Oh boy! In just a little less than 72 hours, I’ll be outside the United States for the first time ever. Tomorrow I’ll board my first plane to Boston, and then I’ll be off to Dublin, Ireland for two whole months. The road to preparing for this trip has been complex… to say the least. I’ve been a ball of stress, anticipation, nerves, and excitement for the last week month. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States before, and my parents haven’t either so preparing for this trip was a whole new arena to navigate. In case anyone else finds themselves in the same boat, here are some of the most important things I learned along the way.
- Get Your Passport Early
You’re sure to hear this time and time again, but apply for a passport early! I applied about two weeks after being accepted into my program and recieved my passport with plenty of time to spare. I requested the expedited service just to be safe. If you don’t have a passport at the time of your acceptance, I highly recommend taking this route to err on the side of caution.
- Do Your Research
Research, Research, Research. It seems like I’ve read every article on the internet about preparing to study abroad in Ireland. I know I’ll never truly understand what it will be like to live in Ireland for an entire two months, but semi-knowing what to expect helps put my nerves at ease. Oftentimes, I let the idea of unknowing stress me out like no other. When I feel confused or anxious in new situations, panic begins to set in. Usually, this looks like me FaceTiming my mom late at night to vent about my existential crisis of the day/hour. While I’ve gotten better at leaning into the unknown with curiosity rather than panic over the past few years, I’ve also found that ample preparation for potentially stressful situations helps me enter them with more confidence and less anxiety.
- Understand the Money Situation
Do your research to make sure you can use your debit and/or credit cards overseas. This was a big part of the planning process for me. I soon learned Discover isn’t widely accepted in Ireland, and, of course, both my debit and credit cards were Discover. I opened a new bank account and credit card to use while abroad. This is definitely something you want to get sorted out before going overseas. I’m sure there will be a whole slew of things to worry about once I’m in Ireland, and I don’t want to add money to the list!
- Start Packing Early
This one may seem slightly ridiculous, but begin packing at least a week in advance. Around a week ago, I began pulling the clothes I wanted to bring to Ireland out of my closet. I started a pile in my room and slowly added to it throughout the week. This made the actual packing of my suitcase significantly easier and faster. I just went through the pile and packed the most necessary items. (Stay tuned for future blog posts about whether or not the items I brought were actually necessary.)
Hint: Roll your clothes to maximize space! Also, remember to leave extra room in your suitcase or carry-on for the things you’re bound to buy while abroad - you want to make sure you can get them back home!
- Know How to Use Your Phone
Know how to use your phone (or a phone) internationally before you leave the United States. My mom and I stopped by our phone carrier’s office last week to inquire about an international phone plan, and it turns out international phone plans are extremely expensive—like $10/day expensive. Rather than breaking the bank, I’m going to buy a sim card at the Dublin airport when I arrive. Whether you’re getting an international plan, buying a sim card, or purchasing a new phone upon arrival, be sure to know exactly what you’re doing to eliminate stress once your adventure begins.
- Make a Bucket List
Start a bucket list of all the things you want to do while abroad, so you don’t forget anything! Right after I decided I wanted to study abroad in Ireland, I started a list on my phone of all the things I wanted to check out—from St. Stephen’s Green to the Book of Kells to local music venues and coffee shops and, of course, Niall Horan’s hometown.
- Connect with Students in Your Program
Connect with other students also participating in your study/internship abroad program. My college roommate met someone in one of her classes that was also participating in my internship program. She gave me her phone number and we were able to meet up for ice cream a couple of months ago. We even found out we’re on the same flight! Having contact with someone in my program helped me feel more at ease throughout the process. It’s always comforting to not feel like you’re taking on the experience completely alone.
- Visit Friends and Family
Be sure to take time to visit family and friends before you depart on your adventure! I left my college town for my childhood home last Sunday. This gave me a little time to visit with family members before I leave for two months.
I hope these travel tips make navigating studying or interning abroad a bit more simple! Remember, it’s okay to be nervous, stressed, excited, anxious—all of the above. Preparing to travel abroad involves jumping through a bunch of hoops, especially for a first-time international traveler! Be sure to check back for updates on my adventures in Ireland this summer. I couldn’t be more excited to share them with you!
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<p>Hey! I'm Maddie (she/her), and I'm studying Journalism at Indiana University. I'll be spending my summer interning in Dublin, Ireland hoping to grow my professional skills and experience all Dublin has to offer. Follow along as I attend cultural festivals, visit lots of local cafés, explore the outdoors, and more. This is my first time traveling outside the U.S., so I'll have a lot to learn and figure out. I can't wait to take you along for the ride!</p>