Now that I have been back in Europe for nearly a month, I had the time to think back on my experience in Australia and what I learned from it. To be completely honest, I still haven’t processed the fact that it is over and that I just graduated from a Master’s degree but here we go😆
There are many things that I loved about Sydney, apart from the amazing weather we had during the Australian summer. I am so grateful for the time I spent there and the memories made. I really wish that some of you reading this will be able to experience something similar. I will briefly take you through what I discovered and learned during my short but intense Aussie experience🌺
Protect your skin
First of all, although quite obvious and cliché, do not underestimate the strength of the Australian sun. In fact, there is no protective ozone layer there, making it far more aggressive than our European sunshine☀ So, smother yourself with factor 50, take breaks in the shade and stay hydrated, to avoid bad sunburns, like I had at the beginning of my stay, oops. One tip, buy your sunscreen there, as Australian sunscreens are tailored for the hardcore Australian sun.
Use your weekends
One of the hardest aspects of going on an exchange is to be able to make the most out of it by also ensuring that you are on top of things internship wise. Since I was doing a research internship, my week usually consisted of lab experiments. I definitely enjoyed this, however, it made it a bit difficult when wanting to plan getaways. Especially, when making plans with friends that had more flexibility in their schedules. My other two friends from the Masters and I mainly worked around this by making sure to sightsee during weekends. Two days may seem like very little but trust me, we managed to get a lot done. So, my advice would be to accept that you will probably not be able to do every possible activity and dedicate your weekends for new adventures and cool road trips. Also, supervisors there tend to be really understanding and are fine with giving you some days off for a longer escapes to explore Down Under and its surroundings.
Take time for yourself
This may sound like something difficult to do during an exchange, often known to be intense and a period where you never stop meeting new people, but some alone time is a must! Although going on an exchange is amazing and fun, adapting yourself to a completely new environment and constantly socialising can sometimes get overwhelming. While being there, I thus made sure to keep some time for myself. Even though I am someone that loves being with people, I quickly realised that spending time alone was crucial to recharge my social batteries and to properly integrate all the amazing things I was experiencing. Looking back, I believe that this form of self-care is necessary, regardless of the setting you’re in. Actually, I would say that it is a good habit to adopt in order to internalise all the new perspectives you gain from all new life experiences.
Step out of your comfort zone
As I said previously, being on the other side of the world, may seem scary and overwhelming, especially when feeling like the European outsider. However, you’ll see that by taking small steps and being daring, all will quickly fall into place. Make sure to say ‘yes’ to new experiences, take advantage of the opportunities offered to you and take the leap. Personally, there were sometimes where I did not feel like doing activities friends were doing or felt sceptical about a proposition made to me, being in the lab or outdoors. However, I quickly understood that generally, good things happen when stepping out of your comfort zone😉
Finally, just ENJOY IT while you can, because time flies! Seriously, I can’t believe that my time in Sydney is over, these 4 months just slipped through my fingers. Although all of this happens fast, you’ll see that an exchange is a great way to expose yourself to different cultures, ideas and ways of life, enriching your own views on life. BUT, remember, everyone’s experience is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to find the right balance and take the time you need to reflect, recharge, and integrate your exchange experiences into your life moving forward.
Have an amazing summer☀