For the first time in four years, I have to commute to campus. Here are some things I don’t leave my apartment without to keep me productive between classes:

Front pouch (of my backpack):

  • Phone, headphones, keys

Middle pouch:

  • Pads, tissues, hand sanitizer, brush, hair ties, gum (in case of a cosmetic emergency)
  • Wallet, portable charger, glasses, sunglasses, clicker

Large pouch:

  • iPad, iPad keyboard
  • Binder, notebook
  • Meal and reusable water bottle (which I freeze about half full overnight so my ice lasts for at least a little while and refill throughout the day on campus)
  • Pencils, calculator, book (either for coursework or for fun)

If I expect to be working, either at my one of jobs or as a mentor, I will bring an additional small canvas bag with my change of clothes and shoes.

Commuting (for lack of a better word) sucks, but as long as I’m prepared to kill some time between classes, I’m sure I’ll manage.

Photo by Lily Like.

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With the (somewhat) success of my summer goal-setting, I’ve decided to set some goals for the school year, as well. My goals for the first eight weeks of school are:

  • Volunteer more, particularly with animal shelters
  • Stay on top of my reading assignments
  • Work 15 hours a week (on average)
  • Get academic help as soon as it’s needed
  • Don’t watch Netflix before 8PM
  • Go out with friends more often
  • Get into a routine (particularly regarding sleep)
  • Stay on top of this blog with at least one post a week
  • Be productive between classes on campus
  • Read for half an hour a day
  • Listen to new music
  • Watch movies (particularly “classics” I’ve never seen)
  • Hit the gym 3-4 times a week
  • Watch documentaries
  • Try one new recipe a week
  • Get into meditation, mindfulness and yoga (to help relieve anxiety)

Some of these are from the summer that I would like to stick to or try to do better. I will post and update with my successes in mid-October.

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Now that my blog is a year and a bit old, I thought it would be insightful to pull some posts from my archive from a year ago at this time and reflect.

A year ago today, it was the day before I left Arizona for the east coast and, ultimately, Europe, where I shared my thoughts in this post.

Although it was a calendar year ago, it feels like it just happened yesterday, but at the same time, a lifetime’s worth of experiences ago. I remember on the plane to New York, it was the first time it really hit me that I was away from home and taking a huge leap out of my comfort zone and I got a little overwhelmed, but my experiences since has made up for my feelings of insecurity a thousand times over.

In this post, I also described my accommodation style, which turned out to be as expected, where I had my own room and wash basin, but shared a few bathrooms and a kitchen with eleven other people. What I didn’t expect, however, was making a best friend, Ben. And dealing with the likeness of my odd roommate, Simon, but through his weird episodes, he’s still one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I enjoyed small talk with the remainder of my roommates and took pleasure in their company.

Although I only met up with my Sussex “buddy” (guide) a few times, it was nice to have the security of being able to go to someone with any question I had. I was starting to worry I would annoy my friends and roommates! To pay it forward, I am being a global guide for international students at Arizona State. I got assigned a specific student from Denmark called Camilla, but I’ll also be in touch with students coming from Sussex. I hope to do all I can to make their ride as smooth as possible.

I had no idea what I was in for when I left for my study abroad program (you know, the things they can’t prepare you for like broken friendships, travel mishaps, mental health problems and more), but my new friendships and amazing experiences humble me.

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When I got back from my study abroad program in mid-June, I set some goals for the summer. Here are my initial goals and how they matched up to reality this summer:

  • Get a job (one for the summer in Tucson and find one for the fall on campus): I got not one, but two jobs over the summer plus an unpaid internship. By sophomore year, I had two on campus jobs and after being in touch with my employers, I think I’ll be able to get them both back.
  • Organize my laptop (delete old documents, organize pictures, etc.): This kept me busy on the plane. I’ve sorted all my pictures and deleted all my old documents, I just have to go back and delete pictures when I have time.
  • Go through my clothes (studying abroad made me realize how little I actually wear): I got rid of a lot of junk and will probably be getting rid of a whole lot more before I move.
  • Start thinking about what needs to be done for my visa (to move back to the United Kingdom): I’m considering going for a master’s degree to get a (part-time) student visa or working. Indeed has a great resource for jobs that offer work sponsorship, but as it’s too far in advance, I won’t be able to look into jobs until Christmas at the earliest.
  • Listen to new music: I’ve listened to at least a dozen new albums this summer, I’m usually pretty bad at listening to new music, but I was getting a bit bored with my music and needed a breath of fresh air.
  • Read for half an hour a day: Although I didn’t stick to this well most days, I did get a chance to read a lot, finishing two books this summer.
  • Paint more frequently: I painted a grand total of less than five hours, but hey, it’s more than I have in the last year.
  • Watch movies (particularly ‘classics’ I’ve never seen): I’ve watched a few “classics” I haven’t seen and was a bit underwhelmed, but I’ll keep trying.
  • Hit the gym 3-4 times a week: It was hard to find time most weeks, but I did what I could when I had an evening off, even if it meant doing a few exercises at home rather than driving to the gym. Staying in shape will be easier once I go back to university as there’s a gym at my apartment site.
  • Stay on top of language lessons (Italian and Spanish on the free language learning app DuoLingo): Straight up didn’t happen. Better luck next term.
  • Watch documentaries: I watched exactly one. I hope to watch at least one a month from now on.
  • Get into meditation, mindfulness and yoga (to help relieve anxiety): I borrowed a yoga book from the gym, but haven’t gotten a chance to read it. I did yoga a few times at the gym, but nothing sufficient. However, I do find it’s a great way to occupy my mind and stay in shape.
  • Color in my coloring books for half an hour a day (to help relieve anxiety): I didn’t have many chances to draw with work, but it’s great to have them.

While work took up most of my time, this summer, I enjoyed reading, watching movies and shows, cooking and seeing my friends and family. I will set goals for the new semester soon.

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With the arrival of international students at Arizona State University this past weekend, I wanted to share what I feel I did right and things I wish I did differently during my time abroad.

What worked:

I made an effort to explore my host country and feel I got to see a large part of the United Kingdom! I got to see a lot of my home county of East Sussex, plenty of London, Southampton, Bristol, Bath, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newquay and other smaller towns.

I feel I did a good job of budgeting my travels, but still making them enjoyable. With budget airlines, hostels, cheap meals and minimal drinking, I made sure I had enough money for the real adventures like excursions and museums!

To my surprise, I also did well at making new friends. I hit things off with my roommate almost immediately and my friendship circle grew from there thanks to him and all the societies he joined.

Not so much:

On the other hand, there are a few things I could have done differently or better. I wish I took more care packing. You can read my tips on packing in my Study Abroad Tips and Packing Tips posts. Similarly, with more research, I could have found budget sheets, dishes and more at charity shops or secondhand stores so I wouldn’t have to worry about having them already at my halls.

Although I saw them several times a week, I didn’t do well at making friends in my major. I could have used one when I had questions about the academic system or material.

I regret not joining clubs, both earlier at Arizona State and abroad. A lot are recreational and low commitment, but a great way to take a break from academics and meet new people.

I did fairly well, but I could have done better in my academics (can’t we always?). I could have planned more rather than saving my large assignments two days before they were do and saved myself a lot of stress.

Before I left, I had a foolproof budgeting plan. I recorded all my expenses for several months, until I realized it didn’t change my habits. I don’t have any regrets on my spending habits (besides travel, my biggest budget eaters were transport, concert and event admission, food and drink) per se, but I could have gone without dining and drinking out so often.

When I first started planning my travels, I planned everything to the day well in advance. I quickly realize things change on travel and your plans that were so set in stone might fall through. After a while, I only booked my flight, accommodation and other transport tickets (such as train tickets between cities) in advance to give me a rough itinerary. Then, I’ll plan day trips and museum tickets (usually not for a specific day) in advance online after careful consideration. It’s all about balance: trying to save money by booking in advance, but also leaving room for spontaneity.

New study abroad students, learn from my mistakes and successes and have a wonderful time on what will most certainly be one of the most memorable years of your lives.

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