“You’ll have to visit the Highlands! And Glasgow! And Loch Ness (obviously)! And St. Andrews! And Stirling—it’s so underrated! And you know flights in Europe are ridiculously cheap—go to Paris and London, and Rome if you can. But don’t forget to enjoy Edinburgh while you’re there! Make sure you take full advantage of the academic experience but know that your travel experiences are just as valuable.”
In the time leading up to my study abroad (which is now less than a week away!), I’ve been bombarded with well-meaning tips that leave me feeling just as overwhelmed as excited. In between booking flights, renewing my passport, religiously watching Rick Steve’s travel videos, and reading the 13 books assigned by my professors, I feel as though I’m struggling to manage my 6 weeks abroad before I arrive in my host country. Even before going abroad, I’m surprised by how easy it’s been for me to worry that I’m missing out on something.
In juggling these logistic and emotional fears, I’ve come to recognize what I expect will be one of the most important lessons I will continue to learn while abroad: living in the present moment is the best possible way to enjoy my experiences. It’s important to consider the advice of others, but it’s even more important to simply take each day as it comes and enjoy the little gifts of every moment. And this includes appreciating the experiences of preparation! I’m ridiculously excited to hop on a nine-hour flight, spend my days navigating cobblestone streets, and steeping myself in literature like a bag of English Breakfast tea, but I’m working to enjoy the preparation I get to experience now.
I’m focusing more on embracing the excitement and wonder I feel right now. I’m enjoying my American cheeseburgers, pork steaks, and strawberry shortcake (and especially embracing the 4th of July celebrations that are underway at the moment). I might be planning photography expeditions and booking Airbnb's, but I’m training myself to enjoy living in those moments because that’s the most important thing I can do while abroad. If I want to fully enjoy my experiences abroad, I need to begin the practice of appreciating the present moment now.
So often, it seems like the “next best thing” is just around the corner, and if we only reach hard enough, we might truly begin to enjoy our experiences. But each moment is filled with unimaginable value. Each mundane moment can bring us to a greater appreciation for the more unexpected adventures. Each planning spreadsheet can (hopefully) guide us to noticing the simple, beautiful details of life that might otherwise go unnoticed. Already, I’m loving my study abroad experience—even though I’m still sitting in my favorite coffee shop in southern Illinois, I’m learning and growing from this experience.
What have you learned from your preparations for studying abroad? What have you found most difficult as you prepare to study abroad? Do you have any suggestions for living in the present moment? I’d love to hear from you! I can’t wait for you to join me on my travels!