By Emma Buchman
There’s always that age-old tale of those who leave to study abroad going through the laborious task of packing (and sometimes unpacking) their suitcases to leave. Additionally, you hear the horrifying stories about getting visas, securing finances, and all of that other good stuff. You’re about to hear another one of those stories, but hopefully my story will be different enough to capture your attention and informative enough that you haven’t felt like you wasted your time.
I left for London on Sept. 4, and the weeks leading up to it were stressful regardless of the efforts I made. The most daunting task was probably getting my visa. The last time I needed a visa, I underestimated the time needed and ended up panicking about whether or not I would be able to get my visa in time. It didn’t help that I was informed at the last minute that my father was not allowed to accompany me into my visa appointment, because I was 18, and so I was left to cry alone in the middle of the French embassy.
I did not want that to happen again. I planned very far in advance, applied for the visa as soon as I was able to, and had all of my ducks in a row. Yet, somehow, I still ended up panicking for two weeks. I was invited last minute on an international mission trip, and when I originally said yes to them, I did not know that you needed to send your passport to the British consulate in New York rather than get the visa in person at a local embassy. Everything worked out, but it required a lot of hurried planning and some extra money to pay for priority shipping.
Packing was a hassle, as it usually is. I tried to be all nonchalant and knowledgeable because this is not my first rodeo; I spent a semester in France several years ago. I knew what I was doing. Even with that experience, however, packing will always be a difficult task, at least for me. I can’t tell you how many agonizing minutes I had spent deciding which Dalek to take with me, or should I really bring all of my “Sherlock” DVDs when it’s probably going to be on Netflix. Plus, this wasn’t just a study program. I will be doing an internship while I’m over there as well, so I had to prioritize what clothes to bring (both business and casual) and try to be conservative in packing mostly neutral colors. As much as I wish I could say I’m experienced in this area, I still needed help picking and choosing what to bring and what to leave at home.
The last thing that really got to me happened only two days before I left. One of the tasks that I had to do was make sure I was covered by my insurance company for time abroad. I was covered for emergencies, and at the time I thought that was good enough. It’s not like I’m going to be going to the doctor every week. Alas, that would not cut it, and I did not discover this fact until very late in the game when I read in the program that I had to be covered for “all eventualities.” I was had to do last minute research on a topic that I didn’t think I would have to worry about for a least five more years, and I had to buy medical insurance, all the while making my parents’ brains fry from worry. Worst of all, I completely forgot that WC offered access to travel insurance. If I had been more thorough in my research, I could have prevented a lot of unneeded stress.
The fact of the matter is that there is always something. No matter how thoroughly you plan your time abroad, there will be something you have missed or forgotten. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a part of being human. Part of making your time abroad successful, though is being able to compensate for human error when it happens and moving forward. Honestly, as long as you have your passport, a visa in that passport, and a towel (always know where your towel is), there’s nothing that you can’t do.