The Final Countdown

Catherine Seltz-Drew
February 19, 2016

T-7 days before I leave for my semester abroad in Buenos Aires. There are several stages that precede a departure for a study abroad adventure, similar to the stages of grieving, except obviously much more positive. 

1. Excitement: This is not so much a temporary stage as it is a constant state in which all students exist upon realizing that they have been accepted into the study abroad program of their choice. The following stages merely supplement this stage, and though they may be negative (see "Panic"), nothing can distract from the feeling of elation that the promise of study abroad provides. 

2. Planning: Many smart students will spend months planning for their semester (or year) abroad. Whether it be language classes or travel guides (shout out to Rick Steves), it is always wise to arrive in a country without seeming completely culturally inept. Speaking as someone who has, in the past, not done it the 'smart way' (I arrived in Korea for my semester abroad with zero knowledge about the language, culture, fashion, ect), you can save yourself from looking like an awkward lost lamb from the get-go if you put in a little pre-departure effort. 

3. Panic: Personally, this is my most lengthy stage as I have a tendency to wait until the last minute to complete crucial tasks, such as ordering large quantities of necessary medications. This leads to many tearful and angry conversations (on my part) with the insurance company, all of which could have been avoided had I simply paid more attention in the planning stage. Of course, you'd think that by my fourth experience abroad I would have learned my lesson, but alas this is not proving to be the case.  

4. Acceptance: Once the suitcases have been zipped and online flight check-in completed, the grudging acceptance begins as the consequences of poor planning come to light. For me, in years past this has ranged from such forgotten items as my toothbrush, hairbrush, and entire jewelry collection to the realization that I did not have enough contacts to last throughout the year. Nonetheless, whatever negative feelings may stem from the loss of such items give way to the feeling of elation that results from the long-awaited arrival in your host country. 

The Silver Lining: No matter how much you prepare (or don't), you will nevertheless still be in awe upon arrival in your host country. Nothing will truly compare to the excitement of landing in your host country and the incredible people you will meet, memories you will make, and experiences you will have in the months ahead. Therefore, just relax and trust that everything is going to be fine. 


And now, here's some unsolicited advice for all you study abroad hopefuls out there. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that a semester abroad drains my bank account faster than if I was posted in a lawn chair throwing handfuls of dollar bills at passerby like some deranged new-age millennial cat lady. That being said, I have spent the last 2 months collecting funds like a squirrel collects nuts before a long winter. Although it's so cliché to say "time flies when you're having fun", nothing rings more true when you're studying abroad. It's nice to have that little nest egg for that week when you want to have gelato every night, or a treat yourself to a really good steak, or take the trip you always dreamed of to Patagonia (or Venice, or Paris, or Busan, or wherever). The point I'm trying to make is: it's called "study abroad"- but don't just study while you're abroad. The point is the embrace the experience and explore the world beyond your comfort zone, whether it be a simple evening walk through the streets of the city or setting off on a weekend beach trip. 

Now, wish me luck as I attempt (most likely, without sucess) to cram the larger half of my closet into a single suitcase. 

¡Nos vemos pronto desde Buenos Aires! 

Catherine Seltz-Drew

<p>My name is Catie Seltz-Drew. I am currently a junior pursuing a degree in International Studies. My semester in Buenos Aires will be my fourth experience abroad following a year in Italy in high school and two previous semesters abroad in Rome, Italy and Seoul, South Korea while in college. I have a passion for cooking and eating; I love learning about a country through its cuisine. After my semester in Argentina, I will graduate from Loyola and hopefully continue to travel and eat my way around the world.</p>

Home university:
Loyola University Chicago
Major:
International Studies
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