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Preparing for the Unknown

  My decision to study abroad was more of an assumption than anything, and determining my location was an easy choice (Australia!). But when it came time for my pre-departure preparations, there were crickets chirping in my mind. 
Much like your MyCEA Account, I had a To-Do List: Final Payment, Arrival Information, Medical Questionnaire, Passport Info…so on and so forth. While all of these items were important for my pre-departure process, those To-Do Items didn’t mentally prepare me for my study abroad. While I was excited (more realistically, ecstatic) to spend my spring semester in Australia, I had no idea what to prepare for.
My To-Do List was empty, but I still wasn’t fully prepared.  
I completed my To-Do list early (I know…I was extremely excited), but I still found myself asking numerous questions and not knowing what to expect. Where is the university? Where is my housing compared to my university? What will my housing be like? How will I get to class? Where is the closest grocery store? What type of food will I be able to buy and eat? What are the current fashion trends (I know this wasn’t important, but yes it was a question I had)? What is the weather like? What should I pack?
Lucky for me, my To-Do list was empty and I had time to research. I come from the technology generation and so I did what I knew best – I turned to Google. I spent endless of hours online, researching the crap out of Australia. 
I added my study abroad city to the weather app on my phone, and checked the weather there daily. I Google mapped directions from the university to my homestay, found the bus stops and looked up the bus timetable. I looked at photos of what Australian houses looked like and discovered the Queenslander (a style of architecture). I researched the Australian note (a.k.a. the Australian dollar) and learned that they are waterproof and rip-resistant! I even searched for YouTube videos to listen and observe the way Australian’s talk.
Silly as this may sound, all my research helped. I was prepared. I arrived in Australia and knew what to expect (as much as the Web could teach me). Don’t get me wrong, you can only learn so much online, but I had a foundation; a foundation to tie my experiences to. It helped me adapt to the Australian culture and helped me cope with culture shock. 
Study abroad changed my life, and I wonder what my experience would have been like if I wasn’t prepared. Looking back on my experience, I am thankful I took the time and researched Australia as much as I did. 
I encourage you to do the same. Yes, your MyCEA Account and To-Do List are important – you should regularly log in and complete the items by the appropriate due date – but your pre-departure process doesn’t stop at your To-Do List. Get online (I know you do that every day anyway) and Google your destination. There’s a lot to learn. 
Technology is at your finger tips. Use it and get ready for the time of your life. 
Alexandra Lindstrom is a Site Specialist at CEA who studied abroad in Australia during her junior year at University of Northern Colorado.

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