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Calming Your Study Abroad Nerves 101

by Anais Sawyer

It is perfectly natural to be nervous about the future, especially when it is so unknown. The night before I flew to London, I was a nervous wreck! I could not get any sleep because I was so anxious about my big adventure ahead. Would I have a good time? Was I making the right academic decision to study abroad? Will my host family like me? The answer to all of these is YES!

I am here to put your mind at ease, from pre-departure worries to doubts you may encounter while in your new host country. After having just lived through all of these fears and worries, I am here to say that I went through it all and made it out on the other side! Here are some tips and pieces of advice to set your mind at ease:

In the days leading up to your trip:

1. Relax.

You have no doubt spent hours planning out your opportunity to study abroad. From running around your home campus to get pre-departure approval and to packing last-minute things, you have done a lot to prepare for this moment. As hard as it sounds (trust me, I know how easy it is to get lost in the hustle and bustle!), breathe deeply and enjoy all of these little moments leading up to your departure.

2. Weigh your suitcase.

A simple way to ease your mind before heading to the airport is to double-check that your suitcase is within your airline’s baggage weight requirements. A simple bathroom scale can at least give you an estimate about how much your bag weighs.

3. Check your flight.

If you have a smartphone, you can usually download your airline’s app and “Check In” through your phone. Then, you can have your boarding pass electronically and get updates about your flight in real time.

4. Plan to sleep on the plane.

Depending on where you are flying from, you are most likely taking a “red eye” to your host country. This means that if you leave in the afternoon, you will most likely land sometime in the morning at your host country. For me, my flight left around 4 PM from Los Angeles, CA and I landed in London around 10:30 AM. I made a point of closing my eyes around 8 PM on the plane (4 AM London time) so that it would be easier for me to somewhat acclimate to the time change. Jet lag is real, so make sure to rest and drink plenty of water on the plane!

5. Have courage.

Take the time to acknowledge that this is a really big step in your life! It is completely normal to feel apprehensive or even frightened about the future and months ahead. You are stepping out into the unknown, but trust that all of these months of planning have prepared you for your travels ahead.

After you land:

1. Keep an open mind.

Remember, you left your home country to experience something new! The country you are staying in will be different than what you are used to, and sometimes it takes some time getting used to. But these differences will make you more aware of what you like and/or dislike back home.

2. Take solace in the fact that you will make a lot of new friends.

There are usually 25+ students just like you who are leaving their comfort zone behind to experience something unforgettable. You all have an adventurous streak in common already. You will be together in a big group seeing all of the incredible sights of your new city and witnessing so many awe-inspiring things.

3. Remember that support is never far away.

If you are ever feeling stressed out or just need someone familiar to talk to, home is just a phone call away! Family, friends, and the people who care about you are sending you all of their love and support, and want you to thrive while you are abroad! There are great communication tools like Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, and Viber that make talking to loved ones easier.

This post was contributed by Anais Sawyer, who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Granada, Spain.

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