My Australia Playlist

During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.

Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.

Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.

Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”

The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.

Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”

Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.

Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.

Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.

The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.

Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.

A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”

Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.

It was all part of the experience.

Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate

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Straddie Trip: Go Pro Style

Check out this awesome video by Anastasia Lukovenko of her weekend excursion to North Stradbroke Island with Arcadia University Australia.

Can’t Help But Brag: Study Abroad Struggles

We live in a society where everyone asks, “What’s new?” or “How are you?” but no one seems to care about the response. We reply with a dull “not much” or “good, how are you?” And then wait for another meaningless answer. We ask these questions to be polite, but how often are people genuinely interested? Especially when your response is a lot more exciting than theirs would be. We are jealous, bitter people– it’s in our human nature. But we ask these questions because it’s common courtesy, and we don’t want to seem rude (even though we are).

The worst case comes when you study abroad because you have so much to share, but to be honest– no one back in the small town of Glenside, Pennsylvania wants to hear anything about your life-changing experiences because while you spent a weekend partying in Amsterdam, your friends went to another shitty house party that probably got busted before midnight. Your constant traveling and experiences in a foreign country will never fail to make everyone sitting back home hate their boring, routine lives. And you.

Some people who study abroad understand this, while others think that everyone is fascinated by their experiences. This doesn’t mean absolutely everyone isn’t interested. I’m sure your mom and dad actually care. But the stories you really want to share are probably the ones best kept from your parents. But how many times can your friends handle listening to you go on and on about your beautiful foreign roommates before they start ignoring your messages. You can’t be mad at them for this. They want to be interested in your life. But while they’re staring at the same four walls of their Oak Summit apartment, you’re out getting a taste of all different parts of the world, and they’re going to get tired of hearing about it.

Even if someone is honestly interested in your trip and wants to hear “all about it” you would never be able to describe it all. Too much has happened. I would never be able to explain in detail all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, the people I have met, and the adventures I’ve taken without wasting hours of someone else’s time. When someone back home asks me, “How’s Australia?” I couldn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows and craziness of everything that has been happening.  Maybe I could tell them about how I spent an entire weekend on North Stradbroke Island learning how to surf and sandboard and kayak, and didn’t have to pay for a single thing (thanks Arcadia!). Or I could mention how last weekend I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and found my potential Australian husband (just kidding, maybe). I could tell them about the first time I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. Or explain the difference between a nice Australian accent and a bogan one. But no matter what I tell them, it just sounds like I’m bragging. Instead, maybe I could tell them how I felt really homesick so I stayed in bed all day watching Netflix and eating overpriced Nutella out of the jar. Or that even though I’m in Australia, I still have classes to go to and essays to write and all-nighters filled with red bull WITHOUT vodka.  But how lame doeDSCN0530s that make my entire semester seem?

We can partially blame social media. Most likely everyone has already seen all your pictures on Facebook and read all your tweets and hate you enough as it is. The constant upload of beautiful pictures from weekend excursions and simply everyday life in a foreign country is enough to drive anyone crazy with jealousy. Especially when it’s somewhere they wish they could be. Or somewhere they’ve already been that they wish they could go back to. Or when it is winter in PA, and your friends are dreading leaving their heated apartments, meanwhile I’m posting pictures of the beautiful, sunny beaches around Australia.

But what else are we supposed to do? We have to share our experiences with someone. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess that’s why blogging has become so popular. But while it may seem like we are having a much better time than those of you at home (and not gonna lie, we probably are), we still get that FOMO too. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to be hungover on my best friend’s couch eating mac n cheese and watching Food Network. No matter what great experiences I have abroad, there will still always be a nostalgia for people and places (and pizza) back home. So to all the friends who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and are stuck listening to our awesome stories, try to be patient with us. We’re not bragging on purpose. And I’m sure you have cool stories to share too. Even if it is just about another drunk night at Towers. And to anyone who has studied abroad and has had this problem, try not to brag TOO much to your friends. Keep it subtle. Start a blog. Or share your experiences with us at WanderLUST. And in the midst of all the bragging, don’t forget to remind your friends back home how much you still love and miss them.

To Be The Wayfayer

by Ponsius Hanz Odaga

So, a few weeks ago I was at the DMV  to get a state I.D. While standing in line, I met a couple of nice folks who were getting their driving licenses renewed. We began talking about how driving makes you incredibly lazy. Now please don’t be offended, but if you drive often, there is a high probability that you have been afflicted with this curse. And if you think you haven’t, then look back and just think of the last time you were in a parking lot and you refused to park in the back. You’d rather embark on an endless quest to find the coveted, elusive, and mysterious  “good spot”.

Don’t get me wrong though– I think cars are pretty dang cool, but our bodies are parade-worthy amazing. So why don’t we walk? Sure, driving is easier and it gets you wherever you need to go much faster. But because of this, we tend to miss out on a lot, or spend our whole time screaming at other drivers. Seriously, I believe that more than 70% of drivers in the northeastern United States have road rage.

Anyway, I have an idea for all of us to just take a walk, whenever we travel somewhere or if you live near/in a city. Or take public transit and leave the driving to someone else. (Except for taxis, which tend to cost too much and be a poor experience.) Think about it, you will save money, meet new people or have time to yourself. I propose that we all become the Wayfarer in just 5 easy steps.

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Step One: Plan to Leisurely Walk 

Advice: I know I am redundant, but take your time. And don’t expect too much, just expect to see something new.

Story Time: I am currently interning in NY and every day when I walk home, I take my time to take in all the sounds & places around me.  I love running into good musicians and dancers on the street & subway.

Step Two: Distraction 

Advice: Plan to get distracted and walk wherever you see something interesting.

Story time: When I was in Paris, I was walking with a friend in search for dinner and we stumbled upon a bar where they were playing some nice funky soul music. We were dancing as we were walking by, and a lady came out and encouraged us to go in. Actually, it was more like she pulled us in. Anyway, we went in and partied it up for a hot minute with all of the people there. Then the bartender told us it was a private party and then we begrudgingly walked out. For the record, the people wanted us there and invited us in. AND they danced with us! But then again, they were drunk….

Step Three: Join In

Advice:When you see people doing something you thinkhanz1 is cool, just hop on in. More often than not, if people are having a good time, they don’t mind other people  jumping in who just wanna have fun too.

Story time: A couple weeks ago, I went to Bubble Battle NYC 2014 which I thought was fantastic. The amount of bubbles in the air seemed never ending. I swear we were the best kind of public servants because we definitely cleaned up Union Square that day.
I was there with a couple of friends and once in a while people came up to us asking what was going on. Later on, I noticed those same people jumping in on the action with bubble-creating items they just bought.

Step Four: Talk to your neighbor

Advice: If you are on public transit and someone is doing something, wearing something or reading something you like– talk to them. Be courteous and friendly, but know your boundaries because not all people will want to talk.

Story time:  I was on the NY subway and working on a spoken word poem that I was going to perform at an open mic when I noticed the man next to me looking at what I was doing. He then said, “Hi, are you a poet? That’s a good line there” to me, and we began to talk about poetry. His wife was also on the train, and they asked to read my poem. In the end, they complimented my writing and gave me confidence in what I had written, which greatly reduced the pre-show jitters.

Step Five: Be I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T 

Advice: When you get on to public transit be prepared to spend some time to yourself. Bring a great book to read, portable  video games to play,  journal to write in or music you want to listen to. Basically, keep yourself happy.

Story time: I can’t even begin to mention all the papers, assignments, readings, books that I have completed on megabus. hanz2There was one time I was reading a book that made me laugh loud enough where I had to apologize to the people next to me. Then megabus turned off the lights and I let out a big awww! This made all those around me laugh at my plight. In fact, I edited part of this article while on public transit.

Overall, the point is to take a walk through any interesting area you see and experience as much as you can. Talk to people and do what you want. It’s the fastest way to get to know an area and enjoy your time there. Public transit isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. Chill out, accept the instability of life,  and don’t forget to be awesome.

 

 

 

Don’t Shit Where You Eat

by Brittany Tedesco

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There are some people who can take other people’s advice and learn from their mistakes. But there are some of us who have to touch the fire and get burned to learn. I am one of those people.

From the moment I moved into my student accommodation and saw my beautiful (male) flatmates, I knew I was about to be playing with fire. All my friends told me that handy little piece of advice, “Don’t Shit Where You Eat.” And I probably should’ve listened. But when the most beautiful boy you’ve ever seen knocks on your door at three in the morning while you’re both intoxicated and says in the most beautiful British accent you’ve ever heard, “Can I kiss you?” how can you possibly say no?

After that night, I thought nothing of it. Shit happens. But I barely saw him for a while after that. Maybe he’s avoiding me, maybe things are awkward now. Until eventually we crossed each other’s paths again. And eventually he was knocking on my door again. And before I knew what was going on, he had moved into my room– toothbrush, skateboard, clothes, and all.

And still, my friends kept warning me, “You need to kick him out” and “This isn’t going to turn out well.” But I refused to listen, even though I knew they were right. He would eat all my food, use all my shampoo, hog all the blankets, and play loud music in the morning even if I was still asleep. But I was in complete denial. I enjoyed his company. And maybe it was just convenience, sure. We’d watch Netflix, hook up, and go to sleep. There was honestly nothing else that I wanted.  (I mean, have I mentioned how beautiful and British he was?)

But we were never exclusive. And we never wanted to be. Or at least he never wanted to be. And I never admitted that I wanted to be. But nothing burned worse than the night we went out to a club together, and he left with another girl instead of me. And my bed felt empty, and I couldn’t sleep. Things were always subtly awkward after that.  He still stayed over a few more times, but we both knew it had to end. His lease ended and he not only moved out of my room, but out of the apartment. And he slowly faded out of my life, so now we don’t even speak.

But I still wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I had fun with him, and sure I got hurt and used, but I had to. I couldn’t have listened to anyone else, no matter how many times they tried to warn me. So as much as I’d like to stop you from making my mistakes and tell you not to hook up with your roommates, no matter how beautiful and British they are, I know you probably won’t listen. And I don’t blame you.  But if there’s one piece of advice you should actually take, it’s this: If you want to play with fire, expect to get burnt. But don’t let that stop you. Fire is a beautiful thing. What’s worse than getting burnt is how cold you will feel when the fire goes out. But only for a little while. Only until you realize you now have the entire blanket to yourself.

Photo credit: http://blueascookiemonster.tumblr.com/post/87232338084

The List: The Untold Story Of How Many British Men I Have ACTUALLY Hooked Up With.

by Katie Sorino

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Let’s set the scene here.

It was my last night at my home school in the states. I was helping my friends pack up their things to go home for break and saying my goodbyes. Though it was only halfway through the school year, I was not coming back in the spring. I had decided to study abroad in London and was the first one out of my group of friends to do so. I was scared shitless. I had no idea how I was going to survive without my tight knit group of friends. We did everything together– ate together, got drunk together, cried together…you name it we did it together (for the most part).

Four of my closest girls had decided it would be funny to lock me in a closet before I left. They had hoped that this would make me stay, and not leave for London. But nonetheless the ticket was bought and though I was nervous, I was pretty fucking excited too. I had always pictured myself living in a big city, living a life that I had only dreamed of or seen on shows like Sex in the City. Because let’s be honest, what 20 year old girl doesn’t want to be Carrie Bradshaw?

My friends and I were trying to focus on how much fun I was going to have rather than focus on being sad about me leaving. They knew I was wild, and knew I was going to tear up London and have the time of my life. Then… we got on the topic of boys. The ‘what if’ questions started swirling around in our conversation. Eventually my friend asked, “What if you kept a hook up list while you were in London?” At first I was shocked. A LIST? Did she think I was going to lock lips with that many beautiful British men?! I thought she was out of her mind…but then I sort of didn’t. Call me crazy (or maybe just super competitive) but I wanted to see how many guys (or girls, I guess, if I was drunk enough) I could put on that list. So I packed the journal that my friend Brittany had given me, and I was on a mission.

I boarded the flight to Canada and sobbed the entire way there. I skyped my mom in Toronto, listened to her words of encouragement, and got my ass on a connecting flight to Heathrow Airport in London. I landed and it was like a dream. Something out of a Mary Kate and Ashley movie, for all you 90’s babes. To make a very long story short– I took a bus to my house, met my flat mates, and got settled in. I didn’t go to a club that first night, but I did go to a bar. First night: unsuccessful. And I was kind of pissed. Did I not look hot enough? Did I not have enough liquid courage to make moves? What the fuck was I doing wrong?

That all changed mid-week. And by changed, I mean I had added five people to the list by the end of the week. I had gone to a club called Los Locos, which wound up being my very favorite club in London. Los Locos was located in Covent Garden, in central London. I had downed three bottles of cheap wine before going out, so needless to say, I was pretty drunk. I stumbled off the tube (no, literally– I fell on the cobblestone, but got right back up like the champ that I was) and headed towards the club with some old friends that had come to London with me from my home university and my new flat mates as well. I paid to get in, immediately went downstairs, and started dancing instantly. I definitely didn’t leave my “Jersey” at home, if you know what I mean. I was talking to guys left and right and was making tons of new friends. Then: it happened. I made out with someone. All I could think of while it was happening was “HOLY SHIT, I FINALLY have someone to put on the list!” And so, the list had been christened. The sad part is I couldn’t even tell you the guys name if my life depended on it. I knew he was from America though, which was pretty disappointing. But no worries. This tale includes many other British men. After I had made out with Random #1 (as he is named on my list) four more guys quickly followed. Three American men made the list, A British guy named Connor, and Connor’s friend who was black (again, this is exactly how they are named on my list.) That makes a total of five men in one night, ladies and gentleman. Something I had only accomplished one time in the states during my visit to Rutgers University. Now, I am not saying I am proud of this. But it was my first week in London, I was bound to go a little crazy.

Some of the other names on my list included neighbors of mine such as:

  • Mitch the boy in the CAPA program poor life decision (not joking, that is how his name appears on my list)
  • Alex Henry Thomas the hot British man I kicked out of my flat at 5am
  • Strange Turkish man at Walkabout
  • Random #7 super hot guy in plaid shirt at Roxy
  • Guy I made out with at the bus stop
  • Harry Fowler the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace (YUP THAT HAPPENED)

…. and the list goes on and on. My friends gave me a goal and I completed it. By the time the five months was up, I had kissed (or maybe done more with) over 50 people. This may seem like a lot but over the course of five months, and the amount of times I went out, it really wasn’t.

Not very many people knew about the list until now (sorry mom). But you know what? It’s my life. And I truly don’t give a shit. If you think I am a slut, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. I’m not saying what I did was right. However, this is how I like to think of it– I had one shot at London. Five months to let go, re-create who I was, in a city with seven million people. That list even served as a sort of confidence booster for me. After a long line of bad boyfriends in the past, it was nice to meet guys that treated me well. They were not all drunk hookups or scumbags. In fact, I wound up going on dates with some of the guys I had met. Though not all of them were successful (such as the date I went on where I had to use Google Translator the entire time to attempt to make conversation in Italian), it’s still a memory I made in the city that I love. And it’s not like ALL I did while I was abroad was get drunk and find random people to hookup with. I did a lot of cultural things too. I attended Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, went to almost every museum in London, traveled to other countries and saw all the sites. I regret nothing.

As for the list…well I still have it. It is now a document on my computer. I had started it in the journal my friend had given me, but I wound up using that journal for a class so I ripped it out, typed it up and saved it to my documents. For me, it’s a memory. Since it’s in chronological order, I can very clearly recall which night was which, at what point it had happened in my trip, etc. I would update my friends as the hookups progressed but they did not see the “finished product,” we will call it, until the beginning of last May. We all got a good laugh out of it, and it gave me plenty of stories to tell. Hopefully, the same stories that I will remember when I am 80, all because I wrote it down.

Photo credit: Stephany Yanez via Creative Commons.

London Love

by Bri Wink

To Those Abroad In London:

First and foremost, do not take your time abroad for granted. Go ahead, indulge in a few days of wallowing in homesickness upon arrival, use jet lag as an excuse to curl up in your bed, skyping your friends and family and crying into your pillow that is nowhere near as comfortable and fluffy as the one at home. Take a few days to adjust, but then move on. Get out of those sweatpants, walk out that door and go out and do things. If you spend your whole time abroad stuck inside your room, hiding behind your laptop and complaining about your lack of live stream feed, then you shouldn’t have even studied abroad in the first place. You didn’t travel over 3,000 miles to stay up until five in the morning watching Pretty Little Liars. Go experience real things instead.london1

Take tourist days. Don’t be afraid to freak out crossing Abbey Road. Pose in front of those red telephone boxes with pride. Galavant around the Victoria & Albert Museum and take as many photos of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben as you want. Tourist days are the best days because you can let go of all that nonsense about blending in and just enjoy yourself. Bring your camera, bring a friend and leave the embarrassment of being an American behind. Just go out and knock things off that checklist of yours and don’t be ashamed of your enthusiasm or excitement or even your American-ness while you do. With that said, take a few non-touristy days, too. Travel off the beaten path and find a café or a bookstore or a pub that you can call entirely your own. Don’t pre-plan, either, Google searching “best unknown pubs in London” because that is cheating. Go out and find it on your own.

Visit the markets. Brick Lane is my favorite but go to all of them. Camden, Portobello Road, Borough Market, Old Spitalfields….They’re all unique and different and are such a great way to experience the vast and rich cultures that London is known for. Eat loads and buy loads and for just one day, indulge yourself in being a hipster. Just walk around and take in the charm of the city through the eyes of the vendors. You haven’t experienced the real London life until you’re chowing down on cheap empanadas while haggling down the price of a leather jacket.

Go out on the town, ride the Tube drunk, and get lost on the night busses with your crazy friends and the even crazier strangers you meet. Open your eyes on these 4am journeys and take in the view of the city at night without the hustle and bustle. Sit back, relax, and let the beauty of the lights and the stillness of a city that’s half asleep mesmerize you. Then get off at the wrong stop, stand around for another twenty minutes and do it all over again when the next bus pulls up. Also understand that not every night has to end in vague memories and hangovers. Sitting around, gorging on pizza and bingewatching American Netflix with your flatmates is just as satisfying as feeling the bass pump through your veins and seeing the neon lights flash behind your eyelids at a club. Some may even argue that it’s better.

Steal something. I’m not saying to break into a jewelry store or hold up a bank, but sneak out a pint glass from your favorite pub. Rob a fork from that restaurant you fell in love with. Take a few leaves from your favorite tree or flowers from a garden. Conveniently never return the notepad from that hostel you stayed in when you traveled and don’t hesitate to steal a few kisses from the boys and girls that tickled your fancy.

When you get sick (and you will get sick- Freshers Flu knows no discrimination) you will miss your mom and your dad and your own bed more than anything. You won’t have the slightest idea what cold medicine to take, how to work your insurance, or what to do with yourself other than wallow in the self-pity that comes with a runny nose. I think the days I was sick were the days I missed home the most, simply because all I wanted was my mommy, my teddy bear and an America’s Next Top Model marathon to cure me back to health. But eventually, I stopped moping around and started ingesting that Vitamin C, slurping down some of that soup and went to the pub to drink away the headache. In Britain, a pint can cure just about anything.

Meet people. Meet local people, to be exact. This is the most important part of the experience, the one that you’ll cherish the most once you return home. Befriend the Americans on your program but don’t forget to set out to make some of the best friends you’ll ever have. My entire semester became infinitely better because I spent my time playing it up with a bunch of British idiots I was lucky enough to call my friends. Knowing people, hanging out with people, and understanding people from the city that you’re in or from cities and areas around it makes the whole study abroad experience vastly different. These are the people who can show you the ins and outs; the ones who know the best place to grab a bite or the perfect spot to watch the fireworks on Guy Fawkes night. These are the people who will think you and your American-ness are fascinating, and together you’ll understand new things about yourselves. They’ll help you figure out the basics and provide vital information on how to live outside of your comfort zone, and in return you can help them see the city through a new set of eyes. Also, you get the benefit of hearing those precious accents daily and nothing can be better than that.

Fall in love: with the city, with a boy or a girl or maybe even both, and most importantly, with yourself. Cherish the way the air smells before it rains, and be captivated by the way he/she holds your hand when you’re drunk on Jack Daniel’s and their smile. But, more than anything, get on that plane ride home loving yourself. Love who you are in the city, love who you’ve become (because those pamphlets really don’t lie- studying abroad does change you) and the way you’ve grown to care more about people and the world around you and less about your own problems. Studying abroad is about the whole “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, sure. But really, you’ll notice the best memories come from those little moments that shape you.

And if you do fall in love with a boy or a girl that captivated you, don’t run from it. Let that feeling of a foreign romance wash over you. There really isn’t anything that can compare to a European love affair. It might not work out in the long run, of course, but that doesn’t mean you have to immediately give up out of fear of the future. Sometimes the city really is better when you have someone’s hand to hold.

But above all, understand that you’re going to have to leave. It’s inevitable; when you study abroad you have a clear expiration date and sooner rather than later, the day is going to come where you’re going to have to re-pack your entire life into a suitcase, hop on a plane, and go back to the place that you once considered home. Cry. Cry a lot. It doesn’t help, really, but it’s not something to be ashamed of, either. Freak out. Go crazy one last time. Sob the whole way through the packing process and the whole way to the airport. Hug your new friends so tight that it hurts to let go. Be weak. Listen to The Weakerthans “Left and Leaving” on repeat the entire 7 hour plane ride home. But then promise yourself that you’ll come back eventually. Get off that plane in your home airport rejuvenated, ready to return one day. Tell yourself as you fly back across the Atlantic that it’s going to happen. There’s so many things you haven’t done yet, so many sights and places and sunsets over the Thames that you haven’t seen. Do not doubt for one second that a return is possible. Because it will happen one day, as long as you believe that it will. Studying abroad is temporary, but the feelings that you leave with are for a lifetime.

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