I spent a weekend on Rottnest Island, which is a little paradise just offshore of Perth. When I was there, I referred to it as a “playground,” which makes sense because it offers so much for all ages to enjoy. People can take advantage of its secluded coves, crystal-clear waters, reefs, and surf breaks. The main way to explore it is the miles and miles of bike paths that cross the land. It boasts two lighthouses and pink lakes. And of course, it is one of very few homes to the quokka, an adorable cat-sized mammal that has been marketed successfully as a companion for selfies with its endearing smile and willingness to get up close and personal with tourists.
My travels have subsided, but my aspirations to see the world have not. I have been fairly quiet this November, mainly because this semester is a Merry-Go-Round of finishing assignments just to get on another ride. However, I have also been busy working with AIFS, the company through which I studied abroad.
As a way to keep in touch with my travels, I applied to, interviewed for and attended a
three-day training session in Stamford, Connecticut for the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors program this past summer. Some may assume this is just a way for AIFS to capitalize on its students. However, what I love about AIFS, besides the program in which I participated, is that it is not going to be offended if someone does not choose to travel abroad with the company. Instead, our managers tell us that we are here to promote study abroad on campus, and not just AIFS.
The agenda of each ambassador differs and depends on what his or her home institution’s study abroad office will allow. For example, some study abroad offices will let AIFS Alumni Ambassadors present to Greek life and resident halls, while others will not. I have spent much of my semester assisting with open house study abroad sessions and completely revamping Hofstra’s study abroad Facebook page. It has felt surreal speaking to students about the beginning stages of their abroad journeys and being able to reflect from my own experience to help them.
The best thing about the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors Program, though, is that it cares about the ambassadors. The program requires a mid-year resume and LinkedIn critique during which each ambassador receives a one-hour phone call. On top of that, each ambassador is required to create an online portfolio with an area to explain how study abroad impacted him or her. Additionally, at training, the ambassadors were given tips on how to relate their study abroad experiences to applicable traits in the work force. I think this is an awesome edge to have over competitors.
I have no idea what kind of experience I would have had during and post-trip if I had studied with another company. As I said in a previous post, keeping in contact with my abroad experiences has really helped me navigate my return to home life. I am quite pleased with my after-abroad experience I have gained through AIFS and I am excited to help others realize their study abroad dreams.
Jumping on a plane to a new country with no friends or family? No problem. Returning home to a summer job the first day I am back? Sure. Going back to school to my loving friends and campus activities? Who knew it would be so hard.
I am one who can easily swallow my emotions and not let myself be too affected by the unknown. I think it took me a few hours to feel comfortable in Fiji and a matter of days to feel at home in Australia. However, returning to my old life at Hofstra University is a whole different story. For me, culture shock was not a huge problem, but reverse culture shock—difficulty to readjusting to one’s home environment after a period of time away—is highly apparent.
In hopes of helping someone else who may be in denial that this is a thing like I was, or who is going through something similar, I have compiled a few coping tips from myself and others who have studied abroad:
Get into a routine
I cannot stress this enough: do not sit around and wait to feel better. Patterns help one feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Whether it be a new job or a weekly lunch date with your friend, some sort of schedule can help ease you back into your old life.
Trust your friendships
Shannon Kelly, a Hofstra University alumna, says that so much can change over just one semester, but your friends will be there for you when you get back. “It will take a bit of time to settle back in, but remember that if they’re a good friend, they’ll be happy you’ve grown and they’ll be patient and supportive of you as you adjust to being back.”
Plan a trip
Do you still have the desire for adventure? Planning a small trip by yourself or with friends is the perfect way to feed your need to travel. Life is all about making memories!
Share your experience
Nicole from Minnesota State University says, “Volunteer or work in your study abroad office to get connected to interested students and you can help someone else go abroad!” You may not be able to study abroad again, but helping other students realize their dreams may help you feel accomplished and more connected to your abroad journey. Plus, you have an all-access pass to never stop talking about your memories.
I may be biased, but blogging relieves much stress from my mind and helps me stay positive about life in general. You may not be in your foreign country anymore, but there are oodles of post-experience topics about which to write.
Stay in touch
Brian from St. John Fisher College says it is important to reflect on your experience. “Keep in touch with your friends you made abroad. Print out pictures of your memories or do something to your dorm that reminds you of studying abroad.” Staying close with your study abroad friends is especially useful because they may understand what you are going through. Plus, reminding yourself of your adventures allows you to be more thankful they even happened.
Find a forum
There are many blogs and forums dedicated to people facing similar issues. Try searching the web for some chat forums to ease your post-trip pain.
One of my favorite things to do is write down what I am thankful for or at least write down happy thoughts. Pick a photo once a week from your abroad journey and write about a time associated with that photo. On the other hand, you can simply write positive remarks about your memories. You will be smiling in no time!
Post-trip anxiety is normal. Don’t feel discouraged about being unhappy about your return to pre-abroad life; take it as a learning experience. Hopefully you find use out of some of these tips and can work yourself back into your routine!
The only concerns I had for my last week in Australia were my final exam and soaking up as much of Perth and Fremantle as I could.
We take the Mandurah train line to get to and from Perth, but we had never actually been to Mandurah. Some friends and I changed that Monday when we hopped on the line to Mandurah to explore the waterfront. It’s a cute town set with a walkway along the shore and shops and restaurants. After a stroll along the water, we got some tasty fish and chips from the closest thing to a diner I have seen in months.
Tuesday was spent studying for my final the following day mixed in with some blogging. I ended up being well-prepared for my final, so I am actually not dreading the revelation of my final grade. I celebrated the end of finals with Sierra, Jordan and Lynn by going to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales with the movie passes we had won at the very beginning of the semester. The movie was great, as suspected, and the ending brought tears to my eyes. That night, we had our final Murdoch University Village dinner in the form of chicken curry, which was absolutely fantastic.
The first half of Thursday was spent in the Media Arts Center’s television studio for my own personal practice. However, I have absolutely nothing to show for it because technology hates me (really, it does). However, my sorrows were lifted with a delicious half-price caramel and banana waffle from a restaurant in Perth.
Afterwards, Sierra, Nicole and I decided to be extra touristy and take a tour of the Perth mint, which is Australia’s original and was established in 1899. The gold pouring at the end reminded me of watching glass blowing in Venice.
The night ended on a high note, quite literally. Sierra, Nicole and I went out with the pancake Friday crew to a karaoke lounge and it was one of the best week nights I had spent in Australia. One thing to know about me is I love to sing and I constantly have songs stuck in my head, and being able to scream tunes shamelessly with my friends was much needed and extremely fun.
Finally, Friday came—our last full day and night in Perth. We spent it by going to the Fremantle Markets for lunch. That night, we headed out to The Court, which is a club we went to one of our first nights out in Perth. Dancing the night away is one of my favorite things to do, and doing that with my study abroad friends made me feel so lucky.
Saturday is not easy to think about because it was our last day in Australia. Sierra and I cleaned in the morning and headed to the Fremantle Markets one last time with Brian and Nicole to devour anything that caught our eye. It was a sentimental last Saturday afternoon, or should I say, “arvo,” as the Australians do? Fremantle has to be one of the most unique, fun places to explore and I am so thankful I got to experience it over and over again.
My friends told me I was going to miss the plane because by 4 p.m. I had still not started packing. One of my hidden talents is packing last minute, though, and I proved my friends wrong!
Because we had to leave the village at 3 a.m., Sierra, Nicole and I decided to stay up the whole night and we did that by taking on Northbridge one last time. I love Northbridge because it is always buzzing with people and the energy coming from the streets and clubs, and it is always able to throw a smile on my face.
We went to Mustangs to watch a band Nicole fell in love with the previous week (or should I say the guitarist of the band). I had no idea what to expect from the band and I was pleasantly surprised to hear everything from Taylor Swift to The Killers played by them. I was jumping around like a five-year old high on sugar all night and I loved every second of it.
I could not have asked for a better last night. Luckily, our friend drove us home and we got back an hour before we had to leave, which gave me the perfect amount of time to shower, eat and drag my bags to the parking lot. Luckily, the rest of the crew that we went out with that night pulled up to the village right before we left, so I got to say a second and final goodbye to them.
And with one last hug and a stream of tears, the craziest, most wonderful months of my life were done.
I would not have started my last full weekend in Australia any other way than having a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes drenched with Nutella and syrup. I am so going to miss my Friday mornings filled with my favorite breakfast food and the kind folks who prepare it.
I spent my Friday afternoon with Nicole and Sierra in Perth. We had a bit of a photo shoot between King’s Park, which overlooks the city, and the Central Business District. I have given a sampling of my work below.
To finish the eventful Friday, we celebrated Jordan’s 22nd birthday by going into the city and it felt just like old times.
Saturday brought beautiful weather and a fantastic road trip to The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park about two and a half hours north of Perth. The best way I can describe The Pinnacles is a desert of limestone formations. There are many theories as to how these formations ended up there, from the wearing away of lime-rich sand dunes to the petrification of a forest.
There is a short walking trail in the park, but the best way to see the limestone desert is the road that goes through the area and allows people to park and wander about the rocks. My friends and I had a fun time running in and out of formations, trying to decide what they looked like.
Brodie scheduled an AIFS farewell lunch for us at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat buffet in Fremantle on Sunday. The interesting part about this buffet is servers come around again and again with the options until you flip over your coaster to the red side, signifying that you are finished. I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Although I came for the various meats, I could have consumed the lasagna they served all day. It was a delicious feast and it was great having almost everyone together.
Sierra and I took our location as an opportunity to take some photos around Fremantle. We found some great street art in the side streets, as shown below.
My last full weekend in Australia is one for the (scrap) books. I took so many photos, which I had wanted to do for a while. Now, it is time to get serious about my last final exam!
Perth. Study. Fremantle. Study. This about sums up my second to last week in the Land Down Under.
I took my plans to visit these two cities as much as possible seriously: I was in one of them almost every day of the week. Brian, Sierra and I visited Perth Monday to make an appointment for Sierra’s tattoo and then went souvenir browsing. I say browsing because we simply scoped out the prices of souvenirs and decided we would check Fremantle the next day.
My first final was on Tuesday, and it went fairly well. There was a series of practice quizzes throughout the unit, and our tutor said not to expect the quiz questions to be on the exam. Not knowing how else to study, I used those quiz questions as flash cards and reviewed the lectures. I am lucky I did not listen to my tutor, because many of the questions on the exam were exact copies from the quizzes. Now I am awaiting my grade less nervously than anticipated.
That night, a group of us went to Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle to devour half-price nachos. They were absolutely delicious and I am so going to miss half-price nacho Tuesdays. Of course before that Sierra and I souvenir browsed again and decided to wait to purchase items yet again.
Wednesday was tattoo day! I got my closest friends to come for the important mark in Sierra’s life, so it was me, Brian, Sierra and Nicole in the parlor. Afterwards, we visited Toastface Grillah, a gourmet grilled cheese place I found on Google that had awesome reviews. The shack, I’ll call it, is hidden around the corner from the shops of the Central Business District and is not easy to find if you don’t’ know where to go.
Toastface has a handful of grilled cheeses (although I think they were more like paninis) for under ten dollars. It was packed when we got there, and we had to wait for seating in the hip, plant and pillow-decorated outdoor eating area. I ordered a grilled cheese with roast beef and horseradish, and it was absolutely worth the wait. A lot of flavor was coming out of a very small place!
Surprisingly, I did not go into Perth or Fremantle Thursday and actually stayed on campus for the day to study, blog and relax. The week flew by and my last full weekend in Perth arrived!
My crunch time has officially been crunched. After diligently working on projects, presentations and papers, my two weeks of jamming assignments in is over and I am about to leave for a final holiday. I never expected to say this, but I am heading for Thailand!
Planning this trip was not easy, as I ran into many road blocks trying to please my friends while scavenging for budget-friendly activities that had enough availability. After dealing with indecisive and fickle people, multiple trips and emails to a lovely STA agent and numerous rant sessions, I have planned a trip for Brian, Sierra and I in Bangkok and its surrounding area. This is the first time I have ever been in charge of and fully planned a trip to a country that does not speak English, and nervous does not begin to explain how I feel. However, as I have been reminding myself, everything happens for a reason and it will all somehow work out.
The next time I post, I will be back from Thailand, hopefully with a positive review. Cheers!
A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.
I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.
Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.
I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.
My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful. It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.
Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.
Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?
Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?
I remember saying in March that I felt like I only had two weeks left in Australia even though I knew I had so much time. In early May I would wake up with my heart racing because I felt time ticking. Now I wake up with headaches due to the amount of information I need to memorize for finals and the two massively important projects I need to turn in within a week. This only means one thing: one month remaining.
I honestly thought I would be much more emotional coming on the one month left point, but I honestly think I am too panicked about my schoolwork to worry too much about leaving. All I can say is I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that my time in the Land Down Under is almost up.
Am I sad? Yes. Am I going to miss Australia? Of course. Am I ready to go home? Probably. It has been such an eye-opening experience living in a new land. However, living in a country and traveling in a country are very different things—it’s not always fun and games. Okay, it was mostly fun.
I am not dwelling on the future quite yet. I am going to spend the next month (take out about half of that for studying and completing assignments) immersing myself in my beautiful surroundings. Not that I ever have, but I will not take my time left here for granted. I am going to make an effort to go into Perth with nothing to do, just to take this sweet place all in.
Here is a little something new I want to try. At the end of my posts, I want to jot down my thoughts at the end of writing (As I have said, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason). Here it goes:
Whitmanythought 1: Why haven’t I been able to fall asleep before 2 in the morning?
Whitmanythought 2: How do I only have a month left in Australia?
Whitmanythought 3: Only one week left of hard work and then you only have two finals until you’re done. Stay strong. Also, stop stressing about your upcoming trip.
This week proved how small the world really is. I was able to spare a night from my university work Wednesday and spend time with a friend I met in Berlin last summer. He showed me around the less touristy party of Northbridge, which is a neighborhood of Perth. I felt lucky to be able to experience different bars that the locals know.
I felt luckier, though, due to the fact that I was able to make a connection ten months ago all the way in Germany, and follow through with it all the way in Australia. Andrew told me that last summer when I mentioned I may be studying abroad in Perth, he didn’t think I actually would, since it is so easy to declare travel plans, but even easier to not follow through with them. Alas, here I am! We discussed that although it is incredible to see the world, the things we remember the most are the times spent with other people, and I could not agree more.
This is why I love travelling—exploring new places and meeting new people. You never know the stories behind the strangers you are passing or are coincidentally participating in something with, and you never know if you will see them again. However, if you open your eyes and mind, all these outsiders may seem just a tad bit closer.