Friday, December 19, 2014

So...You're Going Abroad

Well here it is, what we have all been barreling towards, the end of the semester is finally here! I sure hope finals week has treated you well! With the end of the semester being here that also means the departure date for many of University of Wisconsin-Platteville's study abroad students. Whether you are studying abroad in Winterim or the Spring semester, the dates are quickly approaching! First off can I ask, will you put me in your suitcase and take me with you? Just kidding, kind of. You may be filled with nerves, are bursting with excitement and definitely have questions. I remember the first time I studied abroad, I was a wreck the entire week before I left.  I can assume you are feeling so excited because you are leaving the United States possibly for the first time on your own or you could be feeling like you might be sick for the very same reason. I just want you to know you are not alone in the way you are feeling, it is completely normal. To comfort yourself, think of what a great accomplishment this is going to be and how independent you are going to become after the journey you take with Education Abroad. Think of all the friends you are going to make and how many different parts of the world you are going to see. Think of all the amazing memories you are going to make that you are going to cherish for a lifetime.

I can tell you in that week before I left there were points where I got so nervous I thought maybe I shouldn't go, but then I realized how utterly ridiculous I was being and going abroad is a once in a lifetime kind of experience. I was that girl who came from a very small Iowan town, surrounded by very small-minded people. It's crazy the things that going abroad does to a person. I never like to think I was small-minded because I always had such a desire to see the world and experience other cultures, but I can't help but admit before I went abroad I probably also had some of those same small-minded Midwestern beliefs and studying abroad widened my perspective and opened my mind to so many possibilities. I could never go back to the way I was before I left. Only 5% of students go abroad in the United States, wouldn't you just love to say you are part of that 5%, that you took this leap into the complete unknown and had an experience that changed your life forever? I know I would love to study abroad again and if possible, I will before I graduate! Let me tell you a few tips that might ease your nerves a little about going abroad or just to reassure you that you have made the right decision.

Home will always be there.
Opportunities like Education Abroad won't always be available to you. Take comfort in the fact the home will always be home and you can always go back. You can't however always see other parts of the world. The older you get, the more commitments you start to have. The more commitments you have, the more difficult it is to just take off and travel , that's why college is the perfect time to travel and if you have taken the leap and applied to Education Abroad I am so happy for you.

You will not be gone forever.
Some of you may be going abroad for just a few weeks, months or even a year, but let me just solidify this, YOU WILL NOT BE GONE FOREVER. Time passes so quickly and in the grand scheme of things the time you will be away from home studying abroad is just such a small fraction of your life. Also, I know from experience how quickly time passes when you are abroad, mainly because you are having the time of your life. I was abroad for 4 months, but it really felt like two weeks, and although part of me was ready to see home, the other part of me felt like I was leaving what had become home to me in those 4 months.

Family and friends can come visit. 
I know, I know. You can't help but think how much you will miss all your closest loved ones and how will you go without them for that long. The plus side is they can come visit! That possibility is always present. There is also always Skype, Face time, Facebook and other endless ways to stay in touch and see each other via the internet. Plus you will make many new friends who will become your little study abroad family.

Do not pack your entire closet.  
I know you're thinking how is this tip supposed to help calm my nerves? Well let me tell you, I know you are probably packing and repacking your suitcase like crazy. You're probably thinking, oh I need this and that, but you don't. I'm sure this is only adding to your nerves and really isn't helping the situation. Although people have probably told you this a million times, don't over pack. Only take what is necessary. You can and will want to buy so many things while you are abroad, you will want that extra room to bring them home with you. Let me tell ya, shipping packages home is not cheap! Plus, buying clothes abroad and dressing like the locals is part of the way you can immerse yourself in their culture in just one more way!
Studying abroad just changes so many things in your life, it's hard to put it all into words. The more you travel, the more places you find that feel like they could be home. You begin to leave your heart in so many places and with beautiful people that will forever hold a part of your heart. In some ways you won't ever truly feel at home again because of this. Although that seems like a terrifying fact, you will love it because it makes you feel so alive, so free. I hope after reading this you feel a little less stressed and now the excitement is more present then the nerves about going abroad. When you first step onto that plane remember that step is the first step of your new adventure, the first step to the rest of your life.

Now go on, have an amazing journey. Your adventure awaits!

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