¡Hola! My name is Avonelle Davis and I am a sophomore Diplomacy major at Seton Hall, originally from Mt. Pocono, PA. I will be spending Spring 2015 in Heredia, Costa Rica, taking classes in Advanced Spanish and a few courses on Latin American History, Literature, and Art at La Universidad Latina. As an introduction to my column in the Envoy, I’m going to share tips that I’ve picked up while preparing for my trip.
Tip 1: “Pre-Immerse” Yourself
I knew it would be very difficult to keep myself practicing Spanish over winter break. In order to avoid losing any progress in Spanish I have made, I tried to do simple things to keep myself up to speed. Often, we learn the word for items like kitchen appliances or bathroom items early in our language journey, but as grammar becomes the focus of our study, simple vocab words for items you will use abroad every day tend to be forgotten. The first thing I did was to label commonly used items in my house with their Spanish names.
Another method of pre-travel immersion is to keep up to date with the events in the region you’ll be visiting. A good way to do to this is to skim a well-regarded local news site at least every few days to brief yourself on local politics and culture. While no one actually expects you to be a walking almanac when you arrive, you may find it helpful to have an understanding of current events in your town.
Tip 2: Make a List
One of my most important rules for traveling is that no packing list is too detailed. It’s really important to give yourself a week to prepare a proper packing list. I say this because you need time to take note of the things that you use on a regular basis, but maybe not every day. Being able to check these items off of a physical list makes it easier to remember important things.
But remember, a detailed packing list is different from a large one. Over-packing is a very easy crime to commit. That one face mask that you only use every month or so should stay home along with 12 of your 15 pairs of sunglasses and your perfume collection. Even if you do find yourself with enough room in your suitcase on the way there, you won’t have much room for anything you could buy to bring home.
Tip 3: Stay Organized
This should go without saying, but if you are anything like me, organization just isn’t your thing. And that’s okay. My advice for staying on top of things is to try your hardest to keep important documents in one place. Find a safe place away from all of your clutter to store items like your passport, flight schedule, and other study abroad forms. This way, when it’s time to leave, you won’t find yourself in a panic trying to find everything you need. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to be the person who scrambles for their passport the night before they leave.
Tip 4: Give Yourself a Break
Leaving everything that is familiar to you is stressful for so many reasons. It is completely normal for you to be freaking out. Allow yourself time to worry about getting through Customs, whether your host family will like you, how long it will take for you to learn a new language, or if you’ll be plagued with
eternal homesickness. Chances are, none of these things will happen and you will have an amazing time, but since worry is inevitable, just let it happen. Once you step off the plane in your new (temporary) home, the excitement will take over and most of your stress will be all but forgotten.
Hopefully, these tips help relieve some apprehension anyone may have about preparing for a trip of any length. I will continue to document my trip on the Envoy website, so look out for updates!