Once you’ve signed up for a study abroad program, there are a lot of expectations and questions one starts to dwell on. As a student who about to leave the U.S. for Argentina, my main concerns were whether I would be able to meet new friends easily, and whether I would be able to understand Spanish well.
It was nice to read articles about someone reflecting on their anticipations, but I thought it might be more helpful for you to read a reflection on each step of my travels, from pre-departure to arrival and acclimation.
One Week Before Departure
As mentioned above, I am as worried about making friends as a new kindergartener. This ties into my concerns about my fluency – or lack thereof – in Spanish. Depending on how long you have studied the language of your host country, I am sure this concern will vary. Personally, I have taken years of Spanish, but I still struggle to understand telenovelas. I have found that real conversation is the best way to improve your master of a language. One app that has helped me practice speaking and listening, and that I recommend, is Hello Talk. Of course, I really hope to become more fluent in Argentina! I anticipate some struggle at first, but I believe preparing yourself for a challenge can help your nerves overcome it before you actually have to.
I am not too nervous [yet?]. Remember, if you have already signed up to study abroad, that itself has taken courage. AIFS has an emergency number, too, so you will not be an abandoned puppy. I hope planning for challenges will work out in my favor, but we will see.
The only other thing that has interrupted my excitement (and nerves) is knowing that I am introverted, and therefore not a social master of making new friends. Perhaps these thoughts have gone through your head too: What if people there don’t like me? What if people don’t talk to me? Again, the solution to calming these nerves is to plan. For me, I have been practicing Spanish, and telling myself that I will talk to people first.
Though I may panic when I get in the car to the airport, my nerves aren’t too bad right now. My game plan, which has so far successfully calmed any nerves, is to plan, and also enter a mindset that studying abroad is meant to help you grow as a person. Whatever challenge I face, it will be something I can conquer. In fact, we can only grow when given obstacles. I will always have my friends and family in the U.S. waiting for me. The worst thing that could happen is for nothing to happen – to waste the chance to experience a new world. This is an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn.
One Day Before Departure
The fact that I am leaving the country for almost half a year has still not really sunk in. I feel like there’s something important in the back of my head, like a word on the tip of my tongue, but for the most part I think I have numbed my own consciousness of the ordeal. As I only just yesterday got my FBI background check, I would recommend that similar soon-to-be-abroad-students review, review, and review their materials. I skimmed over information I should not have, so I suggest you be more careful. I guess I was wrong about the worst case scenario –- it’s actually to have signed up for all this and then not be able to leave because of missing documents!
Departure Day and Traveling
What has helped me calm my nerves while traveling has been talking to the other students at the airport. Luckily, there were four others on my rescheduled flight. Sharing fears and excitement definitely eases the ride.
I also realized that age matters. When I was a freshman in college, I would cry and feel tense before going back to school, but now, knowing what fears I have already conquered, this choice felt like a simple bus trip.
My roommate explained that coming to study in the U.S. was easy for her because she had already been abroad alone thanks to a friend who cancelled on their vacation. Once you throw yourself into the scary situations, you only become stronger.
Of course, the ride will also depend on your personality. Another student slept through the entire flight, while another said they sat in shock during the majority of the ride.
Arrival and Acclimation
I knew I would be happy here, but I cannot believe how already in love I am with Buenos Aires after only a few hours.
I never dreamed about leaving the country just a couple years ago, yet here I am now on the flip-side of my east coast home. Studying abroad is a true adventure and I cannot wait to begin my expedition.The scariest part of the trip is already over and the excitement definitely outweighs the anxiety. Sure, there is a language barrier, but it has been easy to overcome through hand signals and at least attempts to speak the language. The others students are also excited, so meeting friends has not been difficult. This was the right choice. Keep all of this in mind when you get anxious about leaving home. Departure will be smoother than you may think.
This post was contributed by Carolyn Conte, who is spending her study abroad semester with AIFS in Buenos Aires, Argentina.