If you’ve never been on extended trip away from your family (vacation or otherwise), know that there are a number of factors to consider prior to your arrival in the country in which you have chosen to study. In my case, I chose to study the legacy of apartheid in South Africa. This proved to be extremely tricky because there are few direct flights from the American South to Africa.
As a word of caution, please be sure you pay close attention when booking your flight. Although I am on a faculty led trip, several people flew alone internationally. If you can, coordinate with one or two people ahead of time so that you can be on the same flight.
If you can, though, book a long layover. Although I dreaded two nights sleeping on a plane, it was well worth it to spend an afternoon in Frankfurt, Germany. A long layover allowed me to briefly experience another culture, and I visited the Naturmuseum Senckenberg and Old Frankfurt. Unfortunately because I flew on Sunday, many local shops were closed, but I was able to have lunch at a quaint little cafe.
That long layover may also ultimately reduce feelings of jet lag. Many of my classmates who flew directly from the US to South Africa were experiencing jet lag for days after our flights and found themselves unable to sleep through the night. I, on the other hand, had already pretty well adjusted to the time jump upon my arrival in Johannesburg, and I definitely attribute that to my long layover.
And finally, be safe. Even with domestic flights, you should pack all of your valuables in your carry-on, including jewelry, cash, and laptops or tablets. Store your wallet in a safe place in the interior of your bag. Americans are easily spotted in other countries, and you do not want to leave yourself open to criminals. There is an inherent sense of vulnerability in traveling alone, and when doing so, you should do everything in your power to ward off potential crimes.