By: Pooja Bhatti, British Columbia Institute of Technology, winner of the spring 2019 BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship

Study Abroad Destination: Italy and Austria

There’s a part of the brain that gets activated when you’re about to enter something fearful: the amygdala.  It’s responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response. The day I leave to study abroad is getting closer; I find my amygdala to be on overdrive. 

In other words – I’m scared. 

Years ago, I filled out an application for a study abroad program and never submitted it.  But this time, I submitted my application at the earliest date possible. I bought my plane tickets as soon as I could.  Many thought I was just super organized, but no; I wanted to get everything sorted quickly so I would have no excuse to call it quits.

This is the first time I’m travelling without family or friends. At 23 years old, I feel I need to branch out; grow up at some point and travel on my own. I need to challenge myself to make new friends in unfamiliar situations and be okay with the unknown.

I have discovered a few strategies to help calm my fear; and if you’re like me and your amygdala is on overdrive at the idea of studying abroad, perhaps this will help you:

  1. Choose a study abroad program that isn’t too long. The one I’m attending is three weeks, filled with tours, classes, and amazing cultural experiences. You get all the benefits of travelling abroad in a short interval that is manageable.
  2. Find a travel buddy. All you need is one person who you can prepare for the trip with – having someone go through this with you helps make the whole experience feel a little more manageable. Take advantage of orientations and talk to people. I found that most people were pretty new to travelling abroad themselves and were relieved that I wanted to share this adventure with them.
  3. Get a taste of the culture before you go. I borrowed an Italian phrasebook from the library, am listening to Italian music, and watching movies set in Italy. This helps me get a taste of what I might see or hear when I actually get to the country.

Can’t relate to this? Chances are someone else travelling abroad is, and if you can, try to be that friend that can be their support and help them navigate through this new adventure they’re about to experience with you. Perhaps share some of the tips I’ve stated above – as they say, sharing is caring.

If you can relate to this? It’s okay that you’re scared. But we’ll both be okay. Our amygdalae will make it.

Student Blog


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