Leaving the country is always an exciting experience, but it's especially exciting when you get to do it through your school. It’s like taking learning and making it fun again. But exciting as it may be, there are things that will be stressful about it, especially beforehand.
Shopping for a study abroad can be fun if you really like shopping, but most of the time its just stressful. Do I need a $60 shirt to go trekking in the jungles of Panama? Probably, buy it just in case. Next thing you know, your total is $500 and all you can do is think about all the groceries that could’ve bought as the checkout clerk gladly takes your money. Just remember that the capitalists can smell your fear, and they’ll sell you something for it.
I don’t even want to think about it, but packing is literally the most important thing you do before getting on the plane. That suitcase is now your life-line and best friend, do not lose its trust. You’ll be living out of that thing for the next few weeks because we all know you won't bother to unpack once you get there. It’s a good idea to get all the clothes you think you might need, and then see what fits and what doesn’t. Better to overpack than under pack in most cases.
This is the hardest part, by far. A lot of thought has to go into everything you do, because you’re going to a foreign country with a different culture and different rules. One dumb plan could have disastrous consequences. It is best to have everything written down, and to refer to your itinerary and course syllabus often. Your professor should have guidelines for you depending on the country, but you can’t depend on them for everything. A lot of this planning stuff is on you.
Hopefully you can take out a loan, or your parents can help you. It doesn’t hurt quite as much when it seems like it’s being paid for by other people (in reality you’re totally still paying for it but at least it doesn’t seem like you are.) If you’re unlucky enough to just be paying out of pocket, my heart hurts for you. Seriously, the thought of giving someone else all of my money physically hurts me, and those who pay for their entire study abroad with their own money possess unheard-of mental fortitude.
After “planning” this just became of list of things I don’t have. In all seriousness, planning such an extensive and involved trip requires a lot of patience. There will be missed details and small screw-ups, but you can’t let the stress these instances bring weigh you down.
The whole point of a study abroad is for you to learn in a unique and fun way, to give you an experience you’ll treasure forever. That might be slightly romanticizing it, but still, the experience isn’t meant to be overly stressful.