11 Moments Monkeys Accurately Represented My Study Abroad Experience

By Jackie Hernandez

I went to Australia to study abroad but my spirit animal was in Bali. The pictures below will display how my encounters with the erratic and highly volatile macaque monkey species perfectly symbolized my emotional and life altering experience in the land down under.  One quick thing before I get started, some of my more idiomatic expressions are linked to definitions of those terms.  Click on “idiomatic” to understand what I mean.   LET’S BEGIN!

  1. UNANTICIPATED REGRET AND CONFUSION ON THE PLANE.

At first, I was super excited to study abroad, but on the plane from LA to Australia I got a little emotional. I was probably receiving nerve damage to my spine from Fiji Airway’s uncomfortable seats, I was exhausted, and I also had just discovered “Blue” by Beyonce and played it on repeat for the entire flight.

“Sometiiiiiiimes… these walls seem to cave in on me” Queen Bey crooned between clips of her 2-year old adorably mumbling in babyspeak. I cried every time.

Naturally, I started to completely regret my decision to live 7,000 miles away and hoped the following five months would go by quickly.

This monkey is full of regret about his life choices even though he’s done nothing wrong. What he doesn’t know is that his journey has only begun.
  1. I GOT THERE AND DIDN’T KNOW ANYONE

After a 16 hour flight and over 24 hours of no sleep, I got to my room in a housing/community situation that Australians call “college” and we call “dorms.” I didn’t know anybody at college and most people were still away on vacation, so I was sad and confused for a little while longer.

Prior to my study abroad experience, I was pretty shy. My first time going to the cafeteria for breakfast, I didn’t know I could just sit down at a table, introduce myself to the people eating there, and make them be my friends, so I sat alone.

This is a photo of me during my first breakfast at the dorms.
  1. PEOPLE TALKED TO ME AND WERE NICE

By the second or third day, I had met a couple of other students and we politely ate our meal together. It looked a little something like this:

This is me starting to branch out and sit with other folks who were just as lonely as me.
  1. I NEVER HAD TO EAT ALONE AGAIN FOR THE REST OF MY STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM

By the end of the first week, the polite group of cafeteria friends had evolved into a group of 15 or 16 people and we ended up eating, vacationing, partying, and relaxing together for the rest of the semester.

This is probably half of our group during a game of Mafia, which we played hundreds of times over the course of the semester.

We all had ups and downs throughout the semester but everyone stuck together through it all. To be honest it was adorable. I wish I had a monkey photo to show my spirit animal in this blissful state of group friendship but, unfortunately, I never saw monkeys congregate just for fun.

  1. I WAS ALLOWED INTO PLACES THAT CONTAINED ALCOHOL

I was 20 at the time, but the drinking age in Australia is 18 so I could go to clubs and bars….every underage American student’s dream!

My 18 year old Australian friend had the whole ordering-a-drink-&-dancing-like-no-one’s-watching-thing on lock-down, which made me feel like such a newb.

The monkeys pictured below are dramatizing dance floor activities at the infamous Down Under (Dunder) Bar. As you can see, I’m standing in the corner by myself watching someone make an approach while the other clubgoer gets defensive.

Let’s get a close-up of my fabulously dressed self:

You can tell that I’m entertained but also nervously thinking about the alcohol.edu course we all had to do freshman year.

Although once in a while… I did find the courage to monkey around on the dance floor…

Just having fun
  1. I SAW THE SIGHTS

If you like nature in all its glory, the Indo-Australian region is for you.

The most touching, meaningful visuals I observed were underwater. (Sorry, no monkeys below sea level)

With a turtle at the famous Tulamben shipwreck in Indonesia.
  1. I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND MYSELF SOMETIMES

Even after the initial confusion on the plane, I experienced a lot of uncertainty throughout my entire study abroad period. My typical laissez-faire attitude  disappeared, and I reacted in ways I wouldn’t have expected to new personalities, new ways of traveling, and the new academic setting.

At every turn, I was convinced something was horribly wrong when, in fact, I was just being confronted with new situations and wasn’t sure how I felt about them yet.

This monkey is being unnecessarily dramatic because he’s not sure who he is anymore or what his values are or if he’s ever going to get a job after graduation. He’s such a great metaphor.
  1. THERE WERE FUZZY WARM LOVE VIBES EVERYWHERE

I was constantly in blissful company.

Every situation that I found difficult taught me something new about my personality, especially because I made a couple of enormously loving friends who thought I was awesome despite the fact that I was freaking out half the time.

Almost every day, I found myself with good friends, watching Seinfeld, discussing childhood experiences, or serenading them on the ukulele.

Here I’m grooming my friends to strengthen our friendship bonds <3.
  1. LEAVING AUSTRALIA WAS UNIMAGINABLY HORRIBLE

Throughout the entire study abroad adventure, I never thought about the day I’d have to go back home. It wasn’t until I was being driven to the airport that I realized everything was about to change. That day, I felt like I was suddenly forced away from everything I’d learned and loved over the past few months.

The hours before boarding the flight back home were more tearful than any I’d ever imagined.

This is me during my last moments on Australian ground…just trying to hold on:

It was the lyrics to “Blue” all over again but 100 times more powerful than the first time I cried to it. It’s such a good song.

I lingered in the airport lobby trying to squeeze out what I could of the last few minutes left of my Australian life. I put off going through airport security for so long that I actually got rushed through the entire line 7 minutes before departure. Yay! No line = silver lining  🙂

10. I WAS NOT SURE WHERE MY LIFE WAS HEADED EVEN I WAS BACK HOME

Despite having In-n-Out for my first LA meal, adjusting didn’t immediately get easier. For a while, I again looked towards the future with uncertainty and fear, and crippling sadness about the entire ordeal, which is exactly what’s happening with this monkey:

It didn’t help that I was severely jet-lagged for two weeks.

It took a while to process the ups and downs, the friendships I’d made and didn’t make, the adventures in Indonesia, and the things I’d learned about who I am and who I can be.

11. STUDY ABROAD WAS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED FOR MY PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

I ultimately emerged being a more whole and confident person.
I’ve truly never felt more in control of my decisions, my schoolwork, my time management, and my ability to succeed. I’m more focused and motivated to accomplish the things I always knew I could!

This chill monkey encapsulates who I am now:

jackie 16
“I AM QUEEN!”

Photos courtesy of the author and Heath Warren.

Featured image by Danny Postma on Unsplash

Jackie is a third-year Environmental Studies student with a love of all things outdoors and a knack for writing essays. She was born in Los Angeles, so she can tell you where to find the sweetest thrift stores, hiking trails, theme parks, and which freeways to avoid during rush hour. Besides learning about the environment, Jacqueline loves to learn about others’ cultures and perspective.