How To Make the Most of Your First Weeks Abroad

Alyson Russo is a student at University of South Carolina, Columbia and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Gold Coast, Australia.

Feeling both excited and scared to leave the comfort of home and embark on my first international adventure, I began counting the number of days I would spend in Australia. 110. That’s so much time, I thought, until I arrived and suddenly that number has already been halved.

Although it has only been a few weeks, I’ve learned some of life’s greatest lessons in my time abroad thus far. Here are my tips to make the most of your first weeks abroad:

  1. Jump Right In

After my incredible 3-day orientation in Cairns, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, going on walks through the rainforest and snuggling koalas, I was immediately infected with the travel bug. During our whole flight to Bond Uni in Gold Coast, I read through my two Australia travel books intensely, flagging every page that listed the unfathomable details of places I’ve never been and things I could only imagine doing. At the end of the hour and a half flight, I had every weekend of the semester planned. This helped by getting me excited for the semester and also by putting into perspective how fast the time was truly going to fly by.

Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia, Russo Photo 1
On our first night at Bond Uni, only 2 hours after arriving, our ISA group went into Surfers Paradise for dinner and a late night (and cold) jump into the ocean!
  1. Explore Your City

While travelling is great, it’s important to stay local to learn, see and explore the amazing city you’re in. In my planning I got so caught up in the whole continent that I almost forgot about all of the experiences that were just a bus ride away. If you have a few hours between classes, why not get some friends and go for an afternoon surf, or take a hike? When you have a day off you can go even further and plan a full day trip. The country you’re in is great, I know, but don’t forget what is right around you!

Skydive Byron Bay, Australia Russo Photo 2
During my first weekend trip away I went to Byron Bay and jumped out of a plane – best experience of my life!
  1. Don’t Forget School

We all know school can sometimes go on the back burner when students take a semester abroad. But half the experience is taking classes, learning from a new perspective, surrounding yourself by a diverse group of peers – that is why you’re here in the first place. So don’t just go to class, or skip class and just turn in the assignments, pretend you’re a freshman again. Attend O-Week events (what we call Orientation Week in the Land Down Under), introduce yourself to a stranger, join clubs, and attend sporting events. Remember your University is there to help you and although the city and country you’re in seems a lot more fun, you wouldn’t be here without school, so take advantage of it!

Want to read more about the Land Down Under? Check out “How to Start a Semester Abroad in Gold Coast, Australia”