6 Things You Say to Yourself Before You Leave For Your Study Abroad Program

Colin Van Ert is a student at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and an ISA Featured Blogger. Colin is currently studying abroad with ISA in Florianópolis, Brazil.


The time leading up to your first study abroad adventure is full of excitement and anxiety.  A million thoughts go racing through your mind as you mull over all the potentially great experiences that lie ahead while at the same time trying to account for all contingencies and potential for ruin.  As you get closer and closer to your departure date thoughts only become more frantic.  I describe it like being on a roller coaster.  The few days just before your trip is like riding the cart to the top of the track and the day you leave is when you drop and the ride begins.  Here are some of the things you’re thinking on the way up: 

1.) “This is amazing!”

First and foremost, you feel a building tension as your departure date gets nearer and nearer. Soon, you’ll finally be off to see the world and are fully aware of the impact this experience will make on your life.  It’s hard to not to be excited.

2.) “Is everything ready?”

Have I taken care of all the necessary paperwork for my program?  Is all of my money or financial aid going to be there when I need it to?  Do I need a Visa for where I’m going? Am I going to be mistaken as a terrorist as soon as my plane lands and sent directly to a foreign prison?!  Probably not, but it’s not uncommon to worry about these types of things.  Simply double check with your school and program advisers before you leave and you can rest easy at night.

3.) “What will this be like?”

I know right before I left the states I personally spent a lot of time researching the city I was going to trying to gauge what my life would be like in just a few weeks.  After a lot of investigation I thought I had a good understanding of what was soon to come.  I was wrong.  You really won’t know what life is like until you’re there.  Sorry kiddos!

4.) “Wow, this is the last time I’ll do this or that for a long time.”

The few days before leaving my city and doing my normal routine, I couldn’t help but think to my self, “wow, I’m not going to be here for a while”, or, “I’m not going to see this person for a long time.”  It’s a strange feeling to know you’re closing one chapter in your life and opening another.  In those moments you really appreciate all the things you’ll soon be without.

5.) “HOLY CRAP!”

There’s definitely going to be a point where you freak out a little bit.  Fear and anxiety take hold and you start to question everything you’re doing.  This is natural. Don’t dwell in this feeling. Soon the excitement of you’re coming adventure will wash away all of your fears. 

6.) “It’s cool.  I’ve got this.”

After you’ve experienced the minor panic that comes with moving to a foreign country, you’ll regain the confidence you had when you first decided to go abroad.  You’ll remember that you were meant to go out and see the world.  You’ll remember your passion for other languages and cultures and that will be precisely what pushes you to make the most of this experience.  You’ll remember you were born to do great things.  You’ve got this.

As I write this, I’ve now been in Brazil for a couple of weeks.  I still remember the nervousness and anticipation I felt right before I left the states.  I remember how surreal everything felt the first time I stepped on a plane where it seemed no one but myself spoke English.  It’s a jarring sensation but to have gone through it leaves a profound sense of accomplishment.  It’s an anxious time on your way to the top of the roller coaster, but as soon as you go over the edge you’re in for an amazing ride.  Enjoy it!

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