Takeoff: Getting Ready to Study Abroad

I am currently two weeks out from my four-month adventure abroad…and the reality of it still has not sunk in. I am heading to Madrid, Spain where I will be studying at CUNEF (Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros). Sure I’ve booked my plane ticket, but that’s about it. I still have to finalize my host family, pack enough clothes for four months in one suitcase, research Madrid, and pack all of my school supplies.

Thankfully, I studied abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica this summer, or else I would be a LOT more nervous. It will serve as my crash course for lessons I learned and things I can improve upon this time.

My biggest piece of advice is to travel as much as you possibly can. Costa Rica is an amazing country and study abroad students have the luxury to choose between trips to the rainforest, ocean, city, and much more. There truly is no wrong choice on where to go. Also, you may enjoy taking time to travel to bordering countries. Traveling to different countries is a fun and easy way to expand your international experience while gaining an additional view of regional culture. Here are my top five tips for traveling:

1. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, and extra money.
2. Never travel alone.
3. Prioritization: time and money: Pick the top three to five places you want to visit and make sure you get there.
4. Talk to other study abroad students who have already been where you plan to go.
5. Find a balance between the “popular” places and the hidden gems.

Ten years from now, what do you believe you will remember? You’ll remember cheering in the football stadiums with thousands of other students; you’ll remember the time (or five) you pulled an all-nighter to get an A on that exam; you’ll remember all of the experiences and friends you made. The moments you’ll remember most vividly are the ones where you took a chance and stepped outside of your comfort zone.

Studying abroad is a wonderful, exciting, and slightly nerve-racking decision. As a student who has gotten over that initial “speed bump” of fear, studying abroad was more than worth it. Ten years from now, I will be able to remember the feeling of flying as I zip-lined over the rainforest, touring many museums with my friends and classmates, laughing over dinner with the other study abroad students and my host mom, and my boost in confidence of my Spanish skills after returning to the U.S. Take a chance. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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