Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. It’s a time in your college experience that will likely be filled with a lot of excitement but you may also feel anxious about the entire study abroad process.
Navigating a new culture is hard enough so you should be thoroughly prepared. This is a guide to everything you need to know before studying abroad to help ease you into your study abroad experience.
Why Study Abroad?
Studying abroad is an enriching experience that gives you a first-hand immersion into another country’s culture.
1. Complete the Required Paperwork Early
If you’re studying abroad, you will need to fill out visa paperwork and other documents mandated by the government before arriving at your study abroad country. Before you can jet off, look up your chosen country’s visa requirements. It is best to complete any required paperwork as early as possible to avoid delaying the process.
Travel Documents for Study Abroad
Documentation and forms aren’t the only things you’ll need to complete before heading overseas. Our top tip? Double-check the expiration date on your passport. Your passport will need to be valid beyond the length of your study abroad program.
2. Set a Travel Notice with Your Bank
It is important to speak with a representative from your bank before embarking on your study abroad journey. You will want to know if there are any fees associated with your credit or debit cards when they are used internationally.
Some large American banks have a presence overseas but chances are your local credit union won’t. Before studying abroad, it is best to assess if you will need to open a new bank account in your study abroad destination or if you’re at-home account will suffice.
3. Make a Doctors Appointment
One of our top tips for study abroad safety is to make appointments with all of your healthcare providers and to obtain any necessary vaccines. Depending on where you’re studying abroad, you may need to be vaccinated before leaving the US.
You should make an appointment with your doctor, dentist and any other healthcare specialist who you have regular contact with. Ask your doctor questions about how to best maintain your health while you’re abroad because the healthcare system in your chosen destination may work differently or could take a long period of time to access.
4. How To Pack for Study Abroad
If you’re wondering how to pack for study abroad, we recommend packing your bag early and as efficiently as possible. Waiting until the last minute to pack your bag may leave your unnecessarily stressed or you could forget an important item due to being overwhelmed. This can be eliminated if you pack your suitcase multiple days or weeks in advance. Also, packing early will give you time to rearrange your clothing and weigh your luggage.
Study Abroad Packing List
In order to pack efficiently, make a list of the things you want to bring before packing. Arrange your clothing and other items by using the ‘roll method’ or packing cubes to maximize space inside your luggage. It is likely that you will overpack at first, try to prioritize the items you’re taking with you to avoid paying for a piece of overweight luggage at the airport. Remember that you don’t need to try to take your entire closet with you. It is likely that you can buy some items when you arrive at your study abroad destination.
5. Review Your Flight Details
The last thing you want to do is arrive at the airport on the wrong date or at the wrong time (trust us – it can happen) before your study abroad experience. Remember to double or even triple check your flight information. Ensure that all flight details including the date, time and flight number are correct. Also, it is a good idea to confirm that your transportation to the airport before the day of travel.
6. Emergency Contacts
One of the most important things to know before you study abroad is how to contact the local emergency responders in your study abroad country. It is best to research this information before you get to the destination because unfortunately, an emergency can happen at any given time.
Before arriving you should know the phone number for the local police or emergency responder department, the number for an emergency contact at your university and the address of the United States Embassy in your study abroad country. We recommend keeping a digital and paper copy of these phone numbers so that you’re prepared in any situation.
Your Security and Safety Resource
Anything can happen when you travel overseas, unfortunately, knowing the contact information for the US Embassy may not be enough. Do you know when to contact them? What happens if you can’t get ahold of the right people? That’s where US Traveler Assist comes in. Get coverage for your semester overseas and we’ll handle the rest. Contact us today and have peace of mind 24/7.
7. Packing Electronics for Travel
Most destinations around the world use different electrical outlets than you’re used to at home. It is important to research the electrical plugs and capacities in your study abroad country. We recommend purchasing universal adapters so that you’re able to charge your devices no matter where you are in the world.
Your safety should remain a top priority while studying abroad. In order to ensure your safety, remember to travel with a portable charger, too. The ability to stay connected on the go makes you less vulnerable while you are initially navigating a new country.
8. Culture Shock
It is normal to experience culture shock during your study abroad experience. It is likely that your new home is a lot different than the place you grew up. Whether it’s the food, culture, religion or everyday nuances, culture shock naturally happens as a reaction to the new environment you’ve entered. A few things you can do before you go abroad to ease your culture shock are:
- Research the local customs, history and the current climate of your study abroad country
- Practice your language skills if you’re studying in a country with a language different from your own
- Plan excursions, day trips or trips to nearby destinations
Homesickness can be an undeniable factor of your culture shock. Try scheduling daily or weekly phone calls with family and friends to avoid feeling isolated. Getting involved in school clubs or student unions can help you meet other international and local students alike. Culture shock is a fact of life but there are ways you can help lessen its effects on you.
Should I study abroad?
If you’ve been wondering, ‘should I study abroad?’ The answer is an absolute yes. Studying abroad is an experience that will help you see yourself outside of your usual life. When you step outside of your comfort zone, great things can happen. Before you take off for your new adventure, it is best to ensure that you are setting yourself up for a successful experience.