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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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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.
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