The wind whipped through my (approximately two inches of) hair. The sunlight glinted off the placid water, illuminating the tree-covered hills and burnt-orange sandstone.

It was absolutely breathtaking.

Thanks to Arcadia,  I had the privilege of visiting Broken Bay, one of the most remote areas near Sydney, Australia. It boasted stunning sea and forest landscapes and was steeped in aboriginal history.

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The entire excursion had been just short of perfection – exactly what I’d expected.

Every day was jam-packed with activities, as wonderful as I’d imagined it would be.

It couldn’t be more different from the rest of my experience abroad in Sydney.

On a normal day, there is no itinerary. No one tells you how to fill each day and make it all count. You have to figure that out yourself.

On a normal day, there is no itinerary. No one tells you how to fill each day and make it all count. You have to figure that out yourself.

I’d come into studying abroad with a checklist: a grand idea of all the things I wanted to see, do, and accomplish. I wanted to make Aussie friends, become immersed in the local culture, and experience all the wonders Sydney had to offer. I had my own mental itinerary that I planned to complete.

But here’s the thing no one tells you about itineraries – they’re not that easy to follow. They require planning and effort.

I’d gone to Australia expecting everything on my own personal itinerary to simply fall into place. I’d had this dream that I’d easily make heaps of friends and that adventures would fall into my lap. I soon came to realize, though, that’s not how studying abroad works.

Instead, every day I have to make a choice. Is today going to be a day that fulfills my expectations of study abroad? Will I try a new food or talk to a stranger in a lecture or go hiking out in the bush? Or, will I let today slip by?

Because studying abroad in its entirety is not like an Arcadia excursion. There’s no one making sure I take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. No one except for me.