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Checking Down the List: My Pre-departure Journey


This past semester has truly been a journey for me. Like many other students, I've had to keep a long physical and mental list of all the requirements to complete before leaving, but getting to the end has made everything so worth it.

This is the reality that settled in for me during my journey to study abroad in Costa Rica: There’s a lot more to the process than what meets the eye. I began the process two semesters ago, committing to my decision to study Spanish there and when it was time to apply, I dove quickly into getting everything done, but didn’t until later realize all the steps required.

I expected the general process of covering the cost of the program, signing up for classes, deciding where I wanted to stay, and securing my passport and other travel documents. However, apart from those expectations, I had to face the tasks of  completing two separate study abroad applications simultaneously, which included a  sizable amount of questionnaires from my university, in order for them to make sure I was prepared. A process that I assumed I would finish in about two months turned into almost four months.

 The student handbook issued to me by my study abroad advisers.

I share my experiences to help create a more realistic picture of preparing to stay in a different country for a while: There's a lot more to consider and complete than what may be initially mentioned. It can be easy to fall into the fantasy of being in a place where you get to experience a different culture and learn new things, as it was for me, but it is always important to make sure one's prepared for the journey that lies ahead of the actual trip.

My advice to students who want to study abroad in an upcoming semester: plan now! It's never too early to get another passport if a new one is needed. Also, figure out where you want to go, what classes you want to take, and how long you plan on staying abroad before the actual process begins. Also, utilizing the study abroad office can be a big advantage. Study abroad advisers can guide you through the process as much as you want them to and give you a lot of useful advice.

 Me watching the sun rise in Daytona Beach, Florida. Being able to soon see a view like this again has made the process so worth it!

Coming to the end of the process has made me even more excited about going. I feel like all my efforts paid off and can imagine that so many other study abroad students feel the same way. In the few months of me preparing, I've heard numerous people in my community share their great experiences from traveling to Costa Rica and this has been my motivation to get ready for the real journey awaiting me. I'm looking forward to meeting so many Ticos and Ticas (Costa Rican locals), to a chance to watch the sun rise on the beach, and overall the opportunity to experience "Pura Vida" (pure life) in such a beautiful country.

Lois Charm is the Spring 2016 CEA MOJO Blogger in San Jose, Costa Rica. She is currently a junior at the University of Memphis.

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