A Mental Study Abroad Packing List

I’ve been studying abroad here in New Zealand for two months now (wow, that was fast) and I’ve had an incredible time so far! Though I’ve traveled internationally before, I didn’t really know what to expect on a mental level before traveling and getting settled into my new life in Wellington. I’m hoping this mental packing list will help future study abroad students know what to expect as well as help friends and family back home understand what it’s like to study abroad!

1. Open-mindedness

When you travel to a new country, there’s SO much to take in all at once. Getting used to hearing a different accent, feeling out the vibe of the city, meeting new people, moving into a new house—it’s awesomely overwhelming. My best advice is to keep an open mind about everything you encounter, even the little things. For example: Kiwis call their courses “papers”? Noted. Having an open mind will honestly help you engage with your host culture to the fullest and take in the full scope of everything the city/country has to offer.

This photo of my ISA group was taken in Rotorua during our Bridging Cultures program when we learned the Haka! It is a traditional Maori war dance meant to express pride and strength. (This photo is featured on the ISA Dunedin facebook page so we were already asked permission to have it featured there)

2. Willingness to be extroverted

Part of what made my first few weeks here so much fun was having the opportunity to meet so many new people. Being an open and outgoing person was what allowed me to connect with so many interesting people who have contributed greatly to all of the positive experiences I’ve had here so far. However, being surrounded by new people may seem super daunting for some. The way to overcome that fear is to realize that everyone else is in the same situation as you. They’re all just as nervous and overwhelmed and excited to be there as you are, so put yourself out there!

I went hiking in Porirua with a big group of other international students. The breathtaking views were made even better by the company I was with.

3. Patience

Even though I’ve been super busy and social during my time here, one of the biggest things I’ve struggled with has been feeling pressure to constantly be taking advantage of my time here. I would have really appreciated it to know to have patience with myself before leaving for study abroad. Culture shock can hit at different times for everyone and sometimes you just need to take time for yourself to process. Like I mentioned earlier, there are so many people around you who are going through the same thing; it never hurts to talk to a friend about it.

4. Openness to change

After being distracted by all the tangible changes that were happening all around me at the beginning, I didn’t really expect to notice much of a change in myself. However, I soon found myself doing things I never though I’d do, namely bungee jumping!

I took a leap of faith and jumped off of the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown over mid-trimester break! It was the first ever year-round commercial bungee site.

In my opinion, the best way to make the most of studying abroad as a whole is to be open to personal growth and change. I know it’s super cliche to say “abroad changes you” but it’s TRUE. How could it not? I’m so excited to see what my next few months in New Zealand will bring!

Marlo Smith is a student at Virginia Commonwealth University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Wellington, New Zealand.

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