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CGE Influencer: Cavan Walker | Study Abroad Preparation Tips

Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, It’s a Mess

August 14th, 2023. Nashville, TN. At Home. T-minus 16 Days, 16 Hours, and 16 Minutes. It’s a mess.

When speaking to a friend joining me on my study abroad experience in Japan, I came to realize just how different everyone’s study abroad preparation is. Some students have an expansive travel history and some have never left the state of Tennessee. While some students worry more about what they are going to pack, others are worried about ordering their first passport.

Being a dual citizen of the US and the UK and having family in both means that I have had some experience traveling before. However, I have not left the country in six years, let alone without my family, so this experience will be relatively new for me.

Due to this lack of experience, uprooting my entire life for three months is a bit stressful. Who would have known? Most would assume that packing is the hard part of the preparation for study abroad, and while that might seem true on the surface, the hard part of the preparation for myself is the logistics. Between preparing my financials, confirming trip preparation, and setting up an international phone plan, my trip preparation feels like a mess. However, as the days pass, things get done, and my list is beginning to look quite tidy.

While travel preparations might feel like a mess at times, here are some tips that I have compiled to help with the process:

1. Make a list, or two. A packing list and a preparation list. Ideally a couple of months before your departure date. Creating these lists early allows for time to add items that you consider as time goes on. It also allows for consideration of items that could take longer to procure such as passports, bank cards, and medications.

2. Pack light, but not too light. While you should be able to live comfortably, the more baggage you have, the more difficult it will be to carry around the city. I am personally bringing a backpack and a duffel bag, avoiding luggage that I have to drag.

3. Compile important documents, the sooner the better. Some of these are a passport, plane tickets, and my Covid card (just in case). I am packing photocopies of these documents in multiple locations in case of emergency.

4. Consider money, you’re going to need it. Speak with your bank about your time abroad. It would be beneficial to confirm that your cards will not be frozen, understand the international fees, and currency exchange rates. When packing currency and cards spread it out between your personal and multiple bags.

5. Speaking of bags, bring extra, specifically ones that pack down. You never know when you might need an extra grocery bag or a day bag for a hike.

6. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. When packing your carry-on, prepare to live out of it in the situation that your checked bag gets lost. Include a change of clothes, toiletries, necessary medications, and any other important items.

At the end of the day, life is not perfect and plans go awry. While you can prepare all you want, the important part is to roll with the punches and enjoy your time abroad no matter what the complications. It might feel like a mess right now, but things will sort themselves out..

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