Preparing To Study Abroad: From Paperwork to PenPals

Brooke Fakhoury
December 27, 2021
Study abroad preparation essentials on my desk

There was Emily in Paris and there’s about to be Brooke in Siena, and I will be the first to tell you that real life requires a lot more paperwork. These past few weeks have been dominated by early preparations for study abroad: applying for a visa, determining housing, and registering for classes. IES Abroad provides guides and resources to help you navigate these processes, but if you’re anything like me, that information can sometimes be skimmed rather than read, which is when deadlines appear out of nowhere. Here lies Lesson #1:


There’s nothing quite like the panic that seizes your entire body when you realize that an official transcript is due in 12 hours and your school takes 2-3 days to process a request. Luckily for me, I was able to meet my deadline, but it taught me a valuable lesson in organization. I was easily overwhelmed by the number of To Dos once that acceptance email graced my inbox and keeping a dozen IES Abroad tabs open on my computer did not help. After my brief bout of panic, I wrote every deadline in my academic planner. Checking off visa requirements and housing forms alongside my daily homework schedule made study abroad preparations feel less daunting and more manageable. Since I was no longer in perpetual panic about paperwork, I got to focus on the more exciting side of preparing for study abroad:


During the application process, I initially researched Siena within the context of my general goals and intentions for my study abroad experience. But now that studying abroad is a reality, I’ve been researching specific places to visit and foods to try, while also scouring the internet for blog posts about day-to-day life in the city. Studying abroad feels less abstract when I have tangible goals, like visiting St. Catherine’s Cathedral, alongside general ones, like language acquisition. Aside from mentally preparing for studying abroad, I’ve been learning Italian through Rosetta Stone, which IES Abroad provides free access to. I’ve been tracking Siena’s weather to anticipate my packing list (non-negotiables: great walking shoes and my one and only winter coat). While I’m focusing on what next semester will look like while I’m in Siena, I cannot forget my friends and family back home:


Moving to The University of Richmond from my hometown in California was a great introduction into maintaining long distance friendships and coping with homesickness. Going abroad is not only exciting because of the new places and people I’m going to encounter, but also scary, since I won’t be around anything or anyone familiar. In preparation for the homesickness and loneliness that may come during my time abroad, I’m establishing ways I can stay connected to people at home. As a huge advocate of snail mail, I plan on continuing my letter writing habits to friends from my hometown. Writing letters provides me with more time and space to share vivid memories and express emotions that I wouldn’t bring up in a quick text. The intentionality of letters outweighs their infrequent appearance in my mailbox, and my list of PenPals is growing by the day. To cope with missing out on exciting events happening at home, my friends have brought back our childhood icon Flat Stanley and intend on carrying around a laminated photograph of me, ensuring that I won’t miss out on any birthdays or graduations while I’m away. Even studying abroad cannot prevent me from popping up in my friends’ Instagram feeds.

I’m counting down the days until I board a plane for Siena, Italy. While I’ve prepared as much as I can, I know that studying abroad is going to challenge me in ways I don’t expect. I can’t prepare for everything, but at least I’ve got my visa!

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Brooke Fakhoury

<p><span style="font-size:13.5pt"><span style="font-family:&quot;Helvetica&quot;,sans-serif"><span style="color:#333333">My name is Brooke Fakhoury, and I am from Southern California studying abroad in Siena, Italy! I’m a junior at the University of Richmond, majoring in English with a minor in History. Other than reading and writing (both in and out of the classroom), I enjoy hiking, cheering on my favorite soccer teams, and eating pasta. After graduation, I plan to stay in the East Coast since I’ve grown attached to my winter coat and would hate to retire it so soon.</span></span></span></p>

2022 Spring
Home University:
University of Richmond
Upland, CA
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