An impatient student’s guide to enjoying the long journey towards international studies

Waiting is one thing I have never learned to enjoy. When I was young I had a hard time waiting for anything. When I was taking public transport I would rather change my route than wait 5 or 10 minutes for the next connection, even if that meant taking a trip that was 20 minutes longer in total, and now, when I’m studying, I take every opportunity that allows me to go abroad. I have impatiently waited for 911 days (not that I’m counting) since my last study abroad experience, scouting for the next opportunity. The saying goes: happiness is not a destination, but the journey. But how do you find happiness on the journey to the journey? How do you use the time until you go abroad so that 4 days don’t feel like 4 months? In my impatient wait I have found that three activities make the time until my next study abroad experience seem a little less tiresome, and makes time go by a bit quicker.

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  1. Travel with the purpose of not being a tourist.
    Travelling would be the top solution for impatient international students in waiting. But being a tourist is far from the experience you will get when you go abroad to study. My prime example of non-tourist travels was a trip to London which included a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice, witnessing the proceedings of an appeal case. Though I am no law student, witnessing the proceedings was an eye opener which I, looking back at it now, would not be without, and I am somewhat certain that, though it might seem semi-touristy, it is not on the list of tourists to go see proceedings in court. However, going as a non-tourist can also be going with the intention of attending open lectures at different institutions (something that is not too difficult to find with a little preparation), or going on trips related to your studies. For me, this has been through MUN’s, attending debates on global issues, working with anywhere between 30 and 2500 students from the entire world to address issues ranging from climate change, terrorism, or the accessibility to water. I find this to satiate my thirst for international studies, though one trip makes me want so many more.

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  1. Be a tourist in your own city
    This might seem counterintuitive, considering the previous point, but having been abroad (for a short time) I know, that even though you live temporarily in a city, with all the obligations that entail, you cannot help soaking in the city as if you were a tourist (though less intense than you would for a weekend in Paris). And in my experience, this is a big part of the experience of studying abroad. And luckily for us impatient students, something that is replicable without going abroad. Most universities in Europe, at least in Scandinavia, are located in bigger cities with some cultural or tourist hotspots to enjoy. Living in Copenhagen I am fortunate enough to have many of such hotspots, whether it should be going on Canal Tours, biking around the touristy spots, or visiting museums on weekdays (inside tip: Glyptoteket, just behind Tivoli, is free on Tuesdays), taking out a day (best effect is to be achieved if this day is a weekday, not a weekend) to go “all out” tourist, can give you a sense of being an international student, taking in all your city has to offer as if you only were there temporarily (which you are to some extent). This also has the added benefit (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of making you fall in love with your city – at least that’s my experience. Just be careful, going all out tourist should not distract you from your studies, as this will likely not make you go abroad, either because your performance might suffer, or because you fall too much in love with your city.

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  1. Help others go abroad
    The by far most rewarding experiences for me has been helping others go abroad. I have not personally been abroad during my higher education, not yet at least, but that does not, nor should it, deter me (or you) from helping others go abroad. I got engaged in NSAC quite early during high school and being engaged in NSAC it becomes clear that the best way to both prepare yourself for studies abroad, and motivate yourself to go, is by helping others, and experiencing second hand, how awesome and amazing it is to study abroad. Every time I talk to people through NSAC, whether participants at the conference or the workshops, or team members of NSAC, I am reaffirmed in my yearning to go study abroad. I am one hundred percent certain that, when I get my turn at studying abroad, I will enjoy every second of it, and knowing that, I enjoy every second of writing emails or arranging workshops that I know help other amazing people go abroad, expand their horizons, and have the most amazing experiences. And I encourage everyone to go abroad, and help others go abroad, whether that is by helping them read through application materials, providing motivation, or financing their studies (if such people exist). It is truly the most rewarding experiences you can have.

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