I am up late three days before I get on the plane and head to Ireland. Why? It is a mix of excitement, fear, and the boneless chicken wings I had for dinner. But when it all becomes too overwhelming I look over all of the things I have prepared to leave the country. Personally, I think this is the most important thing to accomplish.
First of all, don't be afraid to annoy the international department. Over the last few months I have become well acquainted with the lovely people who work for University College Dublin's International Relations. This is because I usually e-mail them once a week, if not more. Now it is important to re-read the e-mails you have already recieved to ensure that you are not repeating the same questions - that is nagging. But when leaving your world behind, especially when it is outside of the country, more so if it is your first time - I think ensuring everything is proper is not a bad thing. So if you end up sending over fifty e-mails, not a big deal. The worse thing that happens is they have someone else e-mail you back because they've become tired of you. I wont say how many times I have been transferred to another person.
I put the "e-mail them" section first because that is how I handled things. What might be a better idea, at least in the beginning, is to look over the website a few times. Now, most collegiate websites are full of fluff and the core information you need is hidden behind unnecessary pictures and bloviated back-patting. But when you send your first couple of e-mails out, usually the department will respond with a couple of important links. This is because they want you to LOOK THESE OVER CAREFULLY. I have learned the hard way that if you ask them a question about something that is answered in a page from the link they sent you, no one ends up happy. Patience is a virtue, but most colleges don't hire saints. Bookmark key pages like directions, you're degree's department page, and the international department's page. Usually, somewhere on that latter page, there is a checklist for all incoming students.
Finally, when you've made sure that you have gleaned every bit of information from the school, it is time to deal with the homeland. It is important to make sure you've done everything the country requires for you to be allowed to leave. Hopefully the passport was obtained the moment you thought about leaving - usually the international schools wont even let you finish the application unless you get one. But there are other small things, like telling your bank that for the few months all your charges will be in the Euro. This is a good plan because if you don't then your card will be canceled because of credit fraud monitoring procedures.
To follow that, you have to decide what it is you will want to do in the other country. If you would like to work and make some extra money, be sure to look into getting a work visa. We take for granted in this country that McDonald's will hire anyone over sixteen without a question asked. Other places don't seem so accepting. Plus, if you don't want to deal with the roaming fees, taking a cell phone is not a good idea. Thankfully there are wonderful substitutes such as Skype, an amazing program that could take away the need for a home phone.
But really, the most important preparation is to relax. I say this sitting up at four in the morning because it is not something I do easily. I am constantly thinking about whether I have all of my plans in order (I've checked my plane's itinerary about three times now). If you are really worried, make a checklist. I always thought I would despise such a system, running off of my memory and hoping I've planned for the worse, but it really does work. And, if nothing else, write it in your blog. Ranting about my fears and what one should do has reminded me of all the steps I have taken. If they are not enough then hopefully the Irish are kind and do not just kick me out of the country.
But remember, it is all just Shadows on the Wall.