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 her top 5 tips for making the most of you study abroad semester (or summer!).
Studying abroad in a different country is overwhelming. There are so many new adventures and opportunities awaiting you and sometimes that aspect actually causes more anxiety.
I mentioned in my first posts about feeling nervous about my semester abroad. If you read my intro, I wrote about how I wanted to not have any regrets or fears and try to be brave.
Here are my tips on how I will make the most of my semester in Sydney!
Photo: My roommate Abby and I are ready to conquer our semester abroad from the Blue Mountains!
1. BE OPEN-MINDED. Sometimes the safe feeling of what is comfortable prevents you from being able to really take the leap and adapt to a new place. Traveling abroad comes with the aspect of being a foreigner in a different culture. You have to be willing to embrace that culture and adapt to it instead of sticking to what is safe. Be willing to ask questions, learn new things, explore your new home, try things that are different. You might be surprised at what you find. (Like that Tim Tams are the GREATEST biscuit you could ever eat!)
PHOTO: An Aboriginal ceremony performance by Maddie Jazwinski
PHOTO: Friends posing with one of the Aboriginal dancers from the performance we saw!
2. TAKE RISKS. I am not telling you to go skydiving if you have a fear of heights but definitely be open minded and try things outside of your comfort zone. Two of my flatmates have somehow convinced the other six of us that we are all going to train to run a half or full marathon together in Canberra. If you told me a month ago I would ever have agreed to do that, I would laugh in your face but now I am spending my evenings running (or attempting to run) miles. These are once in a life time opportunities that are presented to us every day here so definitely embrace adventure Australia!
Photo: Out celebrating Australia Day at Darling Harbour!
3. LET GO OF YOUR FEAR OF MISSING OUT. This is definitely my biggest tip. I have a huge fear of missing out and I would be lying if I said I have let this go. It’s hard leaving all your friends at home and watching the world move on without you. This past semester, right before I left, I became really close with a new group of people. This was wonderful while I was at Ursinus but now I am still in a group message with these friends and I feel pangs of homesickness every time I see a message about them getting together. I know that this feeling is completely absurd because I am in a beautiful new country with new friends and opportunities but sometimes waves of homesickness wash over me when I miss my friends at home. I wish I had worldly advice to give on how to avoid this, but I don’t. There is no instant solution to the fear of missing out except trying to focus on what opportunities you are getting instead. I have tried to pull away from my home life more and live in the moment in Sydney. I still talk to my friends and follow up with them but I try not to keep thinking about what I am missing and instead think about what I am experiencing instead.
Photo: My wonderful friends from home that I miss terribly
Photo: New friends that I have made in Sydney!!
4. GET INVOLVED. Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity. I feel incredible blessed that I am here every day. I think the best way to make the most of your experience is to get involved. I decided to run for CAPA student council and I am so happy to report back I was elected. I am really excited for this opportunity because I think it is the perfect way to plan fun events to explore my host country and a way to meet all of the CAPA students I am studying with! You can also get involved by inviting other CAPA students to come along with you to an activity or event you want to go to, or also hopping in on something someone else is planning. Get involved by participating in a pick up soccer game, have a potluck dinner, invite friends to go watch the fireworks with you - anything at all that is embracing new opportunities!
Photo: CAPA staff Tamara taking a selfie with the Sydney Student Council!
5. FOLLOW THE CROWD. We are always taught to be individuals and march to the beat of our own drum (and individualism is definitely important to your personal development), but during the initial weeks of being abroad, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to follow the crowd. Here at CAPA Sydney, we have about 120 students in the program. It would be so easy for me to stay home, with my seven flatmates, and just hang out but sometimes it is worth following the crowd to see what others are doing, meet new people, and find an opportunity you normally wouldn’t. So many times already in these two weeks I have decided to tag along with someone and found amazing places in Sydney, from fun bars to the Chinatown Markets, a fireworks show at Darling Harbor, to the most amazing Gelato place in the middle of a hidden park inside of a mall.
Photo: A gorgeous shot of Bondi Beach from a weekend excursion with friends!
Photo: We decided to keep walking along the harbour and found wonderful street performers like this man who juggled knives, axes, and flaming weapons!
Photo: Sydney friends HAVE to check out Anita La Mama Del Gelato. It is amazing and has a beautiful city park right outside.
Overall, I am having the best time in Sydney and I am so thankful to be here. I look forward to all the future opportunities awaiting me in the next few months.
Photo: Half of the CAPA Sydney group at the Blue Mountains
Kisha's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.