Dear Before Abroad Me,
You are about to embark on what everyone claims to be the "best experience of your life." You're nervous, excited, unprepared, unpacked, and unsure. You keep comparing it to how you felt that first day of freshmen year, but this is different. You're not a sheltered 18-year-old anymore. You've seen some of the world, you've made some mistakes, and you've done a lot of growing, but there is still so much more to come. While you're abroad promise me you'll follow your own advice.
Do it all.
Your funds will be low, your suitcase may be broken, and your hostel might look like a horror movie, but try everything. Say yes to renting bikes and seeing Copenhagen through a traveler's eyes. Taste bangers and mash and fall in love with it. Want to ride a horse through the Irish country side? That's majestic AF—do it! Do it all, and be happy.
The month leading up to your trip will be a rush of emotions as you try to escape while still clutching onto the last moments with your family. They're going to grab on pretty tight too. Let them. Be patient, and don't waste the time you have over petty fights. Remember they're the ones that probably got you here in the first place.
This is not a four month vacation sponsored by Europe and funded by Bank of Parents. You do have work, and you have to do it. Don't let it enable you, but don't forget that you should study while "studying" abroad.
Like freshman year, friendships will start quickly with people excited to make groups and get out and explore. It's safe and smart to travel with people, but give yourself time to be alone with you and your new home. Go for a run (LOL let's not kid ourselves: Take a walk), go shopping, or go to a museum. Do things for yourself so you can discover more about you.
Be wary about advice.
As you talk to people before you leave, it seems like the entire population studied abroad. Everyone has told you where to travel, places to eat, and clubs to go to, but they had to discover that on their own, and you should too. Obviously if someone told you a restaurant gave them food poisoning for a week and charged them $40 for a plate of rice then you should maybe listen and not go there. But this is your trip and your chance for self-discovery. You can't come back a better person if you followed what everyone else said.
Don't be a tourist.
You're going to stand out regardless, but there is a difference between people who gawk and wear bucket hats compared to people who try to blend with their surroundings by immersing themselves in the culture they are now a part of. Look around and take it all in. Of course it is OK to take pictures, but please no "Thriller" pose next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I know After Abroad Me will miss every walk, plate of bangers and mash, and hostel she experienced. I know After Abroad Me will come back more fulfilled and filled with unforgettable memories. Before Abroad Me is awfully excited to meet After Abroad Me.