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Maybe not now. Maybe not in a few weeks. Maybe not until the second you step on that plane. But there is going to be a time where you stop and think to yourself,
“WHAT AM I ABOUT TO DO?! THIS IS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE!”
For me, that moment was when I was almost at London Heathrow.
If I had access to the cockpit, I would have made best friends with the pilot and begged him to turn his jumbo jet around and point it back towards home. I was so nervous about studying abroad, and I had no idea what to do with it.
But if you’ve found yourself in that moment now (and maybe you’ve just googled ‘nervous about studying abroad’ hoping to find someone in the same situation), calm down, take a deep breath, and try and remember a few tips on beating those nerves about studying abroad.
Think of Yourself When You Return
(Almost) no one returns from study abroad wishing they hadn’t gone. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never heard of anyone say that personally, and I’ve talked to a lot of people who have studied abroad.
What usually happens is that everyone returns with about 8,323 pictures to share with their oh-so-lucky friends and family, a lot of stories that are usually only funny if you were there, and a huge appreciation for another culture and a bigger world view.
Don’t be nervous about studying abroad, because it’s going to be okay!
Think About Previous Situations You’ve Been In
You’ve done this before. Being nervous about studying abroad is no different than being nervous about starting a new school or meeting someone for the first time.
You’re uncomfortable about what to expect and how you should react, but it doesn’t take long to get your bearings straight and become familiar with your immediate surroundings.
Adapt and Thrive
You’ll adapt easier than you think you will.
Before you leave, it’s hard to imagine a world where you might not have your favorite food available or the exact drug store you’re used to or the ability to go to your local movie theater on a Friday night.
It feels like you might spend all of your time abroad missing certain things you’re used to.
The truth? You won’t!
Living abroad is far more exciting than going to your local movie theater on a Friday night, and you’ll be too busy meeting people and traveling to new cities to even notice things you thought you’d miss.
Talk to Someone Who is Going Abroad with You
Seriously, in addition to these tips on studying abroad, reach out to someone who has either been abroad or is about to study abroad with you.
Even if you don’t know them well yet, there are bound to be other students experiencing the same exact feelings as you – or maybe they’ve done study abroad in the past and can now reflect on how they felt before they left.
Don’t suffer in silence if it’s really impacting you. I talk about this in terms of dealing with culture shock as an expat, but the same goes for you.
Reach out to your study abroad office, your counselor, or even e-mail me and I’ll be happy to tell you what you’re worried about that’s definitely not true (and what is – like maybe you’ll have to adjust to amazing croissants for breakfast instead of your normal breakfast cereal. But something tells me you’ll live).
Find Some Positive Music
I often use music as a motivator, and if you’re even remotely a music fan, you should put together a few playlists of music that bring you happiness and calmness ahead of time.
For instance, instead of feeling nervous about study abroad, come up with a playlist on Spotify for the ride to the airport. Nothing too sentimental – this is your time to get yourself pumped about the journey ahead.
Make another playlist for the plane ride where you can put the music that calms you and inspires you – some background music to you mentally preparing for the journey.
And lastly, channel your nervous energy into an uplifting song that you can listen to whenever you feel stressed or worried while abroad.
Make this your go-to song, and listen to it ahead of time to start associating positive feelings with it.
Be a Bit of a Control Freak
My nerves about studying abroad were always helped by finding the most information possible.
I would make sure I knew all of the orientation times and session down to the minute.
I would look up my living space on Google Maps street view – I would even do the “walk” from the nearest tube station in London to the flat so I knew where I was going on the day.
You could read books to prepare yourself about the culture you’re moving to.
If you’re moving to England, buy Watching the English and soak it in – it’s full of great information that will help you feel like you understand what’s going on before you get there.
Other things you could do would be to reach out to any roommates or your homestay ahead of time. Establish a connection with people you’ll be living with so that you feel a bit more like you’re going home rather than going abroad.
Take a Deep Breath and Do it Anyway
Feeling nervous about studying abroad is so common, it would be more surprising if you didn’t feel that way.
That is part of the adventure, the wonderful life-changing adventure that led me to go from being a study abroad student to a full-time expat.
Sometimes, you just need to work through the nerves and take a deep breath. Feel the fear, the nerves, the anxiousness, and push forward and do it anyway.
As always, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the area you’ll be living in London or for any other advice about study abroad.