Getting accepted into your dream university – or in my case, dream exchange program – is a huge thing. My entire body was shaking of sheer excitement. I was at work, but I had to go home, as I could not focus on anything apart from my anticipation. However, I have later come to realize the flipside of studying away from home – as it is completely disrupting my everyday life that I enjoy so much and as it is perhaps driving me far apart from some of the people that I love the most.

I am going abroad for one year this August and as August is approaching day by day, the warm excitement from when I was just accepted into the program has increasingly been replaced by a feeling of fear. A fear from saying goodbye to my friends and family, a fear from not having the time of my life abroad as I am “supposed to”, and a fear from not getting as good a job afterwards as the one that I have just said goodbye to.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all of these excessive thoughts I find a comfort in knowing two things. 1. That this is a completely normal reaction to such a big thing in my life and 2. This sceptical feeling is not eternal – I have had such thoughts before and I have never been confirmed in my fears.
At one point I was going to Shanghai on exchange through homestay at a Shanghainese family. I remember the first night in China, going to bed already at 7 PM and just lying in my bed with tears in my eyes of longing for home, writing to my friends in Denmark that this was definitely going to be the worst time in my life. However, the very next day, the mood of my text messages was completely different, as my Shanghainese experience turned out to be completely phenomenal, leading me to move to that very city during my sabbatical year.

When coping with feelings like this, what I found especially helpful was to force an open mindset upon myself. Every obstacle or bump on the road, I found was a lot easier to overcome whenever taking upon the challenge with a positive attitude. At the end of the day, going out in China, singing Danish children’s songs in front of with a bunch of people you have just met, just becomes a lot more fun when approaching it with an openness and a zest for life.

On the basis of this – and all other defining experiences in my life of which I have been initially scared of – I truly believe that my year abroad will also this time be completely amazing if just keeping a positive outlook in mind. Getting out of my comfort zone and shaking up my routines have so far only contributed positively to my life – broadening my perspective on the world and on myself – so why will the next step be any different?

Written by Sarah Nipper