Letter to the Anxious Study Abroad Student (Don't Worry, I Was There Too!)

Dear students who are about to study abroad,

Raise your hand if you are terrified of studying abroad. Yeah, me too.

Studying abroad has been a goal of mine since the first week of college. The prospect of living in a foreign country and being able to integrate into their culture always fascinated and excited me. Yet recently, I’ve been exploring the logistical details that no one focuses on beforehand: How do I get a Spanish sim card? Did I get health insurance for my travel? Do I need a visa? Will I find friends once I get there?

Sometimes, these logistical questions can get a bit overwhelming, and with finals around the corner, the clock is ticking fast. So whenever I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, I found it an opportunity to focus on the positive sides of this experience. Since first hearing about studying abroad, I’ve fantasized about the life of people in other countries. I want to see if people in other countries eat, shop, live, and brush their teeth the same way I do. I want to explore how different and how similar cultures really are. Do we all have the same values and just manifest them in different ways? Now, I know what you are thinking: “Inbar, you could look all of these things up on Google.” But it won’t be the same as living and observing these simple actions the same way. I have spent the past couple of weeks doing a lot of research on my country of residence.  For example, did you know Spaniards take siestas and close their businesses from 2-4 p.m. most of the time? Finding a way to remind myself of why I wanted to go abroad in the first place has helped me manage the paperwork that needs to get done before going on what is sure to be an amazing experience. It has helped me prioritize my mental health and reduce the stress that usually accompanies me on big trips.

If you are like me, and your terror is joined by excitement, I would offer you the same advice I have been practicing for the past couple of days: Take a deep breath. Envision yourself in your country. Envision yourself learning and adventuring and exploring a new place. Think about all of the fun that you will have once you finish with the administrative duties. Now take another deep breath. Trust the process and ask questions when something is unclear. Create a to-do list and include some destressing activities on there too (like watching Love is Blind Season 4—I really hope Brett and Tiffany will make it!!). Realize that you have a big support system that is just waiting for you to take advantage of it and that you only need to take it one step at a time.

This will be one of the most impactful experiences that you will have and everything will work out in the end. Just make sure to get your visa. And remember to enjoy the journey.

Hasta Luego,