If you were anything like me as a kid, then you probably spent a good deal of time imagining yourself playing with all the kids who lived far away from you who, most unfairly, got to play the games you would never have the opportunity to play: snowboarding on mountain slopes, surfing until sunset, travelling busy and unique streets after school, exploring nature on backyard hikes, living like Mowgli in the jungle, or sailing out to sea to fish or swim.
Adult dismissals and reasons never made sense to you. It always came down to money, not enough time, or “Its not safe over there” -whatever that meant. But you believed in friendship and thought, “Kids are kids and I bet we’d have fun!”
What it meant to travel hadn’t fully matured into a perceptive answer yet.
Fast forward 21 years and I’ve landed in Sydney, Australia after a 15 hour flight from LA, eager to finally develop new friendships with anyone as eager as myself. I’ve only been here a few days but we’ve learned how to surf, caught sun rays on our coastal walks between beaches, and I almost picked up a tarantula mistaking it for a crab! Yikes! While all of the above are indeed points of interest, I was drawn to Australia because of their healthy lifestyles (physically, emotionally, environmentally, nutritionally, socially, etc.).
Something I’ve noticed about Aussies is they have a good life/work balance. Here, one’s character matters more because it’s not about what you do, it’s about how you do it. This high standard of living reminds me of one of my favorite travelling quotes by J.R.R. Tolkien, “You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
In other words, life is too short. So make sure you’re aware of what you want to do before you’re off this Earth. What you really want to do. Planning will get you where you actually want to be and will save you money. Aiming high and following through should be your next move because there’s no better gift to yourself than the present!
One way I plan on staying true to my passions is to find a job in child care or volunteer in the elementary schools so I can bring back authentic and relatable stories and perspectives to my future students when I’m a teacher. Hopefully, this will encourage kids to dream big and take a more active role in their education. If I can do this for my future students because of a decision I make today about what I want to gain from my experience abroad, then I will happily slow down a bit and think things through first.
So if you’re considering studying abroad, travelling somewhere new, or enjoy mindset challenges, here’s what you can expect:
Don’t be surprised by the study abroad application form questions or the scholarship question, “Why should we choose you to represent our country abroad?”
When you finally arrive and start forming relationships, what are you going to answer when they ask you, “So why did you choose to come to ______?”
What will you reply when future employers ask about why you chose to study abroad and what you learned?
You should also expect the unexpected.
(Of course Australia is hot, but boy did I not anticipate how brutally and unforgivably hot it is. Texas has nothing on the sun here. It doesn’t help that apparently one of the holes in the protective ozone layer sits right above Australia. My lips got so sunburnt from a surf day that I woke up the next morning with my bottom lip swollen twice its size! Not everything’s bigger in Texas I guess.)
I challenge you to ask yourself better questions, add some direction in your life, and plan to flip your mindset from pleasure to curiosity from time to time. Given the opportunity to experience new cultures and lifestyles, I urge you to leave your comfort zone and become a mini expert on your own travels. Doing so will give you exposure and access to a global network of like minded people you wouldn’t have stumbled upon otherwise.
Like Mahatma Gandhi believed, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
This post was contributed by Emily Thrower, a 2019 Global Ambassador and a K-6 Generalist Education major currently studying at the University of Sydney.
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