NINE THINGS I LEARNT WHILST STUDYING ABROAD

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Hey, my name is Lucy and I am a Pisces, a beauty and travel blogger, have a career in social media management and can twitch my nose!

Yep, I am an all-round skilful lass (being facetious, der)… I am also a past Austria-dweller! You heard correct – I once lived in a faraway land that I had never wanted to visit, yet am so bloody grateful I did. You see, I once took a massive leap (as a 21 year old), literally threw myself out of a what felt like a moving train (just my drama-queen way of describing my comfort zone) and decided to study abroad in Graz, Austria – a seriously beautiful town in the Styria region of Austria, close to the border of Slovenia.

It was the year 2011: One Direction was as ’small’ pop band making waves in the UK. Fringes and leopard print were making a come back, and LMFAO had just released a song about ’shuffling’. Australia had just been hit by a chronic heatwave (over 45 degrees for a whole week – also happened to be my final week in Sydney) and K.Rudd was Prime Minister – creepy smirk and all. It was also the year that I decided to move my life (for a little bit) to Austria – and see what all the fuss was about

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Enjoying a party in our 500 year old (plus) Uni courtyard

I was in my third year of studies at Macquarie University (can I get an ‘Amen’!) studying a Bachelor of International Communications. I loved what I was studying: the classes, the teaches, the knowledge I was filling my brain with! But, I wanted more. So, after hearing from a friend whom had undertaken an exchange, I decided to take the leap of faith and take the plunge. A few months later, I had arrived in an extremely foreign country, where I didn’t know the language, the culture, where I was living and I knew nobody . Literally, not a soul.

I stepped off the train and felt an immeasurable sense of ; ‘What the fuck have I just done’. I wanted so badly to step back on the train with my three bags – I was piss scared of the next 6 months. It was the most frightened I had ever been (probs didn’t help I had just watched ‘Taken’ on the plane over  ** palms face **), yet, I felt a weird sense of giddiness. A warmth of pride. A surge of adrenaline had taken over, and I cracked a smile. I WAS IN FREAKING AUSTRIA, BABY!

I was there for 6 months where I studied, travelled Europe (on countless occasions), met people from all over the world, chowed down on (one too many) Schnitzels and ended up wearing a Dirndl on my last few days in the town.

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I legit had the most awesome bike!

Fast-forward to today, and I am a changed woman – a woman of the world! Not only do I have a degree under my belt, I also have 3 years Social Media experience working with the biggest brands in the FMCG industry in Australia; have Facebook on speed-dial; have a successful Beauty and Lifestyle Blog and have just started this little travel blog (a few weeks ago); have been trained by the best in the social media, content producing and data-mining business; am best friends with some of the biggest names in Beauty Media; and even worked on a Cannes Lion Campaign on the very social page that I managed. I also have a brain exploding with wanderlust (bring on London 2015) and a belly full of memories (not to mention a stack of extra weight on my hips thanks to a love for divulging in European culture). But most of all -I am really content. The kind of happy that 5 years ago I didn’t know I would ever feel. I literally, could not fathom the change that came about having studied in Austria.

I believe that experiences make us stronger – and I love to talk about learnings. So, of course – I have to share with you…

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WHAT I LEARNT FROM SIX MONTHS OF STUDENT EXCHANGE

1. There are some seriously good-looking men in Europe.. especially in Summer!

Summer is DEFINITELY the best time to travel in Europe. Why? When the sun kindly chucks his snapback on, and all the fitties come out to play, it is a known fact that shirts go a missing as the temperature rises. And well, we now know why there are so many naked statues of marbled abs across Italy. **preach**

… But that isn’t exactly a philosophical/ life changing point, so we might scoot over to the second point…

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2. Knowledge can be gained at instutiions, but experience can only be gained by experiencing the world.

I might have known a lot about International Communication, Journalism in ELF, how to write an essay (actually, don’t think I ever knew that!), International PR and Advertising, travel writing, media cultures etc etc, but the experience I gained by leaping outside my comfort zone on exchange has taught me so much more about myself and the world than any book ever could.

For example, I learnt that I suck at trying to have a conversation in German; how to use an Austrian washing-machine; that I really need to work on my ‘quiet voice’; that Bears exists not just in America, but also in Croatia (seriously, who would have thunk it); that I am actually not the best travel companion in Summer (heat fries my brain and my ability to be a nice person after a while); I am a whole lot smarter than I, and others give me credit for; how to tame my mane whilst travelling in humid climates; and that I am actually not as geographical challenged as I first thought.

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3. I f*cking love food!

A little too much. I stacked on 8 kgs, and boy, was it noticeable in my face.

I ate my way around Italy and Croatia mostly, and that was fine. It was when I was stationary in Austria and I would overindulge and severely under exercise that I realised the weight the most. But I was happy. Fat, in a foreign country and happy – things could have been worse!

Note to self – avoid overconsumption when moving to London.

4. Stepping outside your comfort zone is the most horrifically-terrifying, yet liberating thing you can ever do.

Seriously, what teaches you more about yourself than throwing yourself into a completely foreign situation? It tests your coping skills, and allows you to see what the world would be like if you had nobody to rely on. It WILL be confronting, but you will learn so much from it.

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5. It isn’t about the quantity, but the quality of friendships that you have *cliche, yes 

In school, we measure how ‘successful your life is’ by how popular you are, what you want to be when you grow up, what your parents do and how many friends you have.

When you become an adult, or move countries, that goes out the door. A successful life is one that involves quality relationships- the ones who know your real flaws, and love you all the same. These are the friendships that will last when you go away for a while. I know who my ‘real friends’ are – and even though I might not have many, I have high quality ones.

I made a life-long friend in my flatmate, Stef. We did everything together, and she honestly made my life so much easier and more enjoyable in Austria – and still does. People talk about blessings, and I certainly believe she was one of mine.

6. You cannot rely on others to get you through life.

When you have no friends, family and your housemates aren’t home for a week when you move in – you have no choice but to rely wholly on yourself. It is scary; at first; but you quickly adapt and realise that you are a lot more capable of things than you imagined.

Also, you can’t be lazy anymore – that teenage period is over. Scary, yes. Necessary, bloody oath!

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You really don’t need a lot to ‘live’. Case in point – my student bedroom was so basic (and shared) but I could NOT care.

7. You don’t need a whole lot in life.

My bedroom in Austria was so basic. Literally – a bed, cupboard, desk and chair. It made me realise that to be happy in life, you don’t need excessive amounts of things – they mean nothing. Just as long as you have the basics, you can lead a happy life.

8. How to be resourceful

… Cause I was poor, man!

Pots double as salad and punch bowls. Baby powder for chaffing AND dry shampoo. Toothpaste is also great to dry pimples. Cheap alcohol isn’t all that bad. And a scarf doubles as a blanket for air-conditioned trains/plains.. incase you become homeless cause you a broke-ass-bitch (ok, I take that back –  I hope that never happens to anyone).

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The view from my room.

9. Snow is a bitch.

Slippery, frizzes your hair and will give you a cold if you stand in it for too long. Sure, it is ridiculously beautiful, and the movies made us believe that it was magical and makes humans glisten like Edward-Cullen Vampires… lies, I tell you. It is hell (a beautiful hell)!

Have you gone on student exchange? What did you learn?

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  • Love it! I went on exchange to Amsterdam when I was 20, so I can definitely relate with this! I also solo-traveled before I started the exchange so spent 2 months on my own wandering around Europe (then 2 months afterwards with friends!). I often look back and wonder what the hell I was thinking but I’m so glad I just took the leap and did it. Wouldn’t trade the experience for anything (even if it cost me an absolute fortune!)

    • Experience and memories is what define and change us – not money or degrees or fancy cars! I had the best and most life-changing time, and i wish I could be that carefree again ha!

      I cannot wait to go travelling again.

      What Uni in Amsterdam did you attend? xx

  • Vera

    I was in the USA last summer to study for a while, and wow! they are so different from Europe. The cultural boom was big at the begging, but it eventually became a fun activity to compare both societies and learn a new culture! Fun article!
    With love,
    Vera
    http://theflashwindow.weebly.com/

  • Lindsay Truax

    Loved your post!! Have not made it to Austria yet. Maybe someday.

    Pinkandnavystripes.com

  • Elizabeth Harding

    Great post! Yes European men are really good looking! Im currently living in Spain and am stoked to have nabbed one for myself haha
    Also agree with you on getting out of your comfort zone, I think its one of the best things I ever did, and Im a better person for it.

    Glad to come across your blog on the Wanderlust Link Up – is great to link up with other travel bloggers from Aus / NZ 🙂

  • Ha! Love this!! Especially agree with numbers 4 and 7. And 1, because I’m married to one (well, with that heritage at least!!) 🙂

    Oh, and thanks so much for linking up with #wanderlust last month. Sorry for the delay in stopping by to read your post – I had surgery in December, and I needed to take a little break from it all. The January linkup is live as of today, and we would love to have you again if you haven’t linked up already! xo

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