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December 12, 2014

Anyone can Study Abroad - Even Homebodies!

When I told my friends and family that I was considering studying abroad in Australia, no one believed me. My entire freshman year of college I experienced terrible homesickness. Just ask my poor roommates who had to put up with me! Every weekend I was begging my parents to pick me up because I could not stand being just two hours away from home. I even seriously considered transferring to a state school closer to my hometown, even though I knew I would be compromising my educationional goals. Thus, my friends and family laughed when I told them I wanted to move across the world for 4 months.

I started to question myself because they were right - if I could not last one week just 200 miles away from home, how the HECK was I supposed to survive four months being 7,000 miles away? Something about Australia just seemed right though, and I decided to apply despite my nerves. I think that deep down I never thought that this idea would ever become a reality. I guess that I figured that somewhere throughout the application process something would get messed up or I would have the wrong paperwork, and then I would not be able to actually go. But nope, everything was smooth sailing and before I knew it I was on a plane to Oz (Australia)!Looking back on it, I was in denial that I was moving across the world for a semester. It seemed surreal and I could not comprehend this reality. However a couple of days before my departure I went from cool, calm, and collected, to a nervous wreck! I was convinced that I would have a mental breakdown saying goodbye to my Mom at the airport and ultimately chicken out before I could even get through security. Naturally, I barely slept the night before because all I could think about was how I was going to be escorted out of the airport by security for having a complete panic attack in the terminal.

Finally my departure day had arrived, and I was surprisingly calm (probably because I was too nervous to even register any other emotions). I was meeting a friend from school at the airport because we were traveling together, which definitely was reassuring. The drive from Connecticut to Logan Airport in Boston was the longest two hours of my life. Once we got to the airport, it was just too chaotic to be nervous. Between printing my boarding pass, checking all 130 pounds of luggage (yes I packed my body weight in clothes), and an intense security check, I was too overwhelmed to be sad about leaving home. When it finally came time for the big goodbye, I didn’t shed a single tear (my mom on the other hand…)

And let me tell you something. I spent all of that time being miserable and dreading this experience for NOTHING. One quote that really applied to that situation was this: “Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Usually I think that those kinds of quotes are silly and cliché, but this one really stood out to me. I had this irrational preconception that I was going to be miserably homesick and counting down the days until I could come home; however, my experience could not have been more opposite. In fact, I am studying abroad again right this very moment completing an internship in Madrid. If someone had told me two years ago that I would have studied in Australia then proceeded to intern in Spain, I would have called them delusional.

My point is, please do not let nerves or anxiety holdyou back from a life-changing experience. Of course there were days that I missed my family, my bed, peanut butter (Vegemite is Australia’s peanut butter), but in the end, the fabulous days way outnumbered the bad ones. Do yourself a favour and prove to yourself that you are stronger, more independent, and more confident than you think. Returning from being abroad being able to say that you survived an entire semester in a foreign country is quite an accomplishment. I guarantee that you will surprise yourself with how much you are capable of doing!

Haley Rentsch is a 21-year-old undergraduate student studying Hospitality Management at Endicott College.  She also has a minor in Spanish Language and is currently working at a Marriott hotel in Madrid, Spain. To keep up with her adventures, you can follow Haley on twitter @hnrentsch


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