Predeparture: Becoming a Reality

Alexandra Zabalza headshot
Alexandra Zabalza
October 6, 2023

I have been abroad for a month now, but with the cultural adjustments of being in a new city it took me a while to post. However, these are my thoughts and emotions before I started my program. 

It is crazy to think that over a year ago I was starting to think seriously about study abroad and how I felt like the IES Abroad Nantes program might be a good fit for me to now actually having a confirmed spot in the program, a French visa, and a round-trip plane ticket from Chicago to France from late August to mid-December. Even though a year is a long time, it felt so fast and I wish I would have taken more time to appreciate every step of the preparation process and acknowledge my own efforts, balancing my study abroad preparation with schoolwork in the spring and meeting deadlines while working my summer job. 

My preparation to study abroad has been one of noting deadlines and finding spare time in my schedule to sit down and work towards them, especially deadlines that require more forward-thinking like medical forms. It was scheduling my doctor's appointment back home in Chicago when I was in town for my sister's 8th grade graduation, and my visa appointment after I was back in town for the summer and in time for my bank statement to process as part of a requirement for the visa application. 

When applying to study abroad and in confirming my participation, I worked through the requirements in my spare time from school and work. In the midst of the stress of everyday, preparing to study abroad (although sometimes stressful) was overall a light at the end of the tunnel because in learning about the courses, trips, and city, the anticipation to go abroad grew. It has required some self-discipline, especially in the summer, to be on top of information and take initiative—for example: reaching out to my host family to prepare myself for the cultural adjustment and living situation—but it has helped ease my anxiety of being in a country I have never been to before. 

Aside from my own self-discipline, I am also extremely grateful for my mom who made me start working on my suitcase a month and a half before going abroad. My preparedness to go abroad is not something that I could achieve on my own, but possible because of my support system in my family and friends. However, not physically being with them this fall will be something that I will have to adapt and work through. It was weird at the end of spring quarter saying "see you next year" to my college friends and meaning 2024 instead of the next school year in the fall. While I will see them in January and in video calls until then, it's crazy to think how long but fast a semester can be, which makes me both excited to go abroad but sad to be away from my friends. 

With the start of my adventure of going abroad approaching, it all didn’t feel quite real yet. I mean, I knew it was real because I had a plane ticket, half-packed suitcase, and emails from my host family that confirm that I will be in Nantes, France this semester, but because I had just constantly been focusing on school, work, and overall deadlines, I hadn’t taken as much time to really take in what being abroad will really mean and look like. With all the excitement and worries, I overall hope to become more confident in myself and my ability to be independent and overcome challenges, because I hope to travel in the future, but lack the confidence to truly see that as a reality for myself. My objective in going abroad, and specifically in Nantes, is not only to improve my knowledge of the French language and culture, but also to grow confident in my individuality, and to learn what that looks like outside of the society I have lived in my whole life. 

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Alexandra Zabalza headshot

Alexandra Zabalza

Hi! I'm Alex and I am studying Sociology, French, and Women's & Gender Studies! I will be studying in the Nantes Immersion Program to improve my French and gain a new perspective while abroad. In my spare time, I love crafts and watching new shows :)

2023 Fall
Home University:
Santa Clara University
French Language
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