it really teaches you to be responsible. Many students go abroad and it is the first time they have lived alone and had to shop, cook, clean, and take care of themselves. But the best part? When you realize that you can actually do it!
3. YOU DEVELOP A WANDERLUST AND GET BITTEN BY THE TRAVEL BUG. The worst part about going abroad is that home will never be exotic enough again. I have found myself filled with desire to travel the world. You meet people from all these amazing countries you've have only heard about in movies and then you add even more countries to your travel wish list. I am already planning my next two trips abroad and I haven’t even left Sydney yet. The world is my oyster and I cant wait to see more of it.
4. YOU ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE CULTURAL RELATIVISM AND LEARN TO RESPECT DIVERSITY AND DIFFERENCE. If I have realized anything from this experience, it is that I know absolutely nothing and have so much to learn. Granted Australia is pretty similar to the States, but there is still so much to get accustomed to, especially when it comes to the Aussie way of life. One of the biggest things I have learned just in Australia is how racist the country still is, especially when it comes to Aboriginals. The real kicker is when you leave your host country and travel farther. If you read my last post, I went to Bali for spring break and really saw what it was like to be a tourist in a underdeveloped country. It was eye-opening and makes you realize how privileged you really are.
5. YOU LEARN THINGS YOU CAN'T FIND IN A CLASSROOM OR A TEXTBOOK. You can’t learn how to interact with people in another country. You can't learn what it is like to work in a foreign office system. You can’t learn how to live abroad and travel and be a new individual. Sure, you can study about another government or culture in a book, but experiencing it is a whole new learning curve. One of the coolest things about CAPA Sydney classes is that we go on TONS of field trips. It truly encompasses using the host country as your personal textbook.
6. YOU SUFFER THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT, BUT DON'T WORRY; YOU AREN'T ACTUALLY MISSING ANYTHING. This is my biggest lesson. I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss home, especially my friends at home. I see everyone going through the semester and I definitely have so many moments of wishing I was there. It’s hard, it really is. And your friends will keep going. You won't talk to them everyday, but if you are willing to put the effort into the relationship, when you get back, it will be be same. I’ve learned that my emotions about missing out and missing home only show how lucky I am to have something to miss at home.
7. YOU MEET PEOPLE FROM EVERY WALK OF LIFE. Studying abroad, especially in a global city, allows you to meet a diverse community full of people from every corner of the world. You meet students, life long travelers, career businesspeople, and locals all of different ages and backgrounds. I have made new friends from Germany, Finland, Bulgaria, Brussels. I now have new countries to visit and friends to show me around. I have learned about how different people were raised and how they live their lives. Learning about other parts of the world like that really forces you to stop and examine what you know.
8. YOU HAVE A NEW FOUND SENSE OF CONFIDENCE. My confidence, bravery, and thirst for adventure have soared while abroad. There is something about being a new country that makes you want to take a leap and try new things. I have an adrenaline rush that just has not gone away since I got here! Learning how to live and navigate on your own for the first time is hard enough, but doing it in a foreign country where you start off not knowing anyone definitely gives you confidence that you can achieve anything!
9. YOU MAKE LIFELONG FRIENDS. Or at least I hope so. Living so close together in a small apartment with eight people, taking classes and doing activities with the same 120, you get close to each other. I absolutely love my roommates; I can’t imagine being in Sydney with out them. I feel like I have known them forever, not just two months, and I hope that all our plans to keep in touch and meet up happen, and I truly believe they will.
10. YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. Studying abroad just changes you. You will never be able to go home the same. You have had incredible experiences, you have seen beautiful things, you have met extraordinary people. No one at home will understand this and you will have this secret world all to yourself… except for the 120 other students you went abroad with.
Kisha's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.