You’re departing soon, and your stress levels are at an all-time high. You’re possibly wondering to yourself, “Why am I doing this? It would be so much easier if I weren’t going abroad.” Easier? Yes. Better? Heck no!
The pre-departure meltdown happens to all of us in varying degrees. If you feel absolutely 100% confident and calm about everything, consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us, here are five tips for dealing with it:
Stay organized / Make lists
Keep on top of everything you have to do and set deadlines (preferably not the actual deadline, for the procrastinators out there). I find that seeing everything laid out is calming, then it stirs up the feeling of a challenge, then you believe, “I CAN do this!” — then you get it done.
Don’t leave anything until the last minute
This follows the previous point. When you’re under more pressure, you’re under more stress. When you’re really stressed, you feel the pressure even more. It’s a vicious cycle. Sometimes feeling the pressure of doing things last-minute can be good, but when it’s for a situation that’s totally out of your control, it’s one of the most nerve-wracking feelings. Apply for your passport early, especially if you’ll need a student visa. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply for your visa either in case there are issues or errors and it has to be sent back.
This was my biggest pre-departure mistake. I didn’t start packing until less than a week before leaving, and when I pack, I usually do it sooooo slooooowly. I really needed a little pressure here to get me going. A few weeks before departure, I realized I didn’t own any boots and so I went on a mad hunt to find a comfortable pair. The night before leaving, I decided to switch computers, exchanging my 17″ laptop for a tiny netbook, because it just occurred to me that I couldn’t possibly carry my normal laptop. Yep, I realized that barely 12 hours before leaving, because I didn’t think everything through. I finished packing around 1am and had to wake up at 5am to go to the airport. Believe it or not, that was finishing “early” for me! (Usually I’m packing right up until I have to leave for the airport, haha.) So you can imagine how stressful this all was, and it could have been completely avoided. I also didn’t realize how heavy my luggage was because I didn’t have time to do any test runs (see #3 below).
Make a packing list or two, ask someone to check it over in case you forgot something, and pack early so you’ll be able to see how things fit – or don’t.
More reasons to pack early:
- There’s time to go shopping if you need something. Yes, you can buy things abroad, but it won’t always be the same price/quality or as easy to find.
- You can plan out more practical, versatile outfits instead of throwing anything into your suitcase. By packing efficiently, you can pack lighter.
- You can test out how well you handle your luggage. It’s suggested that you walk down your street with all of your bags, and if you can’t do it easily that means you’re bringing too much. (Guess what? It happened to me. Really listen to this advice!) It sounds silly but is worth trying out. I also recommend going up and down some flights of stairs, since not every station will have an elevator or escalator. You’ll also have to lift your luggage onto a train, if you’re planning to travel that way.
Have a going-away party
Or a goodbye dinner, if parties aren’t your thing. Whatever type of event it is, spend time with your closest friends and family before you leave. Being surrounded by people who love you is always nice and puts you in a good mood, especially when they’re really excited for you too.
Tell yourself it’s worth it
Because it is. Remind yourself of all of the great things you’re going to do and experience when you’re outside your comfort zone. Think of all the new people you’ll meet, the delicious foods you’ll eat, the cultures you’ll get to learn about firsthand, and all the adventures that are waiting for you. This will help you to stay positive if you’re in a panic.
To everyone who’s going to study abroad soon: good luck! You have such an incredible experience ahead of you, and I wish I could be going too. Time is going to pass by quickly, so make the most of it and savor every beautiful second of your time abroad.