Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Community

Tips for Turning your Cold Feet into Courage

Think back to the week before you started New Student Orientation at Pepperdine. As you were packing up your suitcase and saying goodbye to friends and family, did you start to feel nervous at the thought of starting school in a new place? Maybe you felt butterflies in your stomach as you pulled up to campus, or that surge of panic as you walked into the caf for the first time.

Just as you may have felt nervous before or during your transition to Pepperdine, transitioning to your study abroad location can create feelings of nervousness, homesickness and culture shock. The good news is that you're not alone! We have helped thousands of students successfully transition to their IP locations since 1962, so we know a thing or two about handling cold feet. Read on to hear how your fellow Pepperdine students managed their pre-trip jitters.

Managing Cold Feet when Studying Abroad

Embrace the Process

Nerves are NORMAL!! Even though it may feel like you're the only one feeling nervous about studying away, we promise that almost every single person experiences nerves at some point in their study abroad experience. Don't believe us? Take it from the IP Ambassadors who just came back from being abroad:

"Cold feet is something everyone experiences. Moving across the world can be terrifying, no matter how many times you've travelled or how excited you are. I think the most important thing to remember is that everyone is feeling the same way as you ~ you're all in this together." - Mackenzie Winslow, Lausanne Ambassador

"It is completely normal to have cold feet. I think some level of nervousness is good because that's how you know you are about to do something that will change your life forever." - Brock Petty, Heidelberg Ambassador

"Honestly, I am not the person to ask about cold feet. I didn't want to go abroad. I tried to drop my program but it was too expensive, and the few days before we left I spent crying my eyes out. However, going abroad was the best thing that has ever happened to me. It gave me confidence and life lessons, my group of gal pals, my boyfriend, and now the ambassadors and all my friends from the IP office. In a sense, going abroad gave me the rest of my life. Being completely uprooted is what made me feel grounded, and if I'd let the cold feet win (actually, if I'd let the IP contract breaking fee win), I wouldn't be the person I am proud to be today." - Ashley Stephens, Florence Ambassador

Growth happens when we step outside of our comfort zone, which means that growth by it's very definition is UNCOMFORTABLE! When you start to feel nervous, try to look at it as the first step towards growth. It helps to take a step back and remind yourself that the challenges or nerves you are facing are temporary, and that by embracing those challenges now you are strengthening yourself for what lies ahead.

Go Back to the Very Beginning

Going abroad takes courage, but for one reason or another, you decided to take the leap and apply. Maybe you wanted to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Maybe you wanted to learn more about another culture or language, or meet new friends. Thinking back to the reasons you first chose to study abroad can help remind you of your goals, and help you to start to replacing your nerves with excitement. When you start to feel nervous, try looking at photos or videos from your program (shoutout to @pepperdineip on Instagram!), or making a list of all the places you want to visit.

Here are some of the things we hear from IP alum, about how they grew from their abroad experience:

"It was a life-changing experience that broadened my perspective and got me excited about different cultures, people, food and the world around me."

"It was cool to learn a new language and live in a new place. I never thought I would get to experience that but I'm so glad I did."

"I loved having a language partner and meeting other local friends that I still keep in touch with. The other Pepperdine students I met abroad also are now my closest friends and I can't imagine going through life without them."

Students in Heidelberg on the Neckar River

Lean on Your Support System

It takes courage to be vulnerable and admit when we're scared. But often when we start to put our fears into words or on paper, we also start to realize how to overcome them. By sharing your cold feet feelings with family, friends or other students going abroad, you will feel less isolated and instead start to formulate a plan on how to move forward.

If your trepidation hits after you've arrived in your abroad location, your RAs, Faculty-in-Residence and program staff are also great resources to lean on. Here's what our ambassadors had to say:

"It can be so easy to talk yourself into cold feet when in reality, you are just in your own head. Do not let that fester but rather talk to someone about it. Very often just talking about it can help you see more clearly what are legitimate concerns and what are non-issues." - Brock Petty, Heidelberg Ambassador

"For me, being honest with myself helped me to manage those cold feet feelings. Talk about it with your friends, your family, God... whoever you turn to for comfort." - Mackenzie Winslow, Lausanne Ambassador

"Whether it is your Faculty-in-Residence, your RAs, or the program staff, if you ever feel overwhelmed or stressed you will know that the Pepperdine community will always be there to support you." - Carolina Borjas, DC Ambassador

Identify Your Coping Skills

What is your go-to when you're feeling stressed? Before going abroad, it's a good idea to think through how you will cope when things get a little too real. Here are some ideas:

examples of coping skills

Know When to Seek Additional Help and Resources

Feelings of nervousness and culture shock are a normal part of studying abroad or any big life transition. But if you are experiencing excessive, ongoing anxiety and worries that are difficult to control and interfere with your day-to-day activities, it may be time to seek additional support. Here are some ways to access mental health resources while in Malibu or abroad:

Pepperdine Counseling Center
Phone: 310-506-4210

Pepperdine Hub for Spiritual Life
Phone: 310.506.4545

International SOS

All IP students are entitled to up to 5 free counseling sessions, facilitated by International SOS. To be matched with a provider in-person or by phone (depending on availability), call International SOS at 1-215-942-8226. Learn more here.

On Site Counseling Abroad

All of our abroad locations have local counselors that are available to support students on a limited basis. Talk to your program director to learn more.

You Got This!

"Every time you feel like you shouldn't do something, that's just the voice in your brain that's afraid of growth talking. Every time you take a risk, you're going to change in so many ways. and living abroad is definitely a risk, no lie about it. You go to a place that's completely different than everything you're used to, but that's the exciting thing about it. Knowing already that there are going to be small and big challenges along the way, and taking on each day with the attitude that you'll get through them, is an amazing feeling. I promise you that when you look back on your study abroad experience, you probably might not even recognize the nervous person that was even worried about studying abroad in the first place." - Emily Tran, Shanghai Ambassador

As always, the IP Office is here to provide support and love as you encounter pre-trip concerns. Feel free to give us a call at 310-506-4230 or email us at