Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents

Things Australia Has Taught Me

September 22, 2019
By Danielle Miles-Langaigne, CAS '21

Danielle Miles- Langaigne is one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, writing and sharing her experience abroad during the Fall 2019 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their student takeovers on the @pennabroad Instagram beginning September 23, 2019.

Semester Abroad
University of New South Wales

1. The Power of Indigeneity

I have learned so much about Indigenous history, specifically about Aboriginal Australians, since arriving here. My primary reason for studying at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) was to better understand the intersectional lives of Aboriginal persons. Aborigional communities across the country have fought for recognition and land rights through political protests, art exhibitions, and story-telling (both amongst themselves as well as with non-Aborigional persons). Reading about the Koori women of La Perouse, for example, and how they have–and still do–use shell art as a means of reclaiming their history from colonial forces was empowering. 

2. Budget, Budget, Budget

As a low-income student, my biggest fear was that Sydney (a place notorious for being expensive) would instantly eat away at all of my money. The amount of times that I have expressed a fear of not being able to support myself financially is too many to count. Luckily, I can let you know that I am not penniless–in fact, I make it a point to save as much money as I can. Budgeting my grocery shopping and trips to different places has helped me consciously spend. Financial fears are valid fears, but being financially smart definitely helps quell them. Regardless of how pricey some excursions or activities are, you deserve to explore and experience them (especially if you are also a low-income student)!  

3. Protect Your Health

Mental health is very important to me. I made it a goal that, while abroad, I would be better about practicing self-care mentally. This has meant writing more, actively vocalizing what troubles me, prioritizing physical exercise, and spending time with myself by being by myself. One of my favorite activities is taking myself on walks–whether that be to the Glebe Markets here in Sydney, to a near-by park, or to local second-hand shops. My study abroad experience has involved a lot of self-reflection and reevaluation, which is good! I definitely attribute prioritizing my well-being as a major factor for this. 

4. Start by Starting

My initial fear of jumping in too quickly kept me stagnant when I first arrived in Sydney. I thought that I needed to get acclimated before I could do any exploring or traveling. Spoiler alert: you just moved across the world … there is no way that you will fully acclimate yourself to such a new environment. All of this to say that I realized that I just had to start: start exploring, start wandering, start getting lost, start asking questions. Acclimation is an active process that requires risk-taking, venturing out, and figuring out things as you move through your experience. This leads me to my next, and final, nugget of knowledge … 

5. A Leap of Faith

I will be completely honest and say that I was afraid of coming to Australia. Could I do the whole “living on my own” thing? Could I handle being away from loved ones for four consecutive months? How would I know something would not go wrong? In response to these questions: yes, yes, and that’s the catch – no one knows exactly what tomorrow looks like, let alone the next four months of their life! I am starting to realize that my self-growth is rooted in my taking leaps of faith. Taking a leap of faith does not mean that the anxiety completely disappears, or that everything that ensues will be perfect. A leap of faith means trusting in myself and my growth journey enough to know, regardless of my being able to do this, I deserve the chance to at least try. 

You can do this. You are not alone. You deserve to explore the world (and, more importantly, who you are as a person). 

Despite the fear, despite the lack of control, despite the unknown: take your leap of faith. 

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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.