Study Abroad Prep 101

Headshot of Kim Blanco.
Kimberly Blanco
January 12, 2023

I have been anticipating studying abroad for so long, and now that it is finally here, it feels surreal. One of the first challenges I am currently facing is mentally preparing as well as packing. At first, I felt extremely overwhelmed, but I have since gotten the hang of things and found resources that have helped me the most. I hope this blog post can help other IES Abroad students that are about to embark on their journeys!

Packing to be away for an entire semester may sound scary; however, doing some research about what you really need to bring makes it a little bit easier. Based on my own research, one of the best places to find answers is in the study abroad Facebook groups. The members of these types of groups are in various stages of the study abroad process, which is very helpful to have access to! Some members are preparing to go abroad and have questions about the process, some members are currently participating in their program, and some members have just returned home from their program. It is super interesting to see what other peoples experiences look like, and this can help us compare and apply it to our own!

Another important thing to research is what the weather will be like in your study abroad location. Doing this can help you narrow down what types of clothing you actually need to bring, as it is important to choose wisely. There is no need to waste the space in your suitcase packing a big winter coat if your location does not call for it! 

Aside from packing, one of the ways that you can mentally prepare for your trip is by doing research on some of the other students that are participating in your program. Sometimes you can find these people in the Facebook groups that I mentioned before, but you can also find them from a list of participants if your program includes it. As a student heading to study abroad in Amsterdam, I have recently received a list of everyone else that is going along with their emails, home universities, and hometowns. Having access to this list and being able to contact other students definitely makes the program feel a little bit smaller, and is even helping me to make some friends prior to my departure!

My last and possibly my most important piece of advice to consider while getting ready to study abroad is to keep an open mind. As housing assignments were recently released, I was disappointed to see that I had received the housing location that I had ranked lowest on my list. At first, I thought that this would make or break my study abroad experience, but after chatting with my new roommate and some other students that were placed into the same living arrangements, I realized that this won’t be so bad after all. With so many students in my building, it is certain that I will make a lot of new best friends, even if my placement was not originally my top choice. After doing some more research on my housing, I have found many positives of living here that I had not originally noticed, all because I was being close minded. Studying abroad is all about facing new challenges and taking risks!

I hope that the tips above benefit any student who may be scared or confused about studying abroad, because I know that they certainly helped make the beginning of my preparation painless!

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Headshot of Kim Blanco.

Kimberly Blanco

Hi, I'm Kim! I truly feel that traveling is important in order to gain new experiences that can be used to ensure a successful professional life and personal life. Amsterdam is somewhere that I have never traveled before, so I was really excited when I saw that it was an option for me! Being able to travel around Europe while I am there seems super fun to me and this experience will definitely be one that I cherish forever! In my future, I hope to eventually work as a criminal psychologist. A fun fact about me is that I have been dancing since I was 2 years old and I am currently a part of a club dance team at Penn State University!

2023 Spring
Home University:
Penn State University
Criminal Studies
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