Whether you’re relaxing by a pool or frantically running errands at your internship, summer in the perfect time to look ahead to the fall semester. Those of you lucky enough to spend a semester or an entire year abroad, will probably deal with a little (or a lot) of stress before you finally arrive at your home for the next few months.
Getting into your program is just the beginning of the long chain of events necessary for studying in another country. Passport? Classes? Plane tickets? Bags packed? Do they weigh too much? Do you even have a place to live?
Trust me, I know the anxiety that can take a hold of you before you leave the country. Last summer, before I had the most absurd and fulfilling semester of my college career, I had a lot to take care of. To make the process a bit easier for you, I put together a list of the things you should do, and things I wish I had known before I got on my flight bound for England.
1. Check the dates. I can’t stress this enough. Your passport and credit cards should be up-to-date. Know the possible dates of final exams. You don’t want to be flying back home the day you have a massive paper due.
2. Know your Visa requirements. I was freaking out for a long time about which visa I would need. It turned out all I needed to do was bring my acceptance letter and identification into immigration. So simple. On the other hand, if you plan to stay in your study abroad country for a longer period of time, or you want to work, you will need a different visa that will require a little more effort.
3. Pack only the necessities. I regret bringing that huge pair of black heels that I never wore. They weighed about 5 pounds and took up an unnecessary amount of space in my suitcase.
4. Bring a few things you know you will want as soon as you get to your destination. Thank goodness my mom was smart enough to tell me to bring some shower items and a towel in my bag. When I finally arrived in Exeter, all I wanted was a nap and a shower. I didn’t have to try to found my way to town to pick up anything right away.
5. Have a great travelling bag. Absolutely my biggest regret, besides not spending a full year abroad, was not purchasing a good bag before I left home. For three months I was travelling around with my blue L.L. Bean backpack from high school. Certainly not the cutest or the most space efficient bag. One of these would have served me well.
6. Leave your expectations in the US. Have you always pictured yourself living the glamorous life abroad, getting your pictures taken at clubs, looking fabulous? You know you’re just going to fall in love with a prince. Everyone’s experience is different. Sure, you might experience some of the things you pictured, but you will absolutely encounter others that you never imagined. I had no idea that my friend and I would be lost in the middle of Spain in November, but I also had no idea that I would meet so many people that I will never forget at my university.
7. Relax. I was uptight when I first arrived in the UK. I wanted to get involved in as many different activities as I could and I wanted to get my travel plans nailed down immediately. As I settled down I realized that three months would eventually fly by. I found that by joining just one club, I was able to make friends and connections to others on campus. Going with the flow made me a lot happier and a lot less stressed than trying to control everything that I did.
8. Finally, balance your time. I’m proud of myself for this one. In three months, I was able to travel to several different places around the United Kingdom, and continental Europe, as well as make friends and have an amazing time at my university. I don’t regret any of the times I left for the weekend, and I’m so thankful for all the times I did stay in Exeter. The most important part of the time you spend abroad is the ability to learn and grow as a person. Whether you spend it seeing new sites, making new friends, or advancing your potential career, as long as you’re learning, you’re doing abroad right.