01/02/2014 10:41 am ET Updated Mar 04, 2014

Advice I've Received Before Studying Abroad

Studying abroad can seem like a scary prospect, especially for those of us who've never left home. Later this month I will be leaving the United States for the first time since I was seven years old to attend my school's study abroad program in Sydney, Australia. Past all of the logistical stuff, the really big steps are getting your visa and preparing for a long flight (hopefully not even thinking about how disorienting stepping off that plane is going to be after losing a day in the process and trying to find your way in a city you've never been in in a hemisphere you've never been in). Here are a few pieces of advice I've been given for my trip that may help with your journey.

Getting your visa can be easy or hard depending on where you're going. Most countries make you visit a consulate for an interview, while some have services online. Make sure to have your passport renewed and with you at this point, and triple check your information. Even a tiny error can give you a huge problem while traveling.

The flight I'll be taking is around fifteen hours straight. I have a hard enough time getting through the six hour flight from coast to coast! Ever since I found that piece of information out I've joked that, "Somebody should shoot me with a tranq dart." But, because I'm the type of person who is never able to sleep on planes I am planning to buy some sleeping pills. The flight will take a lot out of you so bring at least one good book, your computer, extra water, and snacks! Also maybe a map or sundial or something if you get as lost as I do. Make a list of what you want to accomplish while you're there on or -- preferably -- before the plane ride. Wear comfy clothes that are sensitive to the climate you'll be stepping into, i.e. no jeans in Abu Dhabi!

Look for people on your flight who are headed around the same place; traveling in pairs can be better than traveling alone in a strange country (unless they're generally bad people). Maybe you can ride to your destination together! Make a friend! If you do not speak the language native to this country, ask your new friend questions; chances are they're also going to be struggling with their pocket dictionaries.

Once you're off the plane, take a breather to figure out where you're headed. Don't go blindly into the world. Keep your money at hand, but not out in the open where you're vulnerable. Be street smart. Enjoy the cab/train/bus ride to where you're headed. Notice things and, to quote the Harry Potter franchise's Ex-Auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody: "Constant vigilance!"

Once you're where you need to be, go exploring! Be adventurous. Let your loved ones know you're safe first, but go out into that strange new world and find where you're going to get coffee the next morning, or the closest bank, or the coolest park bench. Have fun with it before you have to start your academically rigorous semester once more. Breathe.