Wondering what I was nervous about before studying abroad at the University of Westminster? Wondering how I overcame those fears? Keep reading!
Choosing to study abroad is a big decision whether you have the travel bug or not. Leaving your everyday life to explore a new place with new people can seem daunting. I grew up in a family that was fortunate enough to travel frequently so I have always had positive memories associated with getting on a big airplane and jetting off to a new country. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to study abroad. However, I know this isn’t the case for everyone and even for a travel fanatic like myself, I was still nervous about a few things.
I knew that leaving my family for an extended period of time was going to be the hardest part about going abroad. Some kids have already experienced this if their school is far away and they only see their family during holiday breaks. However, my school is very close to my house so I get to see my favorite people quite often. The ability for my family to come visit me during my time abroad was questionable so I knew there was a possibility that I wouldn’t see them for five months. This would be the longest period of time I would go without seeing them.
Going through an academic transition was another thing I had some anxiety about. I had heard the UK education system was very different from the US. Most of my friends had said school over here was a lot easier and less stressful, so that’s a good thing right? As with anything unknown, it can still be anxiety provoking. How would I balance school work and adventuring?
Money, money, money. Probably the most common anxiety of studying abroad. Depending on where you go, traveling abroad for months can be very expensive. Traveling while under a lot of stress can lead to mistakes (ex: taking the wrong train somewhere) which then leads to spending even more. Also, it’s not legal to work under a short term visa so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a job. Living in a city also tends to cost more. Would I be able to do it?
As someone who had struggled with severe anxiety, there was always the fear in the back of my head that my debilitating mental illness could come back if I made a big transition like studying abroad. I think everyone experiences some level of anxiety, especially when thrown into new situations. I didn’t want my mental health to get in the way of my big adventure. I’d been waiting for this moment my whole life and didn’t want my own health to get in the way.
The worst feeling in the world for me is feeling uninspired. I love to express my creativity through photography, and traveling always makes me feel raw happiness. But to do my best work, I need to feel inspired. Sometimes, having so much change at once can be overwhelming and actually push me away from creation.
SO, HOW’D YOU HANDLE IT?
Even though I knew that I wouldn’t see my family for a long time and I would miss them a lot, studying abroad was something I’d been looking forward to for so long. It felt like it was my time to go have an adventure for myself. I anticipated so much personal growth and experience that leaving home really wasn’t that hard. I still miss things about home and obviously nothing can replace my family, but being in the middle of one of my dreams feels so good. I can still remember sitting on the plane in Boston when it was charging down the runway and feeling that excitement in the pit of my stomach. When the wheels lifted off the pavement and the city below got smaller and smaller, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It was my time to go on my own adventure. I think there’s something really powerful about that, and something freeing.
As with anything in life, balance is what creates happiness. One of my main goals for studying abroad was to travel like crazy. There are so many parts of the world that I want to see and I wanted to take this time to see a lot of Europe that I haven’t visited yet. But, school is also important. Creating a balance between class, project, homework, exploring the beautiful city of London, and traveling around Europe is something that takes a bit of planning but is definitely achievable.
Planning is in my blood and if you’re considering studying abroad, I’d recommend becoming a planner too.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
This is one of my favorite quotes because of how accurate it is. Planning out trips, scheduling tours, and mapping out transportation routes ahead of time will save you time and money. People usually end up spending a lot of money when they are stuck in an unanticipated situation. If you think about all of the places you want to visit in advance and make a list, you can check to see if they are in your budget. Also, even though London has some amazing restaurants, maybe watch a few cooking videos on YouTube and utilize that beautiful kitchen in your residence hall;) Buying tickets to attractions online is another great way to save a few pounds. Just little things like these will save you a great amount of cash. So, plan as much as you can but also be aware that unplanned adventures are inevitable. Make the most out of those moments because they make for the best memories.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I know that sounds super cliche, but if you’ve ever experienced any kind of mental illness, you’ll know that if you don’t believe in your own strength, overcoming your battles is going to be very hard. Sometimes we get too in our own heads about everyday stresses. Try not to let those things distract you from experiencing everything that abroad has to offer. Every single day is a fresh start, so take every moment to immerse yourself into the new culture surrounding you.
It’s really easy to be inspired in a new place if you leave your judgements at home. Culture shock can create stress for a lot of people abroad. Just because they do things differently over here doesn’t mean it’s wrong or weird, you’re just not used to it. Traveling isn’t always as glamorous as the movies make it out to be. Sometimes you’re going to be super tired and frustrated that you can’t find your favorite peanut butter in any London grocery store. But that’s ok. These small differences make living abroad worthwhile because they teach us a lot about ourselves. Who knew not being able to find peanut butter would upset so many American students?! Go outside, even if it’s raining and explore a new part of the city. Go talk to new people, walk down the side street that you usually pass by on your way to class. Studying abroad will be the time of your life if you let it. So get out there and ENJOY!