5 things I learned while studying abroad

Studying overseas has always been on my wish list since starting my degree, but it’s also something I’ve continually put off because:

a) I thought I couldn’t afford it.

b) I had no idea where to start looking for studying abroad things. It seemed like a logistical nightmare (which it very much was).

c) I thought I was too late in my degree to study overseas.

By some miracle things worked out in the end and I was off to Cuzco, taking a Biodiversity in Peru course!

Studying abroad has really opened my eyes and broadened my perspective. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing some things I’ve learned from my time overseas.

Here we go – here are 5 things I’ve learned from studying abroad:

1. You learn to be patient

I’ve come out of my study abroad experience with patience like a god.

Everything takes longer when you’re moving around Cuzco with a group of 20+ students. At times, it was extremely, incredibly and painstakingly frustrating.

How much noise do you reckon a group of 20+ uni students makes when we’re hiking through the beautiful and peaceful Amazon rainforest?

A. LOT.

We went to the Amazon to look at the wildlife, but I’m pretty sure we scared off 80% of the animals around. Super counterintuitive.

You also learn to be patient, especially when it comes to waiting in massive lines for meals.

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Photo: ecards

2. You learn to step outside your comfort zone and trust people

Going into the unknown and putting your trust in complete strangers was slightly scary.

The one time when I really relied on my new friends was when we hiked up to Huanya Picchu – one hike that I’ll never ever forget. I had to put all my trust in my friends to make sure I don’t fall to my death.

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This is my ‘holy shit I’m going to die’ face

Funny story about this hike/mountain. We later found out that this hike was listed as one of the 20 most dangerous hikes in the world, and nicknamed the ‘Hike of Death’.

Well, THANKS FOR TELLING US THAT.

Or even when it came to climbing up these unstable structures. Yeeeeeeah, it was slightly worrying that the whole platform shook with every step you take. But we survived to tell the tale.

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Trust also came down to food, and venturing out to try unfamiliar foods like guinea pig or alapca steak and hoping you don’t get sick from it (which, thankfully, we didn’t).

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Fancy a guinea pig on a stick for lunch?

3. You learn to make the best of things

Things don’t always go to plan – and you learn make the most of it when that time comes.

There were times when we couldn’t afford to eat out, so we decided to have a very low budget feast back at our hotel. Even though it was horrible, crappy and very low nutritious food (think 2 minute noodles, potato chips, and the worst beer you’ve had etc.) – it was lots of fun!

Or when you had to wake up at 3am to leave for a field trip, and your bus rocks up with dysfunctional brakes, then a second bus arrives with not enough seats for everyone.

Everyone was rather grumpy at first – but we all laughed it off in the end.

4. You learn to appreciate the things you have

Studying abroad has made me realised how lucky I am.

How lucky I am to have had this opportunity to study overseas.

How lucky I am to be living in Australia.

How lucky I am to be where I am today!

One of the things that really struck a chord with me was when I saw many children begging on the streets of Cuzco. These children were around 10 years old. I just couldn’t believe it.

It was an awful reality.

I also realised that I took many things for granted back home. Things like clean drinking tap water, cooking facilities (we didn’t have access to the kitchen at our accommodation), decent wi-fi, privacy…and so many other things! You don’t appreciate these things until you’re removed from them.

And lastly.

5. You learn more about yourself

I learned that I was physically and mentally tougher than I thought I was. My body battled through grilling 9 hour hikes under scorching heat, and I even survived death-defying hikes.

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I think that studying abroad has re-sparked my sense of curiosity. I loved wandering down strange and dodgy-looking alleyways and seeing what was down there (although I know my parents would highly disapprove). I loved getting lost in the city and finding cool shops.

Studying abroad has been an enriching and fulfilling experience, and if there’s still time left in your degree – you should look into studying overseas. It’s quite an experience, and one you won’t forget.

If you’ve studied overseas before, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! What did you get out of studying overseas?

– Daphane

10 Responses to “5 things I learned while studying abroad”

  1. The Idiot On the Couch

    I’m currently studying in Melbourne, which technically speaking is abroad for me :P . I started Uni in July last year, and it was literally the first time I had traveled thousands of miles away from home on my own, without any support nor contacts in Melb. Managing everything from accommodations to cooking food (funny incident which I’ll elaborate on in just a min) was quite a task when you have no one to rely on. Also, since I’m an introvert, living alone forced me to extend my hand and explore new possibilities, make new friends and rid myself of the social constraints I had developed over the years. It gave me a new vision where I’m independent and strong, making my own life decisions while understanding full well the repercussions that might follow. Kind of like reading and comprehending the entire “I agree to the following terms and conditions” document you get while installing software. So far, its a pleasant experience filled with ups and downs following brief situations of self awareness and understanding. These past 6 months have definitely taught me a lot and I hope to continue the pace for the remaining time that I have here at Uni, however short it may be

    My first attempt at cooking (or re- heating something, whichever you prefer)- On my second day here, I tried to re- heat a pizza. Being the laziest, most pampered kid in the world I had no clue as to how to do it, so I set the timer to 10 mins, which resulted in smoke coming in at the 7 min mark with the whole floor smelling of burnt pizza for the whole night.

    Reply
    • Daphane Ng

      Kudos to you for coming all the way to Melbourne all by yourself! Sounds like you’ve had quite the adventure.

      I must admit I had a quiet giggle to myself with your pizza incident! At least you’ll return home a better cook :)

      Hope you enjoy the rest of your time at uni/Melbourne!

      Reply
  2. clarkreanna

    Yessss I have so many feelings in common with this post! I am glad you got a lot out of your time abroad, and are adjusting back to life in Australia!
    I think one thing I certainly learned to appreciate is how damn good UniMelb is. I can definitely appreciate why it is number one in the country now!

    Reply
    • Daphane Ng

      Studying overseas has also made me realised how good UniMelb is too! Man, the university I was at accepted Wikipedia as a reference(!). It just shows you how different the standards are across different countries.

      Reply
  3. kloeyninetyfour

    Love your post :)

    I arrived at Melb last July and I’m currently studying in Uni Melb too. So I consider myself studying abroad since I’m from Malaysia! I used to attend a college far from my hometown just before I entered my degree and I thought I could handle my life pretty well in Melbourne.

    Later did I realise that things are different and far from my expectation when I’m all alone abroad and I have to literally rely everything on myself like calling the wifi provider to set up one in my student apartment, changing broken lightbulbs on the ceiling all by myself, fixing fridge and etc. Doing all these made me realise I’ve been taking whatever that I was using in my own home in Malaysia for granted since I don’t normally bother them because I have my parents and elder sisters hahaha

    I was lucky to have my cousin with me last semester to look out to whenever I have problems but she had graduated recently. It means I have to be mentally prepared to tackle anything that goes technically wrong in my apartment one day..and I hope it wont happen. *prays*

    Reply
    • Daphane Ng

      Thank you! Glad you like the post :)

      You always learn so much from these experiences hey? Sounds like you’ve become quite the handyman ;)

      I’ve got my fingers crossed that everything goes swimmingly in your apartment!

      Reply
  4. Valen

    Welcome back! I read every single post you wrote on your other blog, and it was fun to follow you on your adventure. I barely commented, but I loved reading the blog. I also enjoyed reading this post. I’m still extremely excited about (hopefully)moving to Aus and studying something I’m insanely passionate about….347 days to go (yes, I’ve already began counting down the days).

    I was wondering if you could write a post about organising lectures and tutorials? I understand the system, but it’s hard to know how to organise them. For example: is it wise to have a lecture and tutorial for one subject on the same day, or is it better to have them on seperate days?

    Reply
    • Daphane Ng

      Hi Valen! Oh I’m glad you like that blog. You know – we could very well be starting uni together next year! That is if I get into my Masters in 2016 :P

      I remember seeing that question on my other blog – apologies for not responding! Internet was struggling in Peru. I’ll just answer your question now :)

      I don’t think it really matters to be honest. I can’t remember what course you were thinking of studying, but if it’s science – I would avoid scheduling multiple pracs on the one day. Pracs are usually 3 hours long and they always drain the living daylights out of me!

      If I can schedule a lecture and a tutorial for the same subject on the same day – I would. Then I can write all my summary notes together. But it all comes down to preference I guess. And remember you have time to change your classes around even after the semester has started. It’s usually a week or two before they close the timetabling system thing.

      Sorry for an ambiguous answer!

      Reply
      • Valen

        Thanks! This actually helped a lot. I thought students had to study a lot before tutorials so that they could be more prepared. That’s why I didn’t know whether it was wise to have lectures and tutorials on the same day.

        I want to study Economics. I’ve heard a lot of discouraging comments. My brother even called it “basic guesswork”, but it’s the only thing I’m passionate about.

      • Daphane Ng

        Glad it helped! If Economics is what you’re passionate in doing, then do it. No point in doing something you’re not interested in :)

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