The countdown to Summer 2017 has begun! Sure, snow is on the ground in a lot of places, and most are just focused on starting a new semester, but – truth is – June and July will be here before we know it. And if you’re a high schooler traveling this summer with SPI Study Abroad, that means you’re only a few months away from the experience of a lifetime!

Before going overseas, you may feel a mixture of excitement and a little nervousness about what’s unknown. Will I like living in another country? Will people be able to understand me? How do I get ready for something like this?

Well fret not! Keep calm and check out these 5 Great Ways to Prepare for a Summer Abroad with SPI!

1. Dive into the language

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Practice makes perfect, but when you’re learning another language, it’s more about proficiency then mastery. Take extra time to prepare for speaking another language by reviewing concepts you don’t feel confident with and by watching the news, shows, or listening to music in your target language (online streaming has made this easier than ever!). Read a book in your target language and highlight verbs, conjugations, and vocabulary that you don’t understand. You can go back later translate independently or with the help of your teacher. If you’re a novice speaker, write down verbs that you use most often when speaking English, then study those conjugations in your target language. Focus on important things like directions, common questions, and how to express what you’re feeling!

No matter you’re language level, you’re going to be both challenged and supported in an SPI program, but the more time and effort you invest in practicing the language – the quicker you’ll reach fluency!

2. Research where you’re going

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Did you know that students in SPI’s Siena, Italy program participate in the world-famous Palio Festival? Or that 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected nature reserves? Between Wikipedia and Google Maps, you can learn a lot about where you’re going before you even pack your bag! Another great way to prepare and learn about your study abroad destination is by reading the SPI Blog for your program (look for your city’s name on the left side of the page). There, you can see first hand where we visit, what we do, and what it looks like! Of course, you still want to allow yourself to be surprised and awed by the sites you’ll be seeing – that’s one of the best parts of traveling and seeing something new!

3. Use the Orientation Portal

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Need to know when your documents and final payments are due? Want another copy of your Student & Parent Orientation Guide? Everything you need is online! Simply login to the online portal (look for the password in your enrollment confirmation email) and you’ll have access to pre-departure essentials, orientation videos, important reminders, contact information for communicating with directors while abroad, information about SPI’s summer contests, and program specific resources!

4. Connect on Social Media

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Liking an following SPI on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and YouTube is a great way to get a feel of what studying abroad in high school is like! It also connects you with other students in your session! In early Spring, students will receive an invite to a Facebook group for their session. You can also use hashtags like #mySPIstory and #SPIstudyabroad on Instagram and Twitter to start sharing how you’re preparing for the summer!

5. Get Excited!

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Let it soak in for a minute! In just a few short months, you’ll be zip-lining through a cloud forest, or enjoying an cup of gelato while strolling along medieval European streets, or meandering down China’s beautiful Li River on your way to a stunning water concert. You’re going places. Studying abroad will be a defining period in your educational experience – a journey that will transform you into being a globally-minded young adult with international experience that puts you ahead of your peers. It’s time to start counting down!