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The Lasting Effect Study Abroad Had On Me

I’m only still talking about it because you’re still asking about it. I swear people who I see often—or less often— will still ask, “so how was Australia?!” And it’s like... that was two years ago, since when has that became my identity?

I’ve learned to accept those interactions because I’m guilty of hyping it up so much before leaving in July of 2016. I truly believed it was going to be the best time of my life. But it wasn’t.

Notice my face in every photo of these two collages:

My expression looks genuinely and severely unhappy in each photo.

What was wrong with me? I had a once in a lifetime chance to study abroad literally across the world with my BEST FRIEND and I was incurably depressed.

Each week would go by filled with me crying numerous times a day asking anyone who I spoke with, “when will I stop being homesick?” After two months went by and nothing improved, I knew I was more than homesick.

The first day we arrived in Australia did not feel real. The group of friends I traveled with and I got off the plan with no guidance; just a handful of Americans who have no idea what the next step was.

We finally found our way to the dorms via bus ride and got settled In. I vividly remember unpacking my room and feeling numb. Culture shock? Maybe. I just felt like I didn’t belong.

And that feeling only grew stronger the duration of the trip. Everything I tried to involve myself in to cure the emptiness never worked and trust me, I wanted it to. Who wants to be the girl who bragged about going to Australia, cried, then came home? Exactly. I sucked it up the best I could for as long as I could and made the best of it. I went out and tried to convince myself that I was having fun.

I had three events to look forward to: my BFF Demitria arriving in Australia for her study abroad program, the Spring Break Trip to the Great Barrier Reef And my boyfriend, Brian, coming to visit me. I let counting down those moments get me as far as possible.

School was hard, campus wasn’t exactly close to the city, and finding a way to blend in as a content person was the most challenging. I know how pathetic I sound— but the intense anxiety and fear I felt every day of being so far away from home was paralyzing.

Come the end of September, almost three months in, it was finally time for spring break. I still felt the anxiety, but it treated me nicer knowing we were going on a vacation.

Spring break came and went in a blink of an eye, which was okay, because as soon as I landed back in Sydney, I would be waiting in the terminal for Brian to arrive. On top of the usual anxiety I had just from being alive, I was a million times more anxious waiting for Brian in that airport. It was almost three months without seeing each other and an 18 hour time difference. But as soon as I saw him, I suddenly felt a little bit more at home than I did the whole trip. He showed up with flowers and his big smile and I was speechless. My boyfriend is actually here--we are in Australia...TOGETHER. The two weeks we spent together were two weeks that I felt the most calm. I felt safe and more importantly, I didn't feel alone.

When Brian left, it was the worst pain of emptiness I've ever felt. His Uber drove away and in that instant, It was like he was never even there. The intense anxiety and homesickness got right back to business consumed me like never before. Just by staying I was mentally torturing myself.

I don't remember exactly when I decided I was going home, but it was around halloween; two weeks after Brian left. I called my grandpa, crying (shocker), and asked him to please change my flight to ASAP-- I was ready to be done with the never-ending anxiety. And so, I had a new flight...for TOMORROW. My best friend who I studied abroad with at the time, Raquel, was in Bali when I decided to change my flight. I hardly had the guts to tell her. I was somewhere between being the worst friend ever and trying saving my sanity. I still am sorry, Raq.

I came home expecting to be myself again, but to my surprise, I didn't get better. I still was the unmotivated, crying-at-nothing, depressed sack of cells that I was abroad. I couldn't get out of bed and when I did, I instantly sobbed.

After giving my mom an attitude over something, she (deservingly) shotted back, "I thought you coming home would make you happy and yet you are miserable." And so, I cried to her. "I am so sad and I have no idea why. I cry in the shower and cry myself to sleep and I am so depressed."

From there, I went to the doctor and described my symptoms and was prescribed an anti-depressant. Wow, I have to take a little orange pill every day to make me happy, I thought.

But that little orange pill turned me around and fixed those imbalances somewhere in my head. I can honestly say I am still not the same person I was when I left, but I am a stronger person now.

I still can't really form words about what exactly was wrong about it to this day. "What didn't you like about Australia?" everyone always asks. I honestly don't know. But, I'll tell you what, If I ever find out, you'll be the first to know.

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