The Thing No One Tells You About EXCHANGE

So somehow time has flown so quickly that it’s been 3 months since I had to say au revoir to Montreal and finish up my exchange (if you missed what I got up to – you can check it out here). So now uni has started (we’re somehow in Week 4?!), life back in Wollongong is in full motion and exchange feels somewhat of a dream.

Everyone always talks about how amazing exchange is. How it’s the best time of their life. How you’re going to make friends for life, drink too much, see wonders of the world, get your Instagram popping and how it’s going to change your freakin life! And all of this is true, and these are just some of the many reasons that I encourage everyone to seek the opportunity to study abroad and travel.

But in all honesty, I wasn’t prepared for the complete confusion, doubt and insecurity I faced at home and within myself when I returned to Australia. I’ve heard about reverse culture shock before, and I’ve lived away from home before and I knew something like this was coming… but it still smacked me in the face.

Whilst I know the following thoughts are natural and silly, at the time I was dealing with these thoughts, the stress and anxiety was real. My biggest fear was surround my friends.

Was I going to lose my friends that I’d just made in Montreal? Would they still be interested in my life back in Australia? Would they make time to talk to me? Would I make time to talk to them? Would my friends back home accept the new me? Would they even notice that I’ve changed? Would I even have my old friends back home? 

These (thankfully) were all dealt with and overcome when I saw my friends back in Australia again and I was overcome with happiness, gratitude and joy. Plus, being able to FaceTime and Snapchat my friends back in Montreal, it reassured me that these friendships are strong and real. And it actually made me appreciate them even more – the fact that they care about my life over here and they’re willing to put in the effort to keep in touch and keep the friendship alive.

My other concern was about my identity and personality, leaving me asking ‘who am I?’ I slowly saw myself, my ideas and my values change over the course of the time that I was away. I was exposed to problems and issues I’d never heard of, listened to stories of strength, injustice and survival, changed my core values, altered my ideas… all that cheesy stuff associated with going through a life changing experience. And you’re determined to hold on to it all, bring it all to your life back home and just be a freakin awesome changed woman.

But the reality is that you start to adjust back to your old life, old routine and old ways, and you can’t help but let some of those ideas go. You almost get trapped in between 2 versions of yourself, and you’re not really sure which one is the real you, or the one you want to move forward it. I guess everyone has these types of identity crises throughout their lives, but it’s especially apparent when you return from an adventure overseas.

So how do I move forward? Where do we go from here?

I think I’ll continue to romanticise my exchange, always giving me fun, beautiful and exciting memories to look back on. But my goal is to channel that feeling. The feeling that anything is possible, that anyone can be a friend, that your day could take you anywhere and that life is freakin beautiful. And I just need to accept that not everyone shares these ideas, but I can’t hold back who I am or what I want. I’ve got to remember to be fierce and do what sets my soul and heart on fire… chase and create that feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DO’S & DON’Ts of being a LONG DISTANCE Friend

So you’re heading off overseas and you’re excited as hell! And so you should be! What an awesome experience. But one of the things that suck about heading off on an adventure, is saying goodbye to all of your friends. And of course you want to maintain these friendships while you’re overseas. But believe it or not, even when you’re not in the country – you can still do things to annoy the hell out of your friends.A common fear is homesickness. So it’s only natural to want to keep your friends close. But you don’t want to get to the stage where you try to keep them so close that you suffocate them through their phone buzzing day and night at them. So here’s my quick little guide of what you can do, to be the best long distance friend. 

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Nothing like an intimate dinner date with friends before you leave. Source

DO: Have a send off

Before you head off, have a little send off with your close friends. Whether it’s a coffee sesh , drinks or a cute little dinner date, make sure you take the time to tell your friends how much they mean to you and how much you’re going to miss them. You can also take this time to share your excitement and fears. When you’re all on the same page before you’re about to leave, you’ll be much more prepared (mentally) and feel a sort of closure, a sense that you know your friends will be there for you.

Don’t: Over Message

This is probably the biggest point! We already know how annoying it is when that one friend just doesn’t stop messaging you, so why would it change anything when you’re overseas? By over messaging, not only are you going to push your friends away, but you’re going to make them think that you’re not making the most out of the opportunity you’ve got.

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Source

DO: Look for alternatives ways to communicate

Get off of Facebook messenger and get creative! Look into Skype, Whatsapp and Viber. One of my friends and I use Whastapp to record messages and send to one another. It’s so much fun because when you listen to a message you’ve received, it feels like your friend is sitting there with you. Or go back to basics with a pen and paper. Make a cute card, write a letter or send a postcard. Whatever it is – just don’t stick with your basic messenger because that ‘ding’ sound will get very old very quick.

DON’T: Overshare your selfies

This is a hard one because of course you’re going to want to share your adventures with your friends. But there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing the same selfie face in front of a different landmark. Get creative with what you share – there’s so much out there! Instagram is my go to photo sharing site because it allows your to get creative and you can share as much as you want – it’s Instagram! Experiment with apps like Boomerang, Snapchat, Blogging or 1SE. Remember, you want to have things to talk about when you get back. Get creative, share something interesting and enjoy the moment you’re in!

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Best friends are there through it all.

THINGS TO NOTE:

It’s not all about you. Remember that your friends back home still have to deal with life’s many problems. Don’t forget that they may need to lean on you for advice and support just as much as you might need them. At the end of the day, that’s what friendship is right?

Be open to change. Naturally if you spend time away from home, things are going to change. And so will your friendships. You win some, you lose some, and those that matter will be there through it all.

So, I hope this helps you be the best friend you can be whilst you’re on your adventures overseas making new friends and keeping your friends back home!

 

 

 

Who’s To Blame?

So it seem like everyone lost their sh*t when Essena O’Neill ‘quit social media.’ In a vulnerable and honest youtube video she uploaded last week, the 19 year old confessed how ever since she was 12 years old, she’s been obsessed with being the ‘it’ girl. With hundreds of thousands of Instagram, Youtube and Facebook followers, O’Neill had it all. Or at least, she made it look like she had it all. She confesses to staging photos, not having to pay for designer clothes and being critical of her body and appearance, all to get the one good Instagram shot. The main message behind her ‘confession’ is Social Media is a Lie! But is it?

I’ve written about our portrayal of the ‘Ultimate Self’ here, expressing that we should be aiming to create more intimate and genuine connections with one another. And I genuinely believe that social media has the power and capacity to do this. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter… these platforms have revolutionised the way in which we communicate and revolutionised our world. Literally! Twitter had immense mobilizing power during the Arab Spring and we see activism and hashtags crossing our screens daily, allowing us to speak up about issues that matter to us. So to hear the social media is a lie, is somewhat confronting and unnerving to myself as a content producer and a consumer of social media. I’m not defending social media or trying to attack Essena for her statements, but I think it’s important to think about what we can do as users of social media to create a better way of interacting with others and a more genuine and real world.

Self reflection is crucial. Source
Self reflection is crucial. Source

Self approval is the most important thing.

The world we live in is extremely judgemental. Whether we like it or not, we subconsciously judge people on what they wear, how they talk or the way they present themselves. We’re not going to be able to change that overnight. But the thing that we can change is the way we view ourselves. What’s the point in impressing others when we’re not truly content with ourselves? There is no point. If we constantly thrive off of societies approval, then we’re setting ourselves up for failure. And if, like me, you like running your ideas and thoughts by people, then make sure you surround yourself with people who share your values and are here to support you. Whether it’s a housemate, your Mum or your colleague, getting the approval from someone you truly know and care about is so genuine that it motivate you to keep going.

Be true to yourself. 

Stemming from self approval, is just being true to yourself. At the end of the day, all we have is ourselves. Happiness is more than just an emotion, it’s a lifestyle. Doing things that make you happy, excited and full of life is so much more fulfilling than a superficial high that you get from likes. Stick to your values and know your limits but don’t be afraid to push them. At the end of the day, if you surround yourself with things that make you deeply happy, then you really can’t go wrong. Like the pictures says below ‘ let your smile change the world!’

Resilience and persistance are the key. Source
Resilience and persistence are the key. Source

Isn’t everything we see curated?

You don’t look up pictures of Paris and see it’s dark, dodgy and below average alleyways… you see the Eiffel Tower. Artists put their best work on display, musicians play their hits and we share our best photos. It’s not exactly something new that

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Life isn’t just a picture with a Valencia filter over it. Things go wrong. Life happens. And things certainly don’t go according to plan. Admitting that you may be struggling a little bit is the best way to ensure that you get the support that you need. Asking for help doesn’t mean that you’re weak or vulnerable. In fact, it means that you have the strength and bravery to work on yourself and seek to grow as a person.

With great power comes great responsibility.

To quote Spiderman here, with great power comes great responsibility. And not just social responsibility but personal responsibility to look after yourself. Following on from everything else I’ve covered, being true to yourself, surrounding yourself with positivity and accepting yourself for who you are. Social media is powerful so it only makes sense that people using it, use it with care.

Photography and social media should inspire creativity. Source
Photography and social media should inspire creativity. Source

So what does this have to do with social media?

Social media can either be a destructive or uniting force. It should be used to innovate, inspire and create. It’s a way of sharing our thoughts, opinions, emotions and values to our friends and the rest of the world. If we let ourselves get caught up in a superficial world of likes and editing the real you out of photos, we’re only setting ourselves up for failure. Through blogging and engaging in social media I’ve been able to not only express my ideas and connect with people across the world, but I’ve also been able to grow and evolve as a person.

It’s how we use it! 

But is social media really to blame here? Isn’t is us, as content creators, the ones abusing the power of social media? Are we the lie? Are we just trying to fit the mould of what society wants us to be at the price of our own happiness? Let’s use social media to our advantage. Let’s be strong together and create the change we want to see in the world. If we start with our own happiness, then it will be much easier to spread happiness and lead a fulfilling and genuine life.

Social media is only a lie, if we allow it to be.

Doin’ It In A Dress

I was never one for school dresses. I remember when I changed primary schools in year 6, I wasn’t allowed to wear my preferred shorts and polo shirt to school. So instead, I had to wear a school dress. I resented putting it on every morning because I just wanted to wear shorts and be able to run around. At the time, I had no idea how valuable this school dress was to me. It is only now, that I realise the full potential, power and empowerment a school dress can bring to the world.

I am currently sitting in our University’s library, studying away for one of my final essays. And I’m wearing a school dress. Why you may ask? Well I’m doing it in a dress so girls in Sierra Leone can wear a dress and attend school too. It only costs $300 to send a girl to school for a year. And if she does attend school, she’ll less likely be married off before she’s 15, less likely to contract HIV/AIDS and is more likely to earn 10-25% more money for every extra year of schooling, and reinvest 90% of her income back into her family (OneGirl.org, 2015)

“Let us pick up our books and pens, they are our most powerful weapon.’ Malala Yousafzai

So in October, I’ll be wearing my school dress with pride in the hope that more school girls in Sierra Leone and other African nations can do the same. If you want to see me do something in my school dress, name your price, donate and I’ll do it.

If you want to do your part to help, you can donate directly to my page here – http://www.doitinadress.com/adelaide-haynes

I believe that every young girl has a right to education and unleash their knowledge, power, beauty and wonder onto the world. So let’s make this happen!

My super cute school dress with a difference
My super cute school dress with a difference

The Hardest Things About Packing (and Moving on in Life)

As the year draws to a close, so does this chapter of my life; living at a university residence. Whilst I’ve met some incredible people, done some awesome things and drank and awful amount of goon, I’m glad to move onto the next and currently unknown chapter. As I lay on my bed, walls cast with the shadow of my travel photos that lined them, bags, clothes and mess everywhere… this is not the first time I’ve packed my life into bags. Yet the same questions, uncertainties and feelings overcome me. So here’s the hardest things I’m confronted with whilst packing up my life yet again.

Create the most beautiful life you can imagine! ~ photo from http://dearcrissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/quote-about-the-future.jpg
Create the most beautiful life you can imagine! ~
photo from http://dearcrissy.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/quote-about-the-future.jpg

What does the future hold?

Whilst not even tarot cards can accurately tell me this, it’s a bit unsettling having so many options and decisions to make for my immediate and distant future. Where will I live? Who with? Do I need to start looking for a house now? Or maybe just a room? What about my job? How am I going to afford Christmas presents? Can I go to this party? Or will I be working? What do I want to achieve? Countless questions flood my mind. The thing that gives me hope is that I’ve experienced this before (when I was leaving London) and I know that if you make the most of every opportunity, learn and grow from every experience and refuse to give up, then wonderful things will happen. You just need to first believe and then do it. The present and future is in our hands.

Is this the end?

The end of some things… yes. And thankfully, goodbye single bed, see ya later noise/alcohol bans, adios cookie thieves and au revoir to the thousands of lizards! The hardest thing, particularly leaving London, is imagining your life without certain people, places and the little things you’re used to, and the saddening fact that you don’t know when you’ll see them again. A big thing that I dealt with leaving London was the fear of losing the new London Adelaide. I was proud of everything I achieved and had become and was scared that it would disappear when I moved back to Australia. Sometimes I still feel like I’m dealing with an identity crises, however over time, you adjust. It’s almost like you get to recreate yourself again. The picture below shows how much I changed last year and even comparing myself to the photo from last year, I’ve changed a lot from that girl too. We have to create the life we want and inevitably we’ll change. Yet some things will never end, the unique and special friendships (especially those that cross borders), the memories, the lessons learnt and the feeling of creating a home.  With every ending, comes a new beginning, and they are always exciting (and your friends will want to hear all about it).

February 2013 & December 2013 (St. Andrews, Scotland) More than just my clothes changed
February 2013 & December 2013 (St. Andrews, Scotland)
More than just my clothes changed

How am I going to move all of this stuff?

I don’t know how, but I just accumulate so much stuff! It’s not until you start packing and thinking about transporting everything you own, you truly realise it. Luckily, my parents are helping me do this (thank god). When I moved back to Australia from London, I had to fit my life into 30kgs! (miraculously I did it). And with all the of the stuff you accumulated over your time somewhere, attached to each thing is a specific memory that you just have to hold on to!

My best friend trying to pack all of her stuff. Proved to be challenging yet possible.
My best friend trying to pack all of her stuff. Proved to be challenging yet possible.

Reflection, reflection, reflection 

Maybe it’s just me, but I take forever to pack because I look through things, I reminisce, I decide if I want to keep it or not, I organise things, toss thing and look at things a bit more. While I pack, I can’t help but reflect on the year that has been, how I’ve changed, grown and learned. I then listen to sad and soppy music and look at photos, thinking back to all the good times. And once I’m done reflecting (and sobbing), I think forward to next year and how I want to change, what I want to achieve, fix, excel at, get involved in. Once I do this, I get a buzz of excitement and just want to get it all started!

What gets me through?

Even though packing up your life and moving on can be difficult (and you will no doubt need an adjustment period), the thing that gets me through is hop for the future, that I can make each year, month, day, bigger and better than the last. Knowing that my friends and family love and support me (and will even help me move all of my stuff). Knowing that I have goals and dreams to aspire to, and that the actions I take now are a step towards those dreams. Knowing that each night the sun will set and each morning the sun will rise, shining new light on a new day. I know it’s incredibly clichéd, but it’s true.

xxx

A

After each sunset, there will be a sunrise
After each sunset, there will be a sunrise