What happened to the time?

I can’t help but highlight how incredibly quickly my study abroad in the US went! I’m still travelling around the US now so it feels like my adventure hasn’t ended although my studies in the US are well and truly finished (as of Dec 11th)!

It’s hard to really articulate how much my time abroad has changed me both personally and professionally. I have learnt an incredible amount about the United States and Australia (as well as other countries) since coming abroad. The experience has given me so many insights into other cultures and really challenged me to rethink my judgements and perspectives in life! I have definitely learnt to become more accepting and understanding of different points of view and ways of life. I have also grown to understand myself better, particularly what makes me unique from other people.

I would say that the greatest aspect of my time abroad was the connections I made with people along the way – local American students, international students, university staff, professors and everyone else I met along the way. I found people to be extremely friendly and welcoming which I really valued during my time away from home. It was also interesting to observe the differences in the education system (which I found easier than the Australian system) – the style of teaching, assessments and grading definitely varied in a number of ways. Another highlight of my time abroad was going on trips away with the university, with friends or even by myself. Some of my favourite ‘getaways’ included San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Seattle, the coast of California, Arizona and Napa Valley.

Leaving Ireland

I can’t believe that is is my last entry! And that right now I’m sitting in Heathrow airport awaiting my flight home. It’s so hard for me to describe my exchange experience because my words don’t do it justice. I’ve honestly had the most incredible time overseas. There are things that I have gained that I knew I would, like an understanding of culture (both Irish and Australian) and a newfound confidence and independence. What I didn’t anticipate about my time abroad, was how much I would learn about myself. By meeting a whole new group of people I’ve learned so much about my personality and how I interact with others. Saying goodbye to these people was the most surreal experience. My exchange friends were also my family whilst I was abroad and I spent every day with them. I’m going to really miss them. Before I left for Ireland, my best friend wrote a quote to me in a plane letter “you’ll come back the same but different”. At the time I had no idea what she meant. But as I progressed through my exchange I slowly began to understand that I’m still myself but my exchange has developed me as a person and given my experiences I couldn’t have received at home.

I was also amazed about how settled I became in Ireland. When I left I had a routine, I was comfortable and no longer missed home. At first I found it really hard that my family was asleep when I was awake and visa versa. But it meant that I learned to deal with crisis or moments of weakness by myself and then was able to reflect on it by talking to them when they woke up.

It was small things that made me realise how much I’d adjusted, like the fact that I no longer had to convert euros into Australian dollars in my head to see home much something was worth. That I started using similar slang to the people around me and also adjusted my studying methods to suit the Irish system. I was also surprised about how confident I became overseas. When I left for Limerick I had EVERYTHING planned. I created a document with flight times, maps of cities and how much money I anticipated to spend in each place. By the end of my trip I no longer needed to use these crutches when traveling. I took this a step too far when I took a weekend trip to Belfast and got there without any maps of the city and no idea where I was! Taking weekend trips has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and experience new things. I feel like less of a homebody now and I’m excited to get home and explore Australia.

Although I’m sad that I’m leaving a whole life behind, I’m excited to get back to Australia armed with everything I learned overseas. I’m mainly excited for the warm weather, Australian accents and avocado (Irish avocados are rubbish). I think what I’ll miss the most about Ireland is being able to fall asleep to the sound of rain, Costa Christmas drinks, being so close to a diverse range of countries and the people.

I honestly can’t recommend doing an exchange enough. Yes there are times where it seems overwhelming and daunting, but that moment when you realise that you have created a life across the world from everything you know, it feels fantastic.
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One door closes, another one opens

Last week was a week of lasts.
Last day in my dorm room, but I opened my hear to my roommates.
Last day studying at GCSU, but not the last day in my memories.
Last day I will see a lot of people, but so many more I’ll meet in the future.

I could type for days, explaining everything I have done, and everything I have seen but all I need to say is that this experience abroad has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I would do it all over again 100x over.

The biggest advice I can offer is GET INVOLVED IN THE INTERNATION CLUB! I might have come to America but within the semester I feel like I have done an around the world trip.

1 semester; LA, San Diego, Grand Canyon, Los Vegas, San Francisco, Atlanta, Alabama Gulf Shores, New Orleans, Savannah, New York, Miami.

For now, in summary…

 

 

My JUFE Family

Wow! It is hard to comprehend that there is only one month left of my student exchange left!

During the past three months that I have spent at JUFE I have been fortunate to establish friendships with fellow exchange students that I know will last a lifetime and we now consider each other as family which is a comforting concept leading into the holiday season.

Although China, the city of Nanchang and the JUFE campus are now considered home to all exchange students, there are still moments during which each of us has felt a little homesick for the customs, traditions and familiarity of our home countries.  These moments have enable us to  strengthen the bonds of our friendship as we band together to help lift each other’s spirits and have also provided me with the opportunity to enjoy many cultural traditions of countries that I am yet to visit.

To date I have joined in the celebration of 3 birthdays, Canadian thanksgiving, Halloween and American thanksgiving and each of these events has helped to overcome the feeling of nostalgia associated with being away from family and loved ones during our most important times of the year. We also have discovered a very nice restaurant nearby the campus which we have termed “our family restaurant “at which we all gather once a week to enjoy a “family” meal together, similar to that of the “Sunday roast” I am accustomed to in Australia.

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Being surround by such wonder people who genuinely care about each other will proved to most important during the coming weeks, for as the Christmas and New Year periods are fast approaching in Australia, and indeed most countries the world over, for the exchange students at JUFE these week signal course work revision and examination preparation weeks for our examination period begins on 24 December and finished on 31 December which is sure to have even the emotionally strongest person feeling a little homesick!  However, with this in mind, my JUFE family are presently undergoing preparation to ensure that we all feel at home as much as possible during this time.  We are arranging to have a Christmas tree set up on our floor or the international student building, have begun to set up Christmas decorations in our rooms and have identified the person for which will be purchasing a “ Secret Santa” gift for.

I know that when it comes time for me to leave China and return to Australia that I will miss my JUFE family as much as I missed my own family and friends during the initial weeks of my student exchange.