Studying abroad during college is something everyone should do because it will widen your perspective the world. Even though studying abroad can be very exciting and you just can’t wait to leave for your next big adventure, it also come with many responsibilities and thoughts on how your trip will be, and many of these thoughts can be nerve wracking. Below we gathered some of the most common pre-departure thoughts that pass through our minds before the big experience.
What should I pack? How should I pack? Will this be enough for the semester? Why am I doing this?
Knowing that you will have a limited wardrobe while abroad, you try to pick the best outfits you own, which can be harder than it sounds. Before choosing the perfect outfits you have to go through a deep investigation of how the weather is and how people dress because you don’t want to wear something that is disrespectful to someone. And while trying to cover all these points, you also want to pack light so you can bring souvenirs on your way back. Yes, it is hard but not impossible.
Will I ever adapt to their culture? What is going to be different? Is it going to be super cool or weird?
This situation happens when students face difficulties with adapting themselves to different cultures and traditions than they are used to. Usually, students go through four phases when adapting into a different culture: enthusiasm, irritation, adaptation and biculturalism. Enthusiasm happens when students first arrive to a different country and everything is new and exciting for them. Irritation occurs when the initial excitement is over and the cultural differences between their current country and home country become evident. Adaptation is when students understand that they need to put some effort into getting adapted and inserted into that new culture in order to have a good exchange. Biculturalism is the last stage where students can now comprehend and live this new culture. At that point they have gained a broader view of their surroundings and are able to look at the world from a different perspective than before. It is important to remember that although it might seem hard to adapt to another country’s customs, this is the main step for having a successful time abroad.
What if I miss my connection? What if I don’t find my luggage? How am I supposed to sleep?
Going abroad means being on a plane for many hours. When buying your plane ticket try to get a cheap flight with an airline or website that is trustworthy and that has the least flight connections because flight connections means waiting for long times in the airport and changing your carry on over and over again. Once you find the perfect flight you can’t help but worry about other factors, which can be very stressful. In order to avoid this, do some research on what would happen in each worst-case scenario, but of course we hope it all goes well.
What time will it be back home? How will I communicate with my family? Am I going to get Jetlag?
The time difference is an issue to many students studying abroad because it makes communication with family and friends back home a little complicated. It helps if students agree on a time of the week that is good for both them and their loved ones to talk. Also remember texting apps, which have become an exchange student “must have.” Although keeping in touch is important, trying to disconnect a little from your life back home will help you enjoy better your time abroad and it gets easier to deal with it once you make new friends and get adapted to your exchange life. At that stage you won’t need to rely so much on the company of people who are not physically there with you.
What if they don’t understand me? Will I starve to death? Again, why did I pick this country?
Language is one of the most important things to have in mind before and while abroad. While many countries have English-speaking citizens, it’s still not a guarantee that everywhere you go you’ll find someone who speaks English. Learning the language for where you are going is very important since it will be your most effective form of communication. So before traveling try to learn some common phrases to help you get around. Besides where is the fun if you don’t learn a new and exciting language?
Instead of thinking about how nervous you are or the endless possibilities of ways something can go wrong, think about the endless good memories you will have, the new friends you will make and the heaps of new places you will see. But most importantly stay positive. Good luck to anyone who is studying abroad this year! And if you’re not, what are you waiting for? Adventure is waiting!