When I look back to my first semester of uni, it was full of straight Distinctions, hanging out with the “cool kids” in the Business School society, and enjoying my newfound adult status by going out to party. #LIT
Then after those first set of exams - freedom! It was like finishing the HSC all over again.
I managed to fill my semester break with four weeks straight of “catching up with friends”, a bit of part-time work on the side and learning trying to drive.
....Which actually wasn’t that much different to normal uni life - only without the trekking to uni part.
Kind of strange when you think of how these uni times are supposed to be the “best time of your life” for you to explore and get out there, and what I was doing was just so… ordinary.
So the next year, when I first heard about a six-week exchange during winter break, I jumped straight at it. My break was an incredible experience for me to travel, learn and explore - and even though I missed a few things, I didn’t regret it for a second.
1) First week lectures are usually boring introductory “hello I am your lecturer and here is the course outline” anyway. So missing that smidge of uni (since winter breaks are usually four weeks long) wasn’t that big of a deal. Especially when you compare it to visiting ancient temples, trying local authentic cuisine from another country, and discovering more about yourself by learning about the world (instead of from a textbook). I know which one I would rather pick :)
2) I made a deal with my parents that if they covered my flights, I’d pay for all the living expenses. Accommodation was part of the package and food wasn’t too bad, so everything became very much more affordable. I also appealed to the university for some extra scholarship funds (you’d be surprised with how many resources they have lying around!) and dipped into my savings. I found my dollar stretched more in most places overseas and I could easily have a good time.
3) I reasoned that it’s not like I had a mortgage (or saving up to start a family) lined up. I was lucky enough not to have to rely on every dollar I earn, so I wanted to use the money I did have to go for experiences that would grow me as a person and that create memories I could enjoy for the years to come when it would be harder to travel.
4) Travelling by myself and just yolo’ing still seemed a bit intimidating for me - so going through an established program meant I could explore while doing something meaningful. Not doing a typical tourist holiday meant I had a chance to truly connect with the place, culture and people, and as if the project itself wasn’t enough, it was definitely an added bonus on my resume to show I had a wider bout of experiences under my belt.
5) Going through uni, I realised I felt like there was this rule to “not waste any breaks”. After all, the common thing to do after graduating is to start working straight away and that would basically be your life for the next 40-50 years. It’s much easier to use every break you have at uni, rather than ask for leave (which probably wouldn’t happen in large amounts of weeks anyway).
Luckily, these thoughts led me to go on an exchange during that winter break - one that created memories and friendships from across the world that I still cherish today.
When I look back on my years at uni, I don’t remember all those times I studied a little bit harder, worked that extra shift, or what it was like at that one party that was just like every other party. What I don’t forget though, are those moments I tried something a little strange, in a different place, with new friends.
Your youth is yours - so make sure you go out and explore it!