After spending a full year precisely planning a six month trip abroad through Europe before settling down in England for a semester of study, I can tell you one thing; it turns out that I planned absolutely nothing.
It was all going to be perfect, I was going to be the first student in the history of students to have a hitch-free study abroad. I was going to sail through with sparse calls to my parents updating them on my perfect adventure. I was going to be laying stress free on the beach in Barcelona with no worries about my upcoming semester because it had all been expertly coordinated. But when it was the night before my flight and I realised I still had more things to do than I could count on all my fingers and toes, I started to think, “Maybe there are some things that just can’t be planned.”
And you know what, after about two months and several upset calls to my family who recited, “Don’t worry about that, you’ll be fine”, I realised that it’s okay to not plan some things. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s flaws and mistakes and tiny details that you could never prepare for that makes everything worth the worry.
I know now that my time abroad cannot be summed up in one grand sweep of flawless memories. I don’t want to remember my six months as a long string of activities and attractions. I don’t want to remember doing, I want to remember being. And those faults and mistakes and things that made me want to pull my hair out are what has made every memory of being abroad special to me. So when I take a moment to think about my whole time away and remember all of the things that I have achieved, I don’t care about having perfectly coordinated my bus schedule, or finding the highest rated gelato restaurant in Rome. Instead, I remember what the sky looked like as it cried thick sheets of snow, and I remember the cobbled streets lined with massive trees, shedding their flaming leaves.
Instead of worrying about how to get from A to B, I want to remember the rush of running late to an amazing gig and the sheer thrill that pulsed through me when I realised I would make it. The things that aren’t planned and that aren’t accounted for can stimulate the rawest feelings from places deep inside. I could never have expected that on the first day it snowed in my town I would neglect my upcoming exams and spend the evening utterly elated as I built snowmen with my flatmates. I never could have planned to skip my lectures on the rarely sunny days, and find my way over to nearby towns where I ended up reading books and drinking creamy hot chocolates.
As it turns out, after all the planning and booking and organisation that went in to my six month adventure, the things that I remember the most are the ones that I never planned on remembering. So, for anyone out there who’s planning their own study abroad trip, here’s my one word of advice: Don’t.
(For more information on studying abroad, visit the Monash Travel Abroad Office or check out http://www.monash.edu/study-abroad)