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The Risk of Studying Abroad? It's Worth It.

The long, introspective flight home Jordan Tranter

I've learned that jumping into the unknown always pays off.

Studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life. Sitting on the tarmac, about to head home, my stomach is churning. I can’t believe my time is over.

The butterflies are partly due to having only eaten a pancake and curry pie today over the last eight hours. But there is also a deep feeling of dread. Why am I so anxious to return to a place I know so well?

I am excited to come home; there’s no doubt about that. It’s simply logical. Chicken parmas aren't on offer anywhere else; friends and family aren’t around the corner overseas; and the Australian lifestyle is fantastic too.

For those lucky enough, hometowns are symbols of stability, upbringing, and consistency. This is a comforting feeling to go home to. On paper, it doesn’t make sense why I feel a sense of loss or even why I have just completed a study abroad in Liverpool in the first place.

“Liverpool? What are you doing here, lad? All of us are trying to get to Australia!"

It’s a fair comment. One Google search of my hometown was all the evidence a Liverpudlian needed to justify this. But this logical argument does not match up with how I feel. If anything, the challenges that came with living in a different climate are an experience I’ll treasure moving forward.

Unpacking the feeling

So, why am I grieving? Well, with the help of high school biology, we can make sense of this feeling. Homeostasis is, in essence, our body moving between certain ranges in order to maintain stability. For instance, we always regulate our internal temperature to adjust to the surrounding environment. Hot or cold, our internal biological thermometer decides.

We do this with our mental state too. We constantly swing between states, such as I want stability versus I want to take risks. I want commitment over freedom. I'm overwhelmed versus bored.

Take, for example, the dream of owning ones' own home with a family of four and a loving dog. Sounds cushy. Until, one day, mental homeostasis does its thing, and suddenly it all feels like a trap. You desperately want change, and now, a two-year van life moment in Africa appears to be the only suitable choice.

I'd like to posit that before one gets to this stage, we can intervene and make this process much easier. Humans are lucky enough to have some conscious control over their behaviour. Unlike internal biological homeostasis, mental homeostasis can be hacked.

Be curious: say yes!

When we are approached with offers in our lives, it’s important to be curious. Too often, we don’t even think about saying yes. Ideas are shut down as crazy, ridiculous, or absurd. Hike 100km. Ride a bike around Europe. Study abroad. Volunteer in Africa.

“Why would I do that when I can sit on a beach and underpay resort staff and actually enjoy myself?"

There's no doubt that this style of holiday can be relaxing, but it is important not to confuse a vacation with meaningful travel. They are completely separate things. Don’t try and carve out two weeks of vacation every year in an attempt to find deeper cultural meaning. You need to make a considered choice to find the space in your life to complete this goal.

Find this time now, rather than when the tentacles of the world make it extremely hard to pull away.

Find this time now, rather than when the tentacles of the world make it extremely hard to pull away and you find yourself realizing the road infrastructure in central Africa wasn't really designed to support an old van converted into a living space.

This is not to say one should rush into every opportunity, but to avoid regret, be open. Invest in research into a meaningful volunteering or study opportunity abroad. Try to make a positive change.

Take a risk: The world is out there

Hence, we land at why I am feeling a sense of loss coming home. It really has nothing to do with any tangible place. Instead, it’s about the mindset of adventure that I'm anticipating will wane once I return home. Indeed, this is a reality of life; we get comfortable.

So, here's to anyone returning home. May you bring a piece of the mindset back that got you to move abroad in the first place. Where you said yes to a weekend trip with a local, take someone away for a weekend back home. When you are alone and are happy exploring a new place, find that happiness at home.

Then, to anyone who's thinking about studying abroad: do it. Please. While it won’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time, that is the point.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Jordan Tranter

Jordan Tranter, is a 21-year-old student and freelance writer from Melbourne, Australia. He is a passionate traveller who believes it is a great equalizer and educator. He loves writing as a form of storytelling, sharing lessons and experiences that he uncovers on the road. He is presently studying abroad in Liverpool, England.

Website: https://jorjortravels.wordpress.com/

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