Pre-departure Anxiety? You're Not Alone!

Maria Bonsignore
August 7, 2019

Hello, everyone! My name is Charlotte, and I’ll be working as an IES Abroad Correspondent during my Fall 2019 semester in Rome. With about three weeks left until departure, it’s a relief to be able to say that most of my document hunting, fund-gathering, and travel preparations are taken care of, leaving me with little else to do to prepare but pack and fantasize about all of the things that I’m going to do while I’m abroad.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve got a bad case of pre-departure paranoia. Everything that could possibly go wrong has gone through my head, from robbery to being unable to make friends to the dreaded yet inevitable inability to poop in an unfamiliar bathroom for the first week. If you’re feeling even a little bit anxious about being abroad, take comfort in the fact that you are absolutely not alone—this is, after all, a huge adventure, and what kind of adventure goes 100% smoothly? Unfortunately, the answer to that question can only be “none.” To say that there won’t be any obstacles at all just to make an inspirational blog post would be an outright lie. 

So what am I doing to cope? First of all, I’m acknowledging reality: I will be frustrated sometimes, I will be sad sometimes, and I cannot control every aspect of my study abroad experience. Whether or not I let it define my semester, however, is entirely up to me; it's true that there may be challenges, but there's something to learn from both good and bad experiences when traveling. Even as I dread those bad experiences, I remain hopeful that they will help me grow as a person. 

Before leaving, I’ve tried to sit down and work through some of my fears. For example, one of the biggest concerns for me, personally, is BEING ALONE! I have social anxiety. When people hear that, they think it’s the same as being a little bit shy, but it most certainly is not. When somebody new talks to me, all of the thoughts in my head fly out of my ears and the only thing left is “Enter the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik playing on loop. I make weird faces, I stammer, I laugh awkwardly, and sometimes I just straight-up cannot form words. Making friends would make it much easier to travel and to make the most of my time abroad, but it’s hard not to be afraid that I won’t be able to talk to anyone. However, when those thoughts get me really paranoid, I try to remember that I’m not the only person who struggles with this. Sometimes you just have to search for your people, even if it takes extra effort (hey, anxious people studying in Rome reading this, now you know one person like you to reach out to!). I also try to remember that people are less judgmental than I sometimes assume; I’ve found that there are people out there who are understanding, patient, and willing to try to get to know me regardless of how “weirdly” I may behave. Not everyone might understand, but a few are sometimes all you need.

The thing is, folks, this is uncharted territory for a lot of us. I have personally never traveled to another country before, and it’s hard not to freak out. I’m excited, I’m nervous, and it’s hard to tell which emotion is causing the butterflies in my stomach sometimes. It’s okay to feel this way! However, I’m confident that the experience of studying abroad will be worth all of the worrying, and I look forward to writing more about my trip on IES Abroad Blogs

P.S. If you’re worried about being robbed, I recommend this bag for a bit of extra security. 

Travel bag
security zipper

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Maria Bonsignore

<p>My name is Charlotte and I'm a senior at Penn State studying Human Development and Sociology. I like traveling, baking, k-pop, rabbits, and collecting scrunchies!</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
Penn State University
Easton, PA
Human Development
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