Dear past self,
I know you are feeling a wide range of emotions pre-departure. You’re nervous, anxious, excited, curious, and much more. You have spent so much time imagining yourself living abroad and living through a variety of different situations. What I can tell you now is that no matter how many scenarios you have gone over in your head, no matter how many times you’ve looked up pictures and videos of Vienna on the internet, your study abroad experience will without a doubt defy your expectations in the best way possible.
One of my biggest goals while studying abroad has been to grow both professionally and personally. I could tell you now that you have achieved your goal, as not only have you learned crucial skills inside of the classroom, but you have come to know yourself so much more on a personal level as well. Although you still have so much to learn and experience, taking your place as an exchange student at an international university has led you to develop cross-cultural relationships- both professional and personal- that could not have been possible without participating in such a program. It has also taught you how to value your much-needed alone time, something that you never knew how to properly appreciate.
What I know now that I wish I knew before is to let go of the fear of missing out. You will feel overwhelmed sometimes, as there will be a lot of pressure to do as much sight seeing and going out as possible, in an effort to soak up as much as possible. You will catch yourself trying to push yourself to go out and think “You’re not in Vienna everyday!” However, a chill weekend in is sometimes necessary even if everyone else you know is going out. Do not feel guilty or as if it is time wasted to have a movie night by yourself- those nights will teach you a powerful lesson in self care, which will help you mentally, emotionally and physically! Listen to yourself and respect your need to sometimes relax and take it easy!
Your biggest surprise has been how quickly you became comfortable with your surroundings. You will find that a quality of yours is that you are flexible, adaptable, and optimistic, which is great while studying abroad! The way you have learned to navigate this city and its quirks will further encourage you to pursuing your dream career that is very travel-intensive, or that even includes relocating to a country outside of the USA, are possible and something that you should look into.
In closing, I know that this experience is full of planning and anticipation, but as I am sitting here writing this letter in December (wow- already!), I can say that it happens in the blink of an eye. My biggest pieces of advice is to always remember to stop and smell the roses, they will be gone before you know it!
With love always,