3 Tips to Beat Pre-Departure Jitters

Ana Lim Headshot
Ana Lim
May 12, 2024
Three smiling friends stand next to each other

Even as my excitement to depart for Milan rises, I can’t help but feel just the tiniest bit anxious as I wonder whether I will fit in or find my people during my time abroad. Especially as someone partaking in a shorter summer program (compared to a full semester) and doing a full-time internship, I’ll be honest: it’s not just a speck of anxiety - it feels more like a tidal wave of worries. 

Will my coworkers like me? What if I don’t fit in? Who will I talk to at lunch? What if I miss home?

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person dealing with these emotions, but conversations with friends who are also preparing to study abroad remind me that this is completely normal. As social creatures, it is natural to want to feel like you belong in your community, so I challenge you to think, “What if people do like me?” instead. 

Nevertheless, I know that this thought experiment may offer a little reassurance to people who may worry about being judged due to parts of their identity that are beyond their control. Being visibly or racially different can cause a lot of stress, as can more invisible parts of someone’s identity, such as a mental health condition or someone’s sexual orientation. Having to live in shared apartments with people you don’t yet know can cause further stress. 

While I can’t guarantee those feelings will ever completely vanish, here are a few things that I’ve been doing to keep the worries at bay. 

  1. Identify things or routines that bring a sense of safety, familiarity, and comfort to you, and plan to bring them with you to your study abroad location. 

    Maybe you go to weekly yoga classes, or wake up every morning drinking the same coffee or tea. Maybe there’s a photograph that you really love of yourself and some friends or family members that always makes you smile. You might not be able to bring your yoga studio with you, but you can research ones near you, and as for coffee beans and photographs, those should be pretty easy to pack. I know that while it might be a little out of place in the fashion capital of the world, bringing one of my partner’s old t-shirts to wear to sleep or when I’m just lounging around my apartment will help me feel more at home even on the days where I feel far from it. Researching spaces that may specifically feel safe for people with your identity may also help ease anxieties about fitting in (ex: looking up Pride celebrations or LGBTQIA+ owned businesses near you if you identify as queer or part of that community).

  2. Talk to your loved ones and make plans for staying in touch while you’re away.

    I found that having a plan for when I knew I could call and talk to my family and my partner helped a lot in easing some of my anxieties about not making new friends right away, because I knew that at the end of the day (or the beginning, depending on what makes most sense for you especially if you’re dealing with a time difference) I would still get to hear from them regularly. This can also make a huge difference in helping people on both sides manage expectations. If your parents are expecting to hear from you every week, but you only planned to call them once a month, coming to a compromise about that before you leave home can make maintaining important relationships a lot easier while you’re away. With this in mind, don’t forget to plan for any changes you might need to make in your phone plan as you travel to a different country, and let people know if you’ll be getting a new number or if they need to reach you in ways that are different than they’re used to (ex: using WhatsApp or chat features in social media apps rather than directly calling/texting you). 

  3. Expect to observe cultural differences while abroad, and research some if you have time before you leave.

    Preparing for how to make a good first impression can make a world of difference in feeling like you belong in your new study abroad location. For example, knowing what is and is not considered appropriate in terms of greeting someone or what to wear can help prevent you from unintentionally offending a new classmate, boss, or professor. While greeting someone with a firm handshake is considered normal in some parts of the world, in others, people may expect to greet you with kisses on both cheeks, or with a bow or nod of the head. For some cultures, engaging in small talk is a sign of friendliness. In others, it’s common for people to be direct and blunt to an extent that might be considered mean in your hometown or country.


As a person with tattoos, I usually anticipate that one cultural difference is that my tattoos might not always be tolerated in different places. To not offend others, I try to read up on how they are perceived in my future travel destinations. However, in cases where I cannot find that information, I usually err on the side of caution and plan to pack clothes that will keep them covered unless I see lots of people openly walking around with tattoos during my time there. 

To wrap up, I want to reassure you once more that it is incredibly normal to worry about fitting in and belonging while you’re abroad. However, if you are looking to ease some of your anxieties about feeling like you belong in your new community abroad or about combating homesickness, I hope that these tips find you and are able to help!

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Ana Lim Headshot

Ana Lim

Hi, I'm Ana! I'm a Filipino-Chinese senior at IU studying Social Work with an International Studies minor. Things that make my heart smile include laughing with loved ones, playing with pets, & enjoying long naps. Hope you enjoy Italy with me!

2024 Summer 1
Home University:
Indiana University
Social Work
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