15 Ways to Mentally Prepare Before Moving Abroad

15 ways to mentally prepare

Your ticket has been bought, you’ve dusted off your suitcase (holy shit that thing is a lot smaller than I remember) and you’re kind of starting to panic.

Is this real life? Am I really moving across the ocean to a foreign country where I don’t know a single soul?

Yup. That’s happening.

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So how do you mentally prepare yourself before the big move so that you don’t totally have a melt down in the airport? Let’s break it down into some bite sized pieces of advice.

  1. Realize that most of what you know about cultural rules and norms in your home country will soon be irrelevant. Spain (and any other country, really) is a whole other ballgame.
  2. Invest in a scarf (or scarves) and wear them religiously from October-April or face the wrath of Spanish Women Everywhere.
  3. This is a cliché…but expect the unexpected. The best memories are the ones you’d never imagine you could make. For example, seeing the Mona Lisa (expected) is cool, but getting serenaded by 3 French teens with guitars as you sip wine on the Champs de Mars (unexpected) is unforgettable.Eiffel Tower- Paris, France Andalucía Bound Blog


  4. Calm the eff down. I don’t mean to be harsh, but don’t waste your last few months at home worrying about visas and background checks and finding an apartment etc etc. I mean yes, get the do-able things done, but realize most of your worries are things that aren’t in your control. Breatheeeee.
  5. Start studying Spanish (or whatever language they speak in your soon-to-be home). At least for me, the majority of my nervousness about moving abroad stemmed form my lack of confidence in my Spanish skills and imagining myself having to navigate life (bank accounts, apartment hunting, talking to my coworkers) in Spanish. You’ll feel a lot better and it will go a lot smoother if you brush up before you come.
  6. Awkward is the new normal. You no longer blend in, for better or for worse. Get used to it.
  7. Embrace your physical differences. You will most likely be called out for everything from piercings and tattoos to the weird mole on your arm, or will maybe be asked if you’re pregnant. I’m not kidding. That actually happened (more than once in my life). Kids can unwittingly be brutal, though usually (usually) adults have more tact. If you’re self-conscious about something, I suggest you get over that ASAP.
  8. Learn the generic/international name for any meds you may take. You’ll thank yourself later, just in case.
  9. Convince yourself that you’re competent. Sometimes it may feel otherwise when you first get here, so make sure it’s engrained deep.
  10. Think carefully about how you want to portray your home country and do some research so that you can do it justice when it comes time to defend it against negative stereotypes and people who have only seen it in the movies.
  11. Learn how to drink like a Spaniard and avoid those uncomfortable guiri moments where you order sangria and all of the Spaniards uncomfortably shift in their seats.
  12. Prepare to be humbled. Fitting in won’t come easily and you’ll have to accept being wrong every once in a while so that you can learn and grow to understand your new foreign culture.
  13. Don’t get cocky. Yes, it’s cool that you are moving abroad , but don’t treat others as if they’re missing out just because they’re not. You’ll probably be jealous of them come some rainy Sunday 2 months down the road when you’re totally homesick and lonely.Travel Quote
  14. Speaking of homesick and lonely…expect homesickness. Yes, this coming from the girl who couldn’t wait to go away for college and who rarely went home except for summer and winter vacations even though she only lived an hour away. I didn’t think homesickness would get a grip on me as I’ve never been home-lover if that makes sense. My home always gave me a bit of anxiety for personal reasons so I definitely did NOT expect to crave it so badly once I was abroad.
  15. Revel in the fact that you’re about to make one of the biggest leaps of your life and be proud of yourself for being so brave!

So, do you think you can do it? Have you ever moved abroad and felt mentally prepared beforehand? What are your tips and suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

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15 thoughts on “15 Ways to Mentally Prepare Before Moving Abroad

  1. Thanks for this! The only thing I’m stressing about it my lack of Spanish speaking skills but I’m hoping I will be ok! Where did you end up getting placed this year?


    • Hey!

      Don’t worry too much about your Spanish. It will quickly improve as long as you put in the effort!

      I’m currently in Mérida, Extremadura, but I’ll be heading to Arcos de la Frontera in Cádiz (where I lived from 2011-2013) come August. It will definitely be interesting to go back!

      Thank you for reading 🙂


  2. 1,6, 7, 12 and 14, so much!

    The first time my spanish flatmate saw me come out of my room without makeup and screamed “Tienes un grano!!” (of course I didn’t know what a grano was) I was mortified!! Ugh! Although interestingly, when I went back to the US I dyed my hair bright purple and in NY I had at least 5+ strangers giving me compliments a day…here, not one single peep. Ever. So I don’t know what the deal is with that. But I have embraced the awkward for the most part, so many amusing moments that happen from living in another culture. Number 1 is golden, I thought Spain would be ‘normal’ as a western european country..uhh hahaha no.

    Also agreed, expat loneliness is definitely its own fierce breed…I wasn’t prepared for that.

    Also I know you were going for mental preparations, but I’m gonna throw in having a good chunk of money in the bank too because it relieves so much mental stress when you have so many other things to worry about. Nice list!


    • Hahahahahah ugh i still hate when my boyfriend calls me out on zits… not okay! And definitely true about having money… that’s probably the biggest constant stressor in my life!! can someone just rob a bank for me already? 😉


  3. Some really great advice. It’s interesting what things we’ll panic about before setting out that never materialize or are so much easier to deal with than we imagined.


  4. Cute list! I’m getting ready to move abroad, but it’s more a slow travel /fact finding trip to decide where to move to! Plan to travel through Portugal, Spain and Italy with that in mind plus do some tourist traveling before heading toEastern Europe and Asia hopefully if we have enough money in the bank. Hey, I appreciated hearing the tip about not getting “too cocky”


  5. Hey, thank you so much for this list (hopefully you still get replies!) – heck your whole website here! I’m about 3 months out from my move to Madrid and one of the things I’m having a hard time finding information about is how to get my prescription once I’m over there. I take a controlled (at least in the US) med for my ADD and its probably the only thing I’m truly panicking over. Can you point me in a direction for information or perhaps you’ve run across this issue yourself and can give me pointers?

    Thanks so much again for all the info!


    • Hi Nicole! I haven’t had much experience with perscriptions here actually. If you’re comfortable with a public forum, I’d suggest asking in the 2014-2015 auxiliar group on facebook because I remember someone else asking that question as well and I’m sure some one else in the group has been in the same situation as you. Good luck with everything!


  6. Pingback: Five Cold Hard Truths About Living Abroad - Logan Wenger

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