Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Preparation, flexibility keys to beginning journey

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao-tzu

Studying abroad was always something I knew I needed to do, but I never thought it would be this hard.

Final stages of packing, less than 36 hours before takeoff

Final stages of packing, less than 36 hours before takeoff

Take packing, by far the hardest part of predeparture shenanigans. It’s not just the logistics of fitting everything needed (and nothing more) for five months in two suitcases and a backpack.

But there’s also emotional baggage to unpack.

This is the longest I’ve been out of the country, and the biggest move I’ve ever made since going to college.

Nothing about that should be easy.

I am lucky that I have absolutely no qualms about my host family, who sounds simply wonderful. I think I’ll be able to conquer the language, and I’m confident I’ll be able to, for the most part, understand and be a part of the culture.

But I’m not pretending there won’t be challenges. I’ll miss my girlfriend and my friends. I’ll have a tough time adjusting to classes. My first day there I will probably lose something absolutely vital to my survival.

The challenges I face will be unknown to me until they happen.

And that’s the scariest part.

As per usual when I get nervous, every little obstacle becomes a molehill.

False alarms regarding missing documentation? I’m going to get sent back to the states!

I forgot my sunglasses? I’m going to go blind!

My foot hurts? I’m going to die!

(I’m only slightly exaggerating.)

There’s no real way to  fully prepare for studying abroad, but a few tactics have really helped:

  • Reading any and all literature sent by my host and home institution was helpful (and the stuff I didn’t read, I lived to regret).
  • Connected with a good friend of mine who just finished the same program in the same country at the same university. She’s been a huge boon to me, both as a resource and as a friend.
  • Contacting study abroad staff or host university advisers with any questions (they’re there to help!).
  • Understanding that being open to new challenges can cushion the impact when they hit.

None of that fully prevented the dizziness and the lightheadedness from time to time, simply from imagining how nervous I was for this trip.

Any major change, such as moving to a foreign country, is hard. The more preparation, the better. Any and all obstacles can and will appear, and I’ve learned that the ability to take a deep breath and tackle a single problem one step at a time is a healthy and simply normal way to handle any problem, no matter the language of the question.

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Follow the rest of my adventure throughout Costa Rica here at IFSA-Butler’s blog, at my blog, on Twitter

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