21 Gifts for Someone Studying Abroad

If someone you know is studying abroad and you want to get him or her the perfect present, look no further. Here are some useful and budget-friendly items that your departing friend will love.

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  1. Passport holder – I love mine!
  2. Travel size toiletries – this is useful for long flights or weekend getaways
  3. Travel size refillable bottles – for extra conditioner, shampoo, etc.
  4. City guide book – for those who have not completely switched over to the internet
  5. Space bags – these will come in handy when they are trying to stuff everything in his or her suitcase!
  6. Portable phone charger – an absolute must for long days spent exploring
  7. Power adapter/converter – there are cheap packs that come with several types for a worldly traveler
  8. Journal – so your friend can write about his or her experiences
  9. Neck pillow – to assure comfort on long flights
  10. Luggage tag – so your friend knows which bag to grab!
  11. Toiletry bag – help your friend stay organized in the bathroom while abroad
  12. Phone camera lens – there are lenses you can attach to your cell phone to increase the quality of photos. Some are expensive, though!
  13. Earbuds – something that will come in use on long flights or road trips
  14. Microfiber travel towel – these are quick-drying, lightweight and do not take up much room at all
  15. Stain removing stick – something small that will come in handy when your friend least expects it
  16. Travel money – there are many pre-paid cards that work overseas
  17. Translation tool – whether it be a digital lesson or book, having a guide to the country’s language is always useful
  18. Money necklace – there are different types of wallets that can fit under clothes that are useful for traveling abroad and keeping money and passports safe and out of sight
  19. Card protector wallet – these wallets keep credit and debit cards protected from scanners that crooks use to see through normal wallets and steal information
  20. “Open when…” cards – these will not take up much room and are the perfect idea for when your friend is feeling unsure, missing home or just might need some motivation
  21. Something sentimental – there are so many gifts to remind your friend of home, from a keychain with his or her state or a necklace with sand from his or her favorite beach
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Thankful for Study Abroad

This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.

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To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.

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Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.

I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.

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To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.

 

Keeping up with AIFS

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

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A photo from training with AIFS

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.

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Tabling with another club at my school

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.

 

 

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Lil Wayne

“NO WAY WE ARE GETTING LIL WAYNE AT FALL FEST OMG (insert crying emojis)” is exactly what I tweeted when I found out the rapper was coming to Hofstra for Fall Fest. I was excited because being a two-time Grammy winner and having a mountain of songs under his belt, Wayne was one of the biggest names Hofstra has probably ever hosted for fall fest. I was excited for sure, but I also knew that I could not name a “Wheezy” song or lyric if my life depended on it.

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Photo: Sam Bussell

Fast forward to Fall Fest. I have been working for hours backstage and all of a sudden security kicks everyone out, even my bosses who put the show together. Lil Wayne did not want anyone backstage. Next thing I know, he pulls up in a blacked-out Escalade and literally walks from the car to the stage. The crowd goes wild. I, on the other hand, was wondering what I was doing there because I literally did not know what he was saying or recognize any of the lyrics.

From an objective view, he put on a high-energy performance. He rapped live and seemed excited to be on stage. I was worried he would not even show up, considering a week earlier he cancelled a show because he did not want to undergo any security measures. Wayne shouted out Hofstra and preached to the crowd three things he wanted us to know: first we were nothing without God. Second, he was nothing without us. Third, he was nothing without us. Yes, number two and three are the same. Yes, I used G-rated language, unlike him. He actually performed a bit longer than he was expected to, so that was a nice addition. My favorite part, of course, was when he sang covers and his own part in “The One,” which also features Justin Bieber. Only if Justin was actually there…

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Photo: Trent Campbell

The reaction from the crowd was pretty mixed. I saw people bouncing to the beats and having the time of their lives, but I also noticed other people awkwardly going along with Wheezy. I talked to some people afterwards, and the feedback I received from students matched what I saw in the mosh pit.

Hofstra sophomore Kyle Byrne said, “Wheezy is an amazing performer. I liked when he sang throwback songs, too, that I didn’t know.”

On the other hand, Julia Barry, a junior, noted, “The performance was less than subpar.”

I can confidently say that if you know his music, it is a much better concert to attend. My overall reaction is that he put on a better show than I expected, but he is not someone I would purposely see live.

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Tash Sultana

I am no longer physically in Australia, but I would like to say my trip was extended until October 5th, when I saw Melbourne native Tash Sultana perform at The Brooklyn Steel.

After falling in love with her music and seeing her at Groovin’ the Moo music festival in Australia last semester, my roommate Sierra and I searched to see if Sultana had any American dates. Before we knew it, we had tickets in our inboxes and a few months of torturous waiting ahead.

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Sultana at GTM 2017

The wait was well worth it. I remember the calming vibe that she radiated into the crowd at GTM that allowed me to get lost in her folk-reggae music, despite the enormous mosh pit of rowdy people in which I was standing. Not to my surprise, she did it again, but this time it was even more beautiful. For one hour, Sierra, the hundreds of people that filled the space and I swayed our heads to her peaceful vibes.

Sultana opened up her solo show by laying out the house rules: Don’t ruin the fun and accept everyone. She called the the old steel manufacturing plant-turned concert space a “house of love” and wanted everyone to feel comfortable and safe. She then transported the whole crowd to a place of serenity and positive feelings as she effortlessly created music right before us.

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Sultana at The Brooklyn Steel 

Sultana is a looping artist, so she creates all the sounds right then and there and plays them over each other, resulting in beautifully layered melodies. She is definitely someone who can pick up any instrument she sees. Although I could easily listen to just her guitar, trumpet, pan flute and synthesizer playing all day, her raspy and sweet, but strong voice adds a whole new dynamic to her tunes. She is almost hypnotic to watch as she passionately bounces to her dreamy songs.

Before she wrapped up her show, Sultana gave a motivational speech about purpose, during which she said, “You will never find your calling because your calling will find you.” This is the perfect reminder to anyone struggling with their identity and goals. Being the vehement, wild artist she is, she played until the exact last second her manager would allow.

I also have to give Sultana credit for bringing such a thrilling opening act along. When I arrived at the venue, I was not excited to hear the opening act because I was there, of course, for Sultana. However, The Pierce Brothers, also from Melbourne, absolutely blew me away. The twins were unbelievably animated on stage and really brought the energy with their indie rock/pop music. Between their energizing attitudes and playing of multiple instruments, including the didgeridoo, the brothers encompassed what a talented opening act should be.

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The Pierce Brothers

Sultana exemplifies sincere talent and passion. Being in the same space as her one more time was unbelievable and I left wondering when the next time I will see her is. I suppose you can take me out Australia, but you cannot take Australia out of me.

Lake George: Good Eats

The only thing that motivated me through the whirlwind of September was my weekend getaway to Lake George at the end of the month. It was an extra special trip because my mom and step-dad let me come along with them and helped me surprise my grandparents and aunt. The astonishment on their faces when I arrived was priceless and the consistent “I can’t believe you’re here,” statements made the four-and-a-half-hour drive to and from well worth it. While my only full day there was overcast and rainy, the weekend’s redeeming quality—besides being with my family on a trip for the first time—was the food.

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The Silo

Between its history and mouth-watering food, The Silo is aesthetically appealing by sight and taste. The original silo of the restaurant was used to house corn and then was repurposed alongside two local 19th century farms which were combined and made into The Silo Country store in 1982. At first, the breakfast and lunch area was small, but business began to boom and several changes were made to expand the eatery into what it is today. The Silo is bombarded every morning with hungry guests and long wait times can form. I suggest getting there by eight in the morning to avoid long lines.

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Stuffed French toast

The Silo offers everything from buttermilk biscuits and gravy and giant pancakes so large that they only serve two to cheese quesadillas and crab cakes. I can personally vouch for its stuffed French toast which is filled with cream cheese and berries and finished off with whipped cream. The warm, thick, cinnamon coated bread was complimented beautifully by the sweet cream cheese and berries. I barely used syrup, which is unusual for me, because it tasted so nice without it.

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Silo’s cider doughnuts 

If there is a long wait and you are too hangry (hungry and angry) to wait for food any longer, try The Silo’s delicious cider doughnuts from the country store. They have a delicate taste that would be paired perfectly with some warm apple cider. The best part is they are only one dollar each, $5.50 for six or $8.50 for 12 donuts.

Adirondack Pub and Brewery

 The Adirondack Pub and Brewery began as response to the high quality European beers John Carr experienced during a backpacking trip. He decided to brew his own after being unable to find something in America that competed with anything he tasted in his travels. People became interested in his brewing, which led him to start his own brewery in the center of Lake George Village in 1999. To this day, people can visit for quality ales and comfort food.

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Pretending to taste the beers..

The pub’s selling point is its tasting option that comes with six beers that the staff chooses each day. If you find one you cannot live without, they sell huge jugs of their ales and lagers to take home. The Adirondack Pub and Brewery prides itself in using fresh, local ingredients to produce beer that can be comfortably drank any day of the year. This is an experience that beer fanatics do not want to miss. And if someone is not into beer, the pub’s food is exceptionally tasty as well.

Ambrosia Diner

Is the wait too long at The Silo? You can’t decide what you want to eat? Ambrosia is a classic American diner offering a range of foods from paninis, soups, steaks, and fish to eggs and pancakes. I enjoyed the Anastasia Pancakes which were slathered with Nutella and sprinkled with banana slices that sent my mouth into a sweet, chocolate-filled bonanza. The rest of my family was also satisfied with their delicious and large portions. The family who opened a diner in 1984 still owns and operates its now three locations, so I am confident the rest of the food at Ambrosia will taste like it was right out of their own kitchen.

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Anastasia Pancakes

If I had more time, I am sure I could have sunk my teeth into more delicious food, but I guess that will have to wait until my next adventure!

 

Tips on Transitioning to Your Home Institution Post-Study Abroad

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.

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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.

Blog

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.

Affirmations

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!

Thoughts on an Unexpected Summer

Summer 2017 turned out differently than I expected. When I was in Australia, I was set on making a bucket list filled with adventures like camping and visiting waterfalls. I thought I would be posting my videos and blogging about my awesome recent trips. However, by the time I got back to New Jersey, I was worn out. I just wanted to sit on the beach, and that’s exactly what I did.

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A view from my summer

This summer has opened my eyes to a few things:

Schedules

I am notorious for being a diehard supporter of my paper planner in which I write everything. In fact, a new planner was one of my first purchases I made in America. It was the end of June and also the end of my planner, and I knew my life was over as soon as the calendar ended. However, when I bought my new pretty planner, I did not use it and reverted back into my old high school days of just memorizing everything in my head.  It’s summer, so of course I don’t have many obligations, but not using my planner really helped me feel relaxed. I wasn’t concerned about when I was doing what, yet my time was always filled with family and friends. I realized it is okay to not have everything planned to the tee. However, as the school year approaches, I will return to my highly organized days, but with a higher appreciation for those numbered boxes without anything scribbled in them.

Relationships

Another huge reason I didn’t blog as much as I wanted to is because I went through a huge break-up, which no one would realize because I don’t talk about that much on here. Earlier in the year, I said I went through heartbreak; little did I know that was only an iota of the abundance of pain I felt in my heart this summer. However, it is something that everyone needs to experience and I am glad I did. I solidified my thoughts that if it is meant to be it will be, and if you think someone is bad for you, you should go with your gut feeling. Trusting my instincts is a huge thing I struggle with, but I know I am now going to place higher value on my own opinion.

Where I want to be

As I have said before, I have really been all over the place this past year, physically and mentally. When I started college, I desired to move to the Big Apple as soon as I could. It’s not that I don’t want the city life any longer, but I am so happy with my home in New Jersey with my family and friends. I love where I live because I can commute to Philadelphia and NYC in less than an hour and a half, and return to the beautiful shore where all my memories are. I won’t stay here forever, and maybe I will leave and come back. I am in no rush to make any huge location changes; unless it is to take another trip around the world, of course.

Life is insanely beautiful. Sometimes it is unfair, and sometimes it seems to be playing on your side. Regardless, everything that happens is a lesson and it is up to the receiver to decide what to do with the newfound knowledge.

Whitmanythought 1: Why is summer over?

Whitmanythought 2: Get motivated for the school year!

 

Why You Should Visit the Jersey Shore

I think the Jersey Shore is a magical place, especially in the summer. The coast of New Jersey consists of about 140 miles of beaches and boardwalks, but I am biased to the Toms River/Seaside Heights and Park area, of course, because that’s where I was raised. From boating to beaching, I seem to never get bored at this summer paradise and I hope others feel they could take advantage of some of my favorite activities around the area:

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Boating

If I am not lounging on the beach on a beautiful summer day, I am most likely on my boat. My favorite activity is waking up early to ski on the river with my dad and grandfather by 7:00 a.m. to take advantage of the glassy water. Other activities people can do include tubing, eating at dockside restaurants and anchoring for the day to enjoy food, drinks and swimming. Tices Shoal is a popular spot to hold a raft-up, but if you do not want the crowds, the area behind the governor’s beach house at Island Beach State Park is also fantastic.

You don’t own a boat? No worries! There are plenty of spots to rent from: Route 37 Water Sports, The Dock Outfitters and more.

Beaching

From Seaside Heights, Lavallette, Island Beach State Park and more, there are so many spots from which to choose. I can always be found at Seaside Park with my seasonal badge which costs $60 or $55 before a certain date. Senior season passes are $20, single day passes are $10, and weekly are $35. Finally, children 11 and younger and those with military I.D. are free. Time to soak up that sun!

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Sailing

Do you prefer a more relaxed cruise on the water? Try using one of the best natural resources we have: wind. There are plenty of areas from which to charter sailboats, so go ahead and get out there!

Parks

The general Toms River area is full of parks and outdoor escapes, so if the beach or boat don’t draw you in, you can try other places to explore: The Barnegat Lighthouse, Double Trouble State Park and Cattus Island County Park, just to name a few. I have spent countless days at these places, and they never get old.

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Amusement

I grew up visiting the Seaside Heights boardwalk, and despite the wild reputation it received from MTV’s Jersey Shore, I can confidently say that partying is not what it’s all about. We rose up from literal ashes after Hurricane Sandy demolished our boardwalk in 2012 and a fire burnt the rest of it down the following year, and we are back and better than ever. From arcades and eateries to brand new rides, this is a place to have fun for those of all ages.

I could go on and on about the great things that the shore has to offer, but I hope this gets some people thinking about how great the Jersey coast really is! Regardless of where I go, I will always remember Toms River for the beautiful place that it is.

Whitmanythought 1: There are so many things to do around here I barely scratched the surface.

Whitmanythought 2: Why do I ever have to leave?

Home at Last

Long time, no blog! I cannot say I am pleased with myself for not posting in so long, but you know, life happens. And by life happening, I mean I have been home from Australia for just over a month. I considered the options for first blog post after I got back from my Australian adventures—tips on transitioning back home, dealing with post-trip depression, what I learned while I away—the list goes on and on. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy or pretentious, so here are my responses to questions I’ve repeatedly received.

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My last picture from Australia

“So you’re actually going to be in America, Miss World Traveler?”

I cannot tell you how many times I heard this phrase or something similar. Yes, I was just traveling the world, but I did not forget where my home is! To be honest, exploring the world is still so important to me, but coming home to sweet New Jersey in summertime was the best timing possible. I do not want to be anywhere else than the Jersey Shore with my family and friends for a summer full of beaching, water-skiing and fun before I head back to Hofstra to begin my senior year of college.

“How was transitioning back to reality?”

Despite popular assumption, coming back was super easy. I luckily had a job lined up as soon as I got home, quite literally. I walked in my door at 11 p.m. on June 25, and started work at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Jumping into work and a schedule made it simple and necessary to transition myself back to home life.

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Fourth of July at home for the first time in two years

“What was your jetlag like?”

Luckily I slept/cried for almost the whole duration of my first two flights, and stayed awake for my last, so my sleep pattern was not too far off. Waking up early the next morning for work was easy and I almost flawlessly transitioned into Eastern Standard Time. Of course I was tired, but my sleep schedule was nowhere near backwards like some people thought.

“How sad are you to be back?”

As cliché as this sounds, I am sad that my adventure is over, but so thankful I have heaps (still using popular Australian terms) of memories to look back on and new friends to outlive these memories. Like I said, there is nowhere I would rather be in the summer than New Jersey with my friends, family, awesome job and of course, my pets. If I returned in winter, it may be a different story…

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The best part about coming home

“Where to next?”

People who know me know I will go anywhere I can if I have the chance. I plan on staying in America for quite some time to finish my undergraduate studies and earn some of the money I blew through back. However, the next large trip I want to take is a cross-country road trip through America. I feel like I have seen more of “the world” than I have of my own country, so I’d like to focus on that.

Coming home after living in another country for months can be a huge change, but I think it is all about perspective. Yes, I was upset to leave the new life I created while away, but I had so much goodness waiting for me at home. It has been a beautiful and crazy ride, and I plan to continue my journey of world and self-exploration one day at a time.