For months, I was eager to study abroad. Family and friends raved about their own travel experiences, and each new story spurred my desire for adventure. I knew the next 5 months were going to be some of the best of my life.

Then, about three weeks before I was set to leave, I started freaking out.

The magnitude of what I was doing hit me. I was leaving the country, culture, and language I knew to move halfway around the world and embrace something new. In that state of panic, all my previous excitement disappeared. I considered missing my flight, canceling my trip, and returning to Tuscaloosa for a traditional fourth semester at UA.

Despite the nerves, I pushed through. If I can just make it to the airplane, I thought, my nerves will settle. Then my thrill for studying abroad will return.

That wound up being half-true.

Getting on my flight locked me into this new path, forcing me to focus on each problem as it arose. This narrowed focus calmed some of my anxiety, making it easier to navigate.

Still, I faced nerves throughout much of the journey.

When I arrived in Spain, I struggled through a basic conversation with the customs officer, despite speaking a high level of Spanish. Then it took me 2 hours and 4 phone calls to locate the shuttle to my hotel, where I would spend the night before flying to Germany the next day.

Once at my hotel, jet lag overwhelmed me, and I crashed hard. I napped from 3pm to 8pm, and once I woke up, the combination of jet lag and nervousness made it impossible to go to sleep. I was awake all night until I left for the airport at 4:30am.

Arriving in Germany, my life began to settle down. Visiting one of my best friends and his family helped me feel less alone. There were still scary moments, often worsened by my lack of German, but each successive day increased my confidence. By the time I returned to Spain and met my host family, my nerves were largely gone. I was ready for new challenges.

Studying abroad is often painted as a magical, life-changing experience, but nobody talks about the fear and uncertainty that comes with it.

As you prepare to leave, accept the nerves as part of the journey. Take the next step forward— once, twice, and a million times more.

Studying abroad may be nerve-wracking, but it’s the challenges that make the experience unforgettable. Only by embracing the unexpected can you enjoy the richness study abroad offers.

I was super nervous stepping off the plane in Spain, so I tried to mask it (pun-intended) with an excited face in this selfie.