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Feature photo by mimemonkey. Photo above by Erin

Study abroad will be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

THERE’S ALWAYS A lot of planning to do for any trip, but study abroad requires special planning. Don’t procrastinate! Following these tips will ensure a safer and more relaxing time abroad.

1. Do Your Research

Do some reading on the culture and politics of the country you’re traveling to. Make sure you learn the name of the country’s president and the name of its currency. Knowing the basics ahead of time will help you feel a lot more comfortable once you’re on the ground.

2. Get your Passport and Visa Early

Make sure you have a passport that will be valid for 6 months after your program ends. Once that’s settled, apply for your visa as soon as you can. Some visas will take time to process and it’s important to leave time for any complications.

Photo by Erin Granat

3. Call Your Bank

Make sure you call your financial institutions and let them know you’ll be traveling. Many banks have security protections in place that can mean your bank card will be shut off if you don’t let them know you’ll be traveling ahead of time.

Find out if your bank has partnerships with any banks abroad that allow you to withdraw money without fees.

4. Meet with your Department Chairs and Advisors about Getting Credit

There is nothing worse than finding out that your credit will not count towards your major or graduation after you come home from study abroad. Find out deadlines for seminars and thesis proposals that will come up while you’re away.

5. Work out Your Housing for the Next Year Before You Leave

Do not assume things will work out. Make sure! Plans are a lot harder to make and change from abroad. Meet with your housing office before you go and make sure you know what to do in any situation that could come up.

6. Have a Travel Doctor’s Appointment

Especially if you’ll be traveling to somewhere off the beaten path, it’s important to check with a doctor before your departure. Make sure you have all the needed vaccinations for your destination and that there is no serious allergy risk for you in the country you’ll be visiting. Get any prescriptions you’ll have to take along.

Also make sure you have letters from your doctor accompanying all prescription medications to avoid any problems at customs. Certain countries will also require a World Health Organization card with proof of certain vaccinations required for entry.

Photo by geotraveler

7. Plan Your Budget

You will have additional expenses while you’re away. Do your best to find out as much about those expenses as possible. When you have made your estimate, plan accordingly.

8. Meet with your Financial Aid Office

If you are receiving financial aid, find out just what is covered when you are studying abroad and what you’ll need to know when you get back. Don’t wait to find out about any surprises.

9. Look for Additional Funds

A lot of scholarships are offered to help students studying abroad and to encourage international travel and communication. A lot of these grants are linked to the places students will be traveling. Some require a report when you get back, but the requirements are rarely too arduous.

See which grants are available to you and apply!

Photo by Nora Dunn

10. Get Excited

Do some exploring before you leave to get psyched about where you’re going. Find some novels set in your country of destination. Find some restaurants locally that serve its cuisine. It’s never to early to find things to look forward to about studying abroad.

Community Connection!

How will you keep in touch with friends and family back home while you’re away? E-mails are great, and Facebook is addictive, but you won’t have time to e-mail everyone individually, or waste precious hours checking the status of your friends.

The best way to keep in touch is to start a travel blog that you can update at your convenience. Many blogging platforms are available, but Matador is the most vibrant travel blogging community on the web.

Start your travel blog today!

About The Author

Emma Jacobs

Emma Jacobs is a student in New York City. She got the travel bug her first year at college, and she's having trouble shaking it. When she's home, she writes for print and radio.

  • Tim Patterson

    Great advice, Emma! I'm forwarding this info to my cousins who are thinking about study abroad.

  • http://matadortrips.com Tim Patterson

    Great advice, Emma! I’m forwarding this info to my cousins who are thinking about study abroad.

  • Zoey

    Hey Emma, I second Tim; great advice. It's good to give yourself a checklist before you go. I know that during my first study abroad year I was running around with scraps of paper of lists in every pocket right up until the last minute. But I'd also like to reassure people that it needn't be too stressful prepping to move abroad. There were items I forgot, maps I didn't have, addresses I lost and it was stressful at the time but I fumbled through. But in retrospect, all you need to do is take a step back and it all becomes easier to handle. If you think about it, the worst thing that can possibly happen, is, normally, not all that bad! When you study abroad, in the end, you'll have a great sense of achievement for having moved abroad whether it went smoothly or not! One final piece of advice I might add is to get good travel insurance; having cover for a delayed flight, broken camera, or trip to the dentist is invaluable!

  • http://www.thelanguagetravelcompany.com/ Zoey

    Hey Emma, I second Tim; great advice. It’s good to give yourself a checklist before you go. I know that during my first study abroad year I was running around with scraps of paper of lists in every pocket right up until the last minute. But I’d also like to reassure people that it needn’t be too stressful prepping to move abroad. There were items I forgot, maps I didn’t have, addresses I lost and it was stressful at the time but I fumbled through. But in retrospect, all you need to do is take a step back and it all becomes easier to handle. If you think about it, the worst thing that can possibly happen, is, normally, not all that bad! When you study abroad, in the end, you’ll have a great sense of achievement for having moved abroad whether it went smoothly or not! One final piece of advice I might add is to get good travel insurance; having cover for a delayed flight, broken camera, or trip to the dentist is invaluable!

  • Jen

    I think you're right, except for the bureaucracy. I had that attitude that things will work out, but the thing is that when you're out of phone range, they don't necessarily. The rest, you're right, can wait. I think those are probably the top priority to get to ahead of time.

  • Jen

    I think you’re right, except for the bureaucracy. I had that attitude that things will work out, but the thing is that when you’re out of phone range, they don’t necessarily. The rest, you’re right, can wait. I think those are probably the top priority to get to ahead of time.

  • mark twain books

    My niece is trying to convince her parents at the moment to let her study abroad (they're pretty protective of their kids). Maybe I'll email her this so that she can show to them as part of a to do list of preparation. Might help to convince them, heheh. :P

  • Teach English Asia

    Knowing and understanding your host country's language and culture will really help you a lot. :)

  • Asshat

    Congratulations, you just said what any study abroad office at any school will tell you. You win the unnecessary blog post of the day award.

  • Kel

    After a disastrous start to my exchange in the U.S. (i’m from Australia), i’d have to add – please get a map of your area before you leave! And make sure your cell phone works abroad, at least for the first week of your new adventure. Getting lost in the middle of winter in a sketchy part of town, at night no less, on my first day wasn’t how i anticipated my study abroad would start out..

  • http://www.familyadventureguidebooks.com Bridget Smith

    Great review of the basics. Your college may give you this info, bu tthat doesn’t mean all will follow it. Some of my fellow students really got tripped up by transfer credits, etc.

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