Leaving your home for 6 months can be a scary, regardless if you are leaving because of a school exchange, long-term traveling, or some other reason. Here is how to prepare for it. Please be aware that my experiences come from leaving for uni and internships abroad so I will bring that kind of examples.
Spend time with your friends and family
You will most likely not see them for the next 6 months, therefore make sure you spend some time with them before you leave. It will give you many memories to look back on during your time in the new place and at the end look forward to going home. Be sure to keep these connections alive while you are abroad as well. Talk to your friends and share things with your family. On the other hand, don't let the friends back home distract you while you are enjoying your semester abroad and make you feel like all you want to do is go home.
Do weather research
If you are moving somewhere for 6 months, probably without going home, you have to make sure to pack everything you need. You might need winter clothes and summer things or just one of them. It might rain every day or never at all. These kind of things are important to know when you are packing and only have one luggage. For me, this was a thing in Dubai. I flew down there in February from a proper European winter and had to remember not to bring anything warm, since there it was already around 20 degrees and would only get warmer.
Learn a few words or phrases in the language of your host country
This, of course, depends on where you are going. If you are going to a country where they speak the same language or already learned the language, this is irrelevant. However, if that is not the case, I suggest you learn at least a little bit. You will be happy when you get there and can say at least a few things. I learned Mandarin for four months before I moved there. While it did not help me a ton, I was happy not to be completely lost trying to buy a ticket or order some food.
Prepare for culture shock
Again, the extent of this one depends on where you're going. If you are moving from Austria to the Netherlands, it might not be that big of a deal. However, if you are moving to another continent to a country that has a different culture, there is a high chance you will face culture shock. I have faced two situations which large culture shock for me. The first time was moving to China where everything was different from what I was used to. They had different food, different customs, and I couldn't even read anything. It took a while to get adjusted and not feel completely foreign. The second was in the UAE and it was mainly cultural. The people were acting differently than what I was used to and it took me a while to get used to the high power distance they had in companies and even to customers.
Culture shock is something that you have to know will come. Preparing for it will not eliminate it, but it will allow you to know what is going on if you are facing one of the five stages and figure out how to deal with it. If you would like to learn more about these five stages, you can read about them here.
Figure out all the logistics
You have to make sure you have all the logistics figured out. If you are moving continents, see that you have your Visa and all the other paperwork that you will need. Check if you want to open a bank account in the new country or use the one from home. Look into the SIM card you want to get when you are there, or if you want to use the one from home. All of these details are easily arranged even afterwards (except the Visa of course), but it is good to do some research and know what you are getting yourself into.
There you have some of my tips to prep for moving abroad for 6 months. I have done this multiple times and it was a new and exciting experience every time. If you are on the fence between going abroad for an exchange or not, check out my reasons you should here.
As always I would love to hear about your experiences and what you did to prep in the comments below or on social media. If you go, enjoy your time and enjoy it to the fullest.