I have 75 days until I depart for my study abroad journey in London, England. After years of planning and replanning, the time has finally come. Having been in the pre-departure stage for three years now, I am extremely prepared for my upcoming trip. I’ve been accepted to my program, I’ve completed all my documents, and I’ve purchased my flight. All of the big stuff is settled, so what’s left? The following tips offer advice on what to do before studying abroad.
1) Reflect on Hopes and Dreams Before Studying Abroad
What are your goals personally, academically, and professionally? Take some time to really think about why you are studying abroad and what you hope to get out of it. Of course, you want to travel and experience a new adventure, but what else? When I study abroad in London, I want to meet as many new people as possible, listen to their stories, and learn about their lives. I also want to expose myself to different cultures and embrace what they have to offer. Finally, I want these experiences to inspire my art to be diverse and inclusive and I want to follow that inspiration into my career. What do you want? Try taking some time to sit in a quiet place and reflect. Take out a journal and write down your thoughts as they come. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you discover.
2) Acknowledge Your Fears and Worries
Get these thoughts off your chest. It’s important to address your worries so that you can prepare for them and relieve yourself from any stress. Maybe you are a nervous flyer, or maybe you are concerned about finances. Take the time to confront these feelings and try writing them down. Speak with close friends and confidants about your worries and consider their advice. Once you put your fears down on paper or say them out loud they may seem less daunting than when you were harboring them in your mind. After you’ve realized your fears and worries you can work to resolve them.
Try reaching out to members of your program who may be experiencing similar difficulties and see if you can support one another. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your program directors or program assistants. They are knowledgeable about studying abroad and will likely have some great guidance and resources to offer. I’m nervous about making new connections and meeting new people in an unknown place. I’m acknowledging those feelings so that I can make authentic connections when I arrive. By embracing my feelings and seeking advice I will have the opportunity to set my worry aside before I study abroad in London. Acknowledge your fears so you can welcome your opportunity to study abroad with open arms.
3) Take Some Time to Visit Some of Your Favorite Places at Home
There will be a variety of new restaurants to go to and stores to explore in your study abroad location, but you may find yourself missing your local diner or shop. Spend some time eating at your favorite restaurants and doing some of your favorite things. I recently discovered that Target stores do not exist in the United Kingdom and it broke my heart. Target is my home away from home and my one-stop-shop. If there is any place that feels like home besides my own home, it’s Target.
Needless to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time shopping there lately. It’s hard to tell whether it’s more time than usual, since I spend a lot of time there, to begin with, but I am definitely making the most of it. Think of your favorite store and try researching if there is one in your study abroad location. If there isn’t, stock up on whatever it is that you can only get there. If you can’t live without it for four months or so, pack it.
4) Spend Quality Time With Loved Ones
This, of course, includes pets who are simply furry members of the family. Be present and take the time to enjoy them while you are with them. Spend an extra hour walking and playing tug of war with the dog, or helping your parents with the dishes after dinner. Soak up every moment. I will be studying abroad for four months. It’s my first trip abroad and it’s the longest consecutive amount of time that I will be away from my family. I learned recently through the passing of loved ones that you never know how much time you may have with someone, so it’s important to make the most of each day. In the days leading up to my departure, I will be spending as much quality time with my family as possible.
While you’re studying abroad you will be extremely busy. The time difference and hunt for WiFi may make it difficult to keep in touch as often as you might like. You also never know what kind of doors an opportunity like study abroad may open. Who’s to say I won’t extend my travels abroad beyond the four-month deadline? Life is unpredictable. Live in the little moments and embrace the present.
5) Gather Pieces of Home to Take With You
Accommodation for studying abroad is likely to be similar to a college dorm. The rooms will be pretty plain and the decorations sparse. Take the time to gather little mementos from home to make your new home more comfortable. This may be a favorite knickknack or poster. My favorite mementos are photographs. Leading up to your departure, take some photographs with loved ones. I love to take photos on my mini Polaroid. The pictures are tiny, so they are easy to bring along and they hold a special sense of nostalgia.
Polaroids are also really easy to dress up as room decor. Purchase a cheap set of twinkle lights or a long string of yarn and clip the photos along it. You’ll have a reminder of home and some style in your room. For an added personal touch take a photo with each member of your family before you depart and then have them write a heartfelt message to you at the bottom. When you look at the photos while abroad you will be reminded of your support system back home. If you happen to look at a photo with a certain person, go ahead and give that person a call, or send them a message. This will help soothe any homesickness you might begin to feel.
Take a deep breath and just be. Enjoy this time before you embark on your journey. Studying abroad will no doubt change your perspective, it may even change your life. Take the time to enjoy life as you know it. You may look back on this period of pre-departure with the same sense of nostalgia that your photographs inspire.