Resfeber (n): the restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins. When anxiety and anticipation are tangled together, wanderlust.
I'm adding this Swedish term to my vocabulary because it sums up how I'm currently feeling perfectly. I depart for Milan, Italy in just over a week which is flying by. By the time I leave, all my friends will be back at school and part of me is a little sad that I won’t be there with them. But the sadness quickly disappears when I begin to think about the adventure that lies ahead. I’m starting a new chapter in my life and that is more exciting than anything else. The mystery of what the next 9 months will hold is enough to keep my thoughts racing.
As someone who has moved far away from home to go to college and has temporarily lived in multiple other places since, I have had no choice but to learn to deal with the feelings and emotions that arise when I am constantly on the move. Yes, it will always be challenging, no matter how many times you’ve done it, but as long as you keep a “roll with the punches” attitude, going into your time abroad will be a piece of cake (or for me a slice of pizza since I’m pretty sure that’s all I will be eating over the next year, it is Italy after all).
From my experience living abroad in the past, I can offer a bit of advice.
1. You most definitely will get homesick. And when you do, embrace it. Let yourself feel sad and lonely and wish that you were back in the comfort of your home. However, realize that this is a temporary feeling and it will pass. And that every single person on your trip is experiencing it at one point or another. Make use of FaceTime or even a quick phone call to a friend or family member. It's an easy fix and you will always feel better after.
2. Living in another country is hard, especially when you don't know the language well. You will feel overwhelmed. And sometimes you will feel like sitting down in the middle of the street and crying out of frustration when none of the signs are in English and you don't know how to ask for directions (I have been there many times). I recommend learning simple, yet critical phrases before you go! Write them down on a piece of paper and carry it around with you like its as important as your passport. Trust me, you will thank yourself.
3. Appreciate new cultures and immerse yourself. Make friends with locals because not only will it help you learn the language, but it is the best way to learn about the country. Become a yes-man (or woman) and don't be afraid to try new things!
4. Be curious. When traveling, I have realized that having an open mind makes the experience infinitely times more fulfulling. You're not reading about the place or watching a documentary on it, you're actually living it. Take advantage of this and soak it all in.
5. Now here's about the time where I should say something about the burning question that I know is on everyone's mind; "What/how/how much do I pack?!" I really wish I had the answer to this question myself. How am I supposed to fit 9 months of belongings under a 50 pound weight limit? That ratio is not in my favor... Besides my cameras do I really need anything else? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Avoid overpacking, easier said than done, but it will make your life so much easier. Take the essential items and be prepared to make occasional purchases because you most likely will forget something. And anyway, shopping in Europe or wherever you're headed is also part of the experience!
I could go on and on, but I'm sure you all have friends who've gone abroad and given you similar advice. It's comforting to know that I have never once heard someone say that going abroad was the worst experience of their life. And I can assure you that you will not be the first person to feel that way. As my departure nears, I am overwhelmed with so many emotions. Stepping into the unknown is the hardest part, but I know I am ready to jump right in. And most importantly, remember that the hard goodbyes you have to say are not forever, they're only see you laters. So see you later America, I'll be back for you soon!