5 Things to Remember as You Depart to Study Abroad

Emma Burnett is a student at Emporia State University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA Service Learning in Galway, Ireland.

In the past couple of days I have learned the necessities of being a traveler. This is my first time traveling alone. I have traveled out of the country once before with my mom, but basically just followed her around like a puppy dog and didn’t learn one thing for myself. I think that’s pretty much my main goal for this experience: learn something (preferably, multiple things) for myself.

Well, I started out my program with just that. Learning something. Shocking, I know. And it just so happened to probably be the most important aspect of traveling…. being an adult. As a college student, I like to think of myself as adult. Decide how late I stay out? Check. Make my own meals? Check. Manage my finances? Check…mostly. Make my own doctor, dentist, hair appointments? Check. However, when it came to navigating an airport and boarding a plane… I was NOT prepared to be an adult. I was officially on my own. Let me tell you, there are a few things you should know if you’re a new traveler. Here are 5:

1) People are the airport are actually really nice!! One of the first things I did was hand someone my boarding pass and drop my phone flat on its face, nearly shattering it. The old man working laughed and asked me if I was nervous, then proceeded to tell me exactly what to do next and assured me I would be just fine.

2) Be prepared for things to happen that you did not prepare for, including spending more money than you thought you would.  We’re living in the times where boarding passes are now at our fingertips on our phone. But guess what? Phones die. At my layover in Philadelphia I had a two hour wait. I thought it would be a perfect time to charge my phone. After trying to figure out why my phone would not charge, I realized I had to SWIPE MY CREDIT CARD in order to turn the outlet on. If they really think I am going to pay to charge my phone…they’re absolutely right.

3) Realize that your sleep schedule will be all kinds of crazy. People who can sleep on planes are from another world. Seriously. Maybe it’s a first time traveler thing but I could not, for the life of me, sleep. So bring plenty of things to do. A book, downloaded Netflix shows, music, etc. I eventually started writing this on the plane because I ran out of things to do… and everyone else was sleeping. *sigh*

4) Everyone has a story and you should try to learn them all. Start with the people on the plane. I met a woman who was coming home from seeing her daughter that she had not seen in years. She talked about how her daughter travels so much and how she was so proud of her. It was pretty touching. I also met a mother and son that were on their way to Ireland as well. They were on a 10 day trip going from places like London, Dublin, and Amsterdam. After being on a plane for 12 hours, I started to forget how excited I was. Hearing these people’s stories and the excitement in their voices reminded me how awesome this opportunity was. 

5) Be open-minded. This seems like a given, but it has been hard so far. Getting to Galway I was so excited for the first day of getting to know the city, the people and the food. We went to drop our bags off at our accommodations and the moment I stepped outside I realized Galway’s weather was not how I had expected at all. Going from 90 degree, sunny, Kansas weather to mid-50 degree, rainy, Galway weather was definitely harder than I thought. The cold, wet weather on top of being completely exhausted was enough to put someone in a bad mood. I had to step back, realize where I was and make the best of it. Being open-minded was the key to making my first day a good day. We got the Galway tour and it was beautiful. We all kept talking about how we can’t wait to come back into town when it is not raining. I’m sure if anyone from Galway heard me say the words “not raining” they’d be laughing in my face. We came back soaked and tired, but most importantly, content.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do not think I am an expert traveler now by any means. But it’s nice to know that in the short amount of time I have spent here, I have already learned some life-long skills. Traveling alone for the first time is a scary thing. However, the amazing people I have met so far, the many places in Galway left to explore and the hopes of learning more about this culture makes all the fear worth it.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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