Every summer when I first head to the pool, I’m always hesitant to try the high dive. It doesn’t look so bad from the bottom, so I climb up the stairs. But at the top, I suddenly feel like I’m on top of the world — and not in a good way.
Not wanting to look like a fool, I close my eyes and take that terrifying leap into the unknown. But then I experience the exhilaration!
Studying abroad is, in many ways, like jumping off a diving board. There is the initial forethought, the effort of getting to the top, the terror of throwing yourself into the unknown and then the joy when you find everything has paid off.
It helps to start preparing early, think of places that interest you and check out different programs. However, keep in mind that during this time it’s easy to create preconceptions of what it will be like. Instead, try to remember to keep an open-mind, because things often will not be like you imagined.
Next comes the hard work: talking to advisers, completing the application and making the difficult choices. Where to go, what to study, how long to stay: these are all important questions to ask yourself. Also, take into account the cost of the programs, as well as the flexibility of your major. If it’s rigid, consider saving a few general education requirements to take abroad.
Once you make your choice and get accepted, it’s time to make travel plans. Start looking at plane ticket prices early. Try searching a few different airports, keeping in mind that the larger the airport, the lower the prices (in most cases). Sites like StudentUniverse and Kayak can make finding cheap tickets easier.
Don’t forget to get a passport and possibly a Visa! If you don’t have a passport, get one as soon as possible. It can take a while to receive it, and then you may have to send it away to get a Visa. This is an important step, do not save it for the end!
When it comes to packing, the general rule is the less you bring the better. Remember you will have to lug your bags around the airport and get them to your accommodations, so don’t take more than you can carry. Heavy or bulky baggage can also increase the already horrendous baggage fees most airlines charge.
Now it’s finally time to take the plunge. It can be scary, and you will get homesick. The jet lag may or may not be terrible. But make new friends, stay busy and talk with friends and family often and you will soon get through it!
Linda is studying at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, England. Visit her blog lindagoestoengland.tumblr.com for more photos and advice or to ask a question.