As I prepare to begin my study abroad program in a few days in London, I am both extremely excited to experience life overseas, yet somewhat nervous, as I haven't been out of the US since I was 7 years old. As a constant worrier, I fear the unknown. What will it be like over there? How will I get around? What's the food like? Etc. But this is only a small part in relation to my excitement to finally have a reason to get a passport and start filling it up with stamps.
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity and I've only heard great things from friends who have traveled across the world during their college experience. I've lived through my friends' Facebook and Instagram posts of exotic locations and now it's finally my turn to experience a new place. As I get ready for an incredible and unforgettable month in the UK, here are some things I've found to help prepare myself for my time out of the US.
Don't procrastinate; you just gotta get it done
Packing is the worst. Who actually enjoys trying to stuff your life into a tiny little suitcase? No one. It's the worst part about getting ready for a fun trip and it's definitely the easiest thing to procrastinate on. "I have so much time, it'll only take like an hour." Ya right. Of course as a natural procrastinator, I decided to wait until the day before leaving the country to think about packing. Big mistake. Why add to the stress of preparing for a trip out of the country with something so avoidable? Who knows, but we all do it.
It's the hardest thing to avoid: Over packing
With a large wardrobe, there are so many pieces of clothing to choose from to bring. How the heck can you lighten your packing load if you have so many clothes you want to bring with you for different occasions? Obviously you're going to take tons of photos and don't want to be wearing repeated outfits in them. But with a weight limit at the airport, you gotta strategize and only bring what you truly need. Sometimes you gotta give up the cute pair of shoes to save some money.
Make sure your passport is valid
There's nothing worse than stressing days before your huge trip about your passport being expired. Allow enough time to get the documents you need. It's not worth freaking out and paying a fortune to get documents shipped overnight or even not being able to get on your flight for not having valid documents.
Constantly being aware of your surroundings
This is especially important when traveling to an international city like London. Keep your belongings close and keep your eyes open. You have to constantly remember that you're in a different place and people target tourists to steal their valuables. Don't be stupid and make it extremely obvious that you're either lost or confused.
Get in the habit of walking everywhere
If you're traveling to a city, odds are you're probably going to be walking everywhere alongside taking the train or bus. Walking is the best way to learn the area and experience the everyday culture. So get some good shoes to bring and exercise before your trip so you're ready for the amount of walking you'll be doing.
Having a plan so you don't waste any time
Make an itinerary of places to see and do. The last thing you want to do when you're in a great city is waste time because you don't know what to do. Don't spend the whole day sleeping. You can sleep when you get home. Get an early start to the day and get exploring.
Keep an open mind to trying new things
New food, new activities, new people to meet. Live in the moment and go out of your comfort zone. Anyone who's been abroad will tell you that you won't regret putting yourself out there. What do you have to lose?
Be grateful that you have this once in a lifetime opportunity to travel
Not everyone has a chance to go abroad during their college experience. As an out-of-state student, I can tell you that it's definitely not cheap and is why a lot of people have to give up the opportunity. So don't take it for granted and make it worthwhile. You have an incredible opportunity to grow and flourish and you'll make memories to take with you through the rest of your life.