Referring to one of my favorite Brad Paisley songs, Í am writing a letter to any student about to embark on the journey of which I am almost done with, before they even think about it.

Dear pre-departure student,

There is no way to prepare yourself for what you are about to experience.

There will be hard days, easy days, boring days, fun days, and some days where you´re just so homesick that you don´t even feel like getting out of bed. You will have to jump over a seemingly infinite number of hurdles before you will be able to be proud of yourself, but the key is CHANGE. Change the way you used to do things if you want different results.

This journey will be a lot different than you thought it was going to be, and while at times it´s a huge disappointment, other times it opens your eyes and shows you what you need to see. If you´re having a hard time, tell yourself that this is only your temporary home, and open up your eyes instead to what is going on around you and take a deep breath. If you´re having a good time, cherish every laugh and new friend that you meet because soon you will probably never see them again!

Tell your host family how thankful you are for taking you in and making you feel at home, and if your host family is not making you feel at home, then don´t be afraid to switch families. This is YOUR experience too, and you´re paying enough-so you deserve to be happy.

You may never get back to Europe again, so travel to all of the places that you´ve always wanted to see so you have no regrets. Traveling around with your friends is the best part of studying abroad and it makes the time fly by! It also makes you learn a lot about yourself and gives you a whole new outlook on the world.

Last but not least, tell your family at home how much you love them and how much they mean to you, because you don´t notice how much they really do mean to you until you can´t see them every day, and its a rude awakening, truth be told.

Best of Luck, Live it up, and bring sleeping pills on the plane!

Hasta Luego!

Calli 🙂

Calli Nonnemacher is studying abroad in Valencia, Spain, with the University of Virginia.