Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents A Blessing in Disguise

November 14, 2022
By Angela Ding, Nursing '23

University of Queensland, Australia

Angela is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2022 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

If five months ago, someone from the future told me that during my time abroad I would:

1. Comfortably wakeboard over choppy river water

2. Happily drive a 17-foot-long campervan on the left-hand side of the road

3. Compete and win in a university-wide basketball tournament

4. Skydive over the Gold Coast

5. Travel to 10+ new cities...

I would’ve been pretty ecstatic that things I never thought of doing in Australia happened. And incredibly proud that I mustered the energy to put myself out there and try these new things amidst my homesickness.

Angela in Australia

The truth is, I never wanted to go to Australia. London was always my dream study abroad destination—double decker buses, adorable accents, West End musicals right in my neighborhood, and most importantly, a 7-hour flight away from Penn. London felt like a chance to get out of my comfort zone... but at a comfortable distance from home. But as COVID-19 shook things up, Australia became the only option for me to study abroad as a nursing student. I was still excited for the newness, with halted travel plans the last few years finally lifted, yet still I was hesitant. Australia was a country that I found quite similar to my sunny California lifestyle, but a 17-hour time difference from home and 9500 miles away from Philly.

Angela is hiking I started my abroad experience with lingering homesickness from my two months abroad in Dublin just six days prior. I was disappointed in myself that I was no longer driven by wanderlust and wanted to cozy up with Netflix before I tried anything new again. I was tired of travel before my study abroad experience even began. It was exhausting reminding myself to always put things in perspective, that this would probably be my only time to ever live abroad and to not leave with regrets.

To those studying abroad that may feel a little homesick, I encourage you to listen to your body and rest when you need to. Watch that Netflix show, call home, or stay in bed for an afternoon. Give yourself grace. Not every moment of every day has to be packed with doing everything you can to embrace new people, cultures, and experiences. Because it’s the dull, mundane—and often times lonely—moments of abroad where you learn the most about yourself: what you miss when you’re in a foreign country and no longer have it, what brings you peace, what gives you joy. For me, I ground myself in the people that mean the most to me, so that meant several FaceTimes home! When you’re not caught up with the thrill of abroad, you’re given space to pause and reflect. And when you’re ready to get back out there again, give it everything you’ve got!

Starting my week of many lasts—last time grocery shopping at my local Woolworths, last time seeing new friends, last time seeing the bright Australian sunset—I couldn’t be more thankful for my past 4.5 months here in Brisbane. It may not have been my first choice, but it was such a blessing in disguise. I am content I experienced both the glamour and ugly of abroad. I mean, I didn’t come all the way here just to have my expectations met (boring!). Some fell short, and others exceeded, but ultimately, I went abroad to learn. I think I can safely say that I can check that goal off. 😊

(And now, bring on the chilly Philadelphia winter! It is quite weird seeing Christmas decorations here in the 80°F summer weather!)

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The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.