I’ve always been an organized person, just take a look at my planner! Since my first, school-given agenda in 2010 I’ve kept track of deadline after deadline, even notes for things as simple as ‘text Mom!’, to help me keep track of my days. In my experience, if it’s not written down it will quickly trickle out of mind and into nonexistence. One moment I’m sitting down for dinner, wondering how my evening got so free, the next it’s midnight and I’m jolted awake with the memory of an assignment due the next morning.
During the pre-departure process, planning, scheduling, and especially list making have moved up in the ranks from necessary to essential. After finishing my application to study abroad through Hope and through IES Abroad, I thought the worst was behind me. But soon the acceptance email came, along with piles of forms to fill, doctor’s appointments to schedule, plane and train tickets to book, not to mention a visa to apply for.
When I felt myself becoming overwhelmed by the amount of details and meetings I needed to remember, there were a few things that helped immensely. First, of course, my planner, to keep track of the many due dates and tasks to accomplish before leaving. Second, the purchase of a bright orange folder. I used this for my trip to apply for my visa, in order to hold any personal documents and important information in one place. Third, a sense of perspective. It is easy to get lost under the never ending to-do list that study abroad requires. There was a point where, instead of feeling excitement at this opportunity, all I could feel was the stress that the preparation brought me. I often had to re-center my thoughts and remind myself the reasons I wanted to travel in the first place.
In time, I’ve realized that the process of preparing to study abroad is the true application. All of the things I’ve done to prepare have been a test of my resourcefulness, patience, time management skills, and self reliance. If I can navigate Chicago, find a FedEx to print my documents, walk a mile to the consulate and wait in a room for 4 hours without a phone, to apply for my visa in a meeting that takes all but 10 minutes, I can do anything.