Studying abroad is something that I have dreamed of doing since I was in middle school. I can still remember doing my eighth grade passion project on the significance of studying abroad in creating a well rounded education. This project ignited a spark within me that continued to grow through my high school years. In the fall of this past school year, my freshman year, I attended the study abroad fair on campus and felt an even stronger urge to go see the world through education abroad. Despite being so passionate and driven to study abroad, I was very hesitant to jump right in because I had never left the country; at the beginning of my freshman year I did not even have a passport! I learned many valuable lessons as I prepared to go abroad for the first time and I want to share them to encourage other international travel rookies to go for it! Here are my top three tips and takeaways for the preparation period:

1) When it comes to booking tickets for transportation ask as many questions as possible! I had to independently book my flights, trains, and other transportation for my program and had I not asked for so much input, I may not have been so successful in getting from one place to another. I did not know the process of international flights and the significant amount of time that the various checkpoints, such as customs, can add to travel. Before you book any flights I highly encourage you to ask a handful of experienced travelers for input. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that may seem obvious. I had to ask someone what they meant when they said I would have to go through “customs.” It is better to ask and get clarification than to guess and find out you were wrong when it is too late!

2) Find a system that works for you to organize the details of your travel plans. I started a Google Doc as soon as I booked my flight, and it was extremely helpful to have a centralized location for my other travel plans to be stored as they were booked. In this document I kept information such as airline name, flight departure times, confirmation numbers, seat numbers, train ticket confirmations, train ticket links, public transportation booking confirmations, and more! By doing this I could chronologically order all of my tickets and see any holes in my travel plans. Having a running record of bookings is so helpful in ensuring that you do not overlap any plans or incorrectly book additional tickets.

3) Don’t let negativity steal your excitement! I can remember a slew of people sharing negative information about international travel just before I left and it made me very anxious. However, once I started my journey abroad I quickly learned that those negative anecdotes were not only unhelpful, but misinforming. Every person’s travel experience is unique. International travel is very common and I found help and assistance to answer questions and provide directions at every point along the way. The airport, airline, and other hospitality employees are very knowledgeable and always available to help in any way that they can. Studying abroad is one of the most exciting things that I have ever taken part in and I encourage anyone else who is an international travel rookie to keep an optimistic outlook despite any negativity because the world is too big for one story to prevent you from going to experience it!

I have such a different view on international travel after my preparation to study abroad, and now that I have made it to my program I am so excited for what is in store. I am thankful for the confidence that I gained through following the three tactics above and am ready to endure the life changing experiences of an education beyond the four walls of a classroom.