Indiana University Overseas Study

Archive for the ‘Pre-Departure’ Category

Lots of Time and Lessons

Rebecca Haley - Freiburg, Germany

There has been a long break in between when I was accepted into the Freiburg-IU program for the spring in November and when I will actually leave in February. Since I was blessed with a particularly long winter break free from the rigors of academia (or other forms of mental stimulation) I have had plenty of time to think about, dwell on, and begin to stress about my upcoming program. But during this time, I have already started learning a few things and setting some goals. Each different step on this first leg of my journey, before even setting off to anywhere other than my couch at home, has taught me something new.

First, saying goodbye to friends is difficult.  I am an out-of-state student, so when I left school after the fall semester, I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends over winter break. Luckily, my application was due in early August so I knew all semester that there was a possibility of me having to say goodbye. But I would encourage anyone looking at studying abroad to appreciate this foresight. It allowed me to really cherish the time I got to spend with my friends and encouraged me to remember that while school is very important, friends can be a priority as well. In the midst of planning everything for my trip, I was learning to be present and enjoy the moment and enjoy where I am. This lesson is one that I want to stay with me once I am abroad and making friends there, and when I come back and see my friends again.

Second, although I just mentioned being present in the moment, there are practical things that do need to be planned and even the smallest details need to be considered. When I applied for study abroad, I thought about planning things like flights, housing, and other legal information, but I never thought that the things I would worry the most about were from which website I needed to buy train tickets, or about what suitcase to use (still an unanswered question). I never thought that I would be thinking so much about all the little details, but when I get these sorted out, I free up some mental space to dream about the fun that I am going to have.

Lastly, I set a goal for myself to keep an open mind about this trip. I can plan all I want but life is life and I hope that while my spontaneous traveling and globe-trotting will be new, fun and exciting, this is an amazing opportunity to live life in a foreign country rather than just be a tourist and that means discovering things like how to do laundry there and new restaurant etiquette. My goal is to remember that those things are just as exciting.

Rebecca Haley

Taking the Plunge

Susanna Sorrells - Seville, Spain

Although I am still in the United States, I feel like studying abroad has already been a huge part of my life. Everywhere I go, friends and family congratulate me and say how much they will miss me, but most importantly, everyone is excited for me. While I will miss friends and family from home and school, I know I will be in many people’s thoughts over the coming months because they are all so proud of me. It’s easy to have doubts and concerns about studying abroad and leaving a familiar place for a few months. But, it’s also a whole lot easier to think about why you should go. For me, the initial decision to study abroad in Spain was clear, as I am minoring in Spanish. I knew that in order to be able to able to consider myself fluent in Spanish, I would need to immerse myself into the language. My first goal for myself—to strengthen my Spanish.

I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the United States and see many of my own country’s glories. I have also been lucky to travel outside of the United States with family and get a taste of life in other countries. However, I have never been to Europe. I have never stayed in another country for more than two weeks… let alone four months. A lot of “firsts” will be happening to me within the coming months. First time on a plane for more than five hours. First time in Europe. First time in Sevilla. First time living in a foreign country with people I do not know but have opened their home and agreed to host me. There are so many opportunities I will have while studying abroad and I plan on taking advantage of as many as possible. My second goal for myself—check as many “firsts” off my list as I can.

Four months is a long time. But four months can go by fast. At home, I am saying that I will see everyone in four months, that it will go by fast, that I will be home before you know it. Which in some way, is true. But once in Sevilla, I only have four months. Four months to take classes, meet new people, become familiar with my home city, travel everywhere I can, strengthen my Spanish skills, and have the experience of a lifetime. Studying abroad is such a unique part of a college career, and I am so grateful I am about to have this experience. This last week of being home is full of packing and goodbyes—two things that are stressful, overwhelming, happy, and sad all at once. I have been preparing for this for months and I have a strong support team behind me. Which leads me to my last main goal for myself while studying abroad—live in the moment but remember what you came for.

Susanna Sorrells

The Ticking of the Clock

Emily Blankenhorn - Berlin, Germany

The ticking of the clock fills my mind. Today’s date posted in the bottom right hand corner of my computer weighs on me. I feel anxious. I am anxious to leave my family, pack the right things, and fly alone to a city where I don’t even know the language. But most of all, I feel eager. I am eager to be more independent, make life-long friends, travel to and explore amazing cities, take interesting classes, and try new foods.

There are four days until I leave Cincinnati, OH and fly to Berlin, Germany. As a pre-departure protocol, I am eating at my favorite Cincinnati places: LaRosas pizza, Skyline Chili, and Graeter’s ice cream. I am also spending a lot of much-needed time with my family and friends. The fact that I will be away from them for over five months hasn’t yet sunk in, and I am not sure when it will. Maybe when I’m waving goodbye at the airport, or maybe when I arrive at TXL and hear more foreign languages than familiar ones.

I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to prepare for what life will be like in Berlin. There are a multitude of sights and attractions that I can’t wait to see. From the Brandenburg Gate to the Berlin Wall Memorial, I will not be ashamed of how touristy I will be during the beginning of my time living in the city. On the other hand, I am looking forward to getting to know the city as a civilian. Over the 5 months and 19 days that I will be spending overseas, I hope to better understand what life in Berlin is like beyond the point of a visitor. I want to know what the local Germans do for fun on the weekends and after classes and what the best diamond-in-the-rough restaurants are. Overall, I look forward to calling Berlin home.

Even though I am anxious, my eagerness for adventure overshadows all the other thoughts I have. I will miss IU and my friends dearly, but I can’t wait to make some amazing memories while I’m away.

Emily Blankenhorn

Goals and Apprehensions

Christy Margeson - Nagoya, Japan

I’ve been studying Japanese since I was fifteen years old, and I knew from that very first class that I would do whatever it took to visit the country of its origin someday. Utterly fascinated with the language and culture from a young age, studying abroad has been something I decided I wanted to do long before I started college. In fact, IU’s remarkable study abroad program is one of the plentiful reasons I chose to go there in the first place.

When I received the email from the Office of Overseas Study informing me of my acceptance into the Nagoya program, I was ecstatic—to say the least. It was a goal towards which I had been working towards for what felt like such a large part of my academic career; however, as my time began winding down, and the actual trip loomed ever closer, I was suddenly struck with several different fears I had not originally considered. What if my knowledge of the language fails me in social situations? What if I have a hard time making friends? What if my classes are exceedingly difficult? I sometimes felt as though I was swimming in doubt about my personal capabilities.

But when it comes down to it, those apprehensions are all part of what I believe will make up my study abroad experience. To quote cultural American icon, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter: “I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.” Although I’m not about to step out onto a stage and give an amazing performance worthy of breaking the internet like Beyoncé, this piece of advice is one I’ve found myself thinking about quite often lately. This nervousness pervading my senses, to me, serves as a sign that I’m doing something right—a sign that I’m pushing myself socially, mentally, and emotionally. For me, one of the biggest aspects of studying abroad is pushing myself to grow, not only with my understanding of Japanese, but also as a person.

That’s not to say that it’s not going to be hard. Before I left Indiana, I made it a point to visit my two older sisters in Colorado, my friends in Bloomington and Indianapolis, as well as my extended family in Connersville. Saying goodbye was difficult, and in a few cases there were mutual tears shed; my mother stayed with me at the airport until I boarded the plane, and we parted teary-eyed, missing each other already. Not to mention my beloved cat whom I loathe to leave behind for an entire academic year.

But I believe that all of the difficult parts of this experience help to make it all the more meaningful. They are the parts that truly flesh out the overall big picture, the parts that are inevitable and terrifying and fantastic about any human experience. I want this study abroad experience to push me to the very limits of my capabilities, so that I can grow in all the spectacular ways one unavoidably grows when outside of one’s comfort zone. I couldn’t be more excited to immerse myself in Japanese culture and improve my skills in the language from first-hand experience; I hope to accomplish all the goals I set for myself with this experience since I was fifteen years old, and then some.

Christy Margeson

Fly Me Away!

Rachel Larsen - Copenhagen

T-minus 4 weeks before taking off on the journey of a lifetime. I’ll be honest, this is a really odd feeling. While it seems like there is so many things I should be preparing for, its difficult to figure out exactly what that is. I’m picking up on a little bit of Danish (Jeg er tale lidt dansk), and I’ve started looking at what I’d like to do with my free time while in Denmark and during my stopover in LA.

Without a doubt in my mind, the hardest thing I’ve done so far is scheduling the actual means of travel.

I love to fly and I’ve scheduled quite a few domestic trips for conferences and previous study experiences. International travel is a whole new ball game. I’ve laid out some tips for students to get ahead of the flight-booking game that may make it a little easier for you on your journey than it was on mine.

1. Change Your Departure City

I understand that flying out of the airport 30 minutes from your apartment is probably the easiest, but it may not be the cheapest. I love Indianapolis and the airport is amazing for domestic flights. The international airfare through Indy is much more expensive than anywhere else I looked. By choosing to fly out of Chicago, my flight was almost $200 cheaper. Not to mention, I get to stay with a few friends before and after the trip in Chicago!

2. Round-Trip or One-Way? (more…)

On to the Next Adventure

Alexa Stegemoller

It may be odd, but for me I find that when I’m traveling I’m often the most comfortable. Although I may say Bloomington or even my hometown is home, it’s really just a stop on the road where I can save up money for the next adventure. This year, studying abroad was my adventure and I wasn’t going to let a single day pass without living it to the fullest. I had two months prior to the start of my program and although most would stay at home in preparation of their journey abroad, I packed my backpack and went on my way. I’m lucky enough to have quite a few friends around the world and figured I’d use these connections to my advantage. Long story short; I stayed in England for a week, New Zealand for a month, Brisbane for about 10 days, and have now made my way to Adelaide. It’s strange to say that arriving in Adelaide is “settling down” but it does feel nice to unpack my bags and know where I’ll be staying each night.

NYE London

New Years Eve in London

Te Henga Coast on the North Island of NZ

Te Henga Coast on the North Island of NZ

Petting Kangaroos on the Gold Coast

Petting Kangaroos on the Gold Coast

I can definitely say that all of my previous travels will play a huge role in the way I perceive my study abroad experience. Traveling, especially solo, forces you to open up to absolute strangers and make friends in the most unlikely places. Hopefully, these experiences will allow me to make the absolute most of my semester!

While I’m in Adelaide, I’ll be staying at a residential college called St. Marks. I have two amazing flat mates, both of whom are from Australia, and everyone is incredibly friendly. From the short time I’ve been here, I can tell it’s very comparable to Greek life in America. They have loads of rituals, traditions, a crest, a motto, and an amazing sense of community. I’m in the middle of Orientation and with any luck, by the end of the week, I’ll be a “fresher they can’t refuse.”


Flying into Adelaide!



The Beauty of Adventure


Last week, I had an epiphany sitting in the chair at my dentist appointment. As my dental hygienist and I were talking about my upcoming trip to Australia, one of the first questions she asked me was “does your dorm have air conditioning?” and while I sat there for 20 minutes with tools in my mouth preventing me from talking, it hit me that I quite frankly know nothing about what’s about to happen to me. I had no clue whether there was air conditioning in my dorm, let alone what phone plan I was supposed to get or how to transfer my money to Australian currency.

Most people I run into ask questions like “Aren’t you SO excited?!” and “Have you started packing yet??” when they find out I’m studying abroad. Well, first thing’s first—I’m writing this a week before I leave and I have yet to even think about packing. But what’s more alarming to me when people ask me those questions is the fact that I haven’t actually felt all that excited to leave. It doesn’t seem appealing to not be able to see my family, friends, and boyfriend for five whole months. I love my roommates, I love IU, and I especially love Bloomington. Why would people voluntarily leave something that is so good to them?

Well, things have a way of seeming surreal until they’re actually happening—studying abroad is no exception to that. You don’t actually know what they will be like or what’s in store, but little reminders (like going to the dentist) keep telling you that it’s coming up, it’s happening, it’s inevitable. I have known since November that I was going to be spending a semester in Australia, but I hadn’t been faced with the realities that go along with that decision until now. With this intimidating realization, I can only remind myself of why I chose to study abroad in the first place.

I have long struggled with the pressures that come along with being a pre-med student at IU. Classmates seem to be members of every club on campus, all while maintaining a 3.9 GPA and volunteering on the weekends. I quickly fell into the trap of academic and professional pressure, always wondering if I would ever be enough. Studying abroad came out of the conclusion that I desire to be more than words on a resume. I want to truly live out those words so that people around me can testify what type of person I am by my actions.

So, I could either ignore that voice inside me, or I could start doing things to grow and better myself. If I do know one thing about myself, it’s that I love a good adventure. However, adventure forces you to turn away from what’s familiar in order to turn towards the unknown. It’s the simple beauty of adventure. Explorers may have no idea what’s ahead of them, but they do know it can only be good. They thrive for something different, something to stimulate a different part of their brain that’s never been aroused before. I want to see different sights, feel different feelings, and learn things about the world that I would never learn by simply staying put. What better way to do these things than studying abroad? I’ve made the choice, paid the fees, and said goodbye. Now it’s just time to sit back and hope the person next to me on the 16 hour flight and I get along!

Hollay Paddack - exploring the ecological diversity in Australia

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