Preparing for the Unpreparable

Headshot of  Emma Crawford.
Emma Crawford
January 13, 2023

Throughout my entire preparation for studying abroad, I have found a common theme in everyone’s advice, which is, no matter how hard you try, you will never be fully prepared. Many people claim this with notes of optimism; however, in true type fashion, my brain found this advice unacceptable. At first, I tried so hard to make this claim false and go into my study abroad experience being truly prepared. Now, a few months into this process I can confidently say, they were right. The day I am writing this, I am exactly two months out from my flight to London. Now, I’ve said this out loud countless times making announcements to my friends and family, filled out countless paperwork, I’ve even bought plane tickets! Still, I cannot fathom that this is actually happening. I know that this may seem scary but don’t fret! That note of optimism behind everyone who gave this word of advice is deeming to be true. The unknown and uncertainty of studying abroad though intimidating has only added to my excitement. However, as mentioned previously I am a true type A person, which means that even though I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I won’t be fully prepared for what’s to come, I have still tried to prepare myself as best as possible. Here are three tips for preparing for the “unpreparable”:

1. Create specialized to-do lists

There is A LOT to do during the pre-departure period. From making sure to properly fill out all of the paperwork, to obtaining a visa (if necessary), to making sure you have a functioning phone when you land, it is an overwhelming amount of things to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. I have found that creating organized to-do lists, split categorically, has helped me feel more in control over the things I need to accomplish. For example, in my notes app, I have multiple study abroad to-do lists categorized into lists such as paperwork, personal things, things to pack, etc. Having them separated not only keeps things organized, but it also makes the list seem more manageable. If you have every single thing you need to do on one to-do list, the never-ending list would seem simply overwhelming.

2. Try to learn about the locals of where you’re studying

When you’re in a brand new place, specifically in a foreign country, there will be a natural disconnect between you and the locals. I think that this is a beautiful thing about traveling, being able to experience and learn different cultural norms. I can’t wait to learn all about the typical day-in-the-life of a Londoner that so differs from my own. Though different cultural norms are very interesting, they are also very intimidating. There is always the conception put out that people from other countries hate tourists. This is an ever-pondering fear of mine and many others because even though you’ll be living in this place anywhere from four months to a year, you’re pretty much still going to be considered a “tourist” in many ways because of our typical behavior. However, I’ve learned very quickly that people from other countries don’t “hate tourists” simply because they’re tourists, but rather that locals can get agitated with tourists who refuse to learn about their way of typical life! Because of this, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at very simple ways people from the United Kingdom differ from us Americans in their day-to-day life. For example, I learned that the in the U.K. people who choose to stand on escalators should stand on the right side so that people who intend to walk up the escalator will have a clear pathway up. Who knew! Learning and investigating typical local behaviors has helped me feel less of a complete stranger to London even whilst knowing I have so much more to learn.

3. Find inspiration through people online

In my never-ending research of studying abroad, I discovered something I found to be extremely valuable. People who were posting online their own experiences, particularly people posting about their study abroad experience that was very similar to mine. I am someone that has always been a visual learner. No matter how many books or articles I read, I need to be able to see things in real-time. This was a huge struggle point for me at the beginning of my study abroad research. I just found that no matter how many things I googled, blog posts I read, and tips and tricks I learned, I simply could not visualize the experience for myself. Through some digging, I eventually found a YouTuber named Izzy Bisges who had previously studied abroad in London just this past spring. While I watched some of her early videos, I realized that she had done the exact same program that I am going to be doing! This discovery has truly been a blessing in my pre-departure experience. Being able to watch and visualize my program and what that has to offer has been helpful beyond words. While you might not be able to find someone who had gone through your exact program, it’s highly likely you’ll be able to find someone who went through a very similar program!

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Headshot of  Emma Crawford.

Emma Crawford

Hi! My name is Emma Crawford. I'm a sophomore comm studies major from Pennsylvania and Ill be studying abroad in London. I am a lifelong Swiftie, lover of coffee, and always down to try something new. I am so excited to explore London and other countries in Europe!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Pennsylvania
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