If you’re a college student, one of the many rites of passage when it comes to your education is the opportunity to travel and study abroad. While it is undoubtedly an exciting and culturally eye-opening experience, you will want to be plenty prepared for the next few months (or more) ahead.
Take a look at the following tips for studying abroad before you say adieu:
Research your destination: Your education doesn’t stop in your classroom. Take the time to read up on the country you wish to visit. For updated information on alerts in various destination countries, you can visit the U.S. Department of State’s website to be sure the country you’re thinking about isn’t on that list. You should also do thorough research on the exchange programs offered through your institution to be sure the course of study is right for you. A few other things to research:
- How to dress (some of your daily clothing may not be appropriate in foreign countries, and you don’t want to offend the locals)
- Currency exchange rates (you may just want to go with a debit or credit card)
- Health insurance policies that work abroad
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
Get your passport and make copies: You will obviously need a passport in order to visit another country, but be sure to make several copies, and even email one to yourself just in case you happen to lose it.
Apply for a student visa: If your institution or college is sponsoring your study abroad program, you will need to be approved before applying for your student visa. Each country will have a different set of rules, so this process will ultimately be dependent upon where you are traveling, and how long. Many countries make you have an interview at the consulate, while others have online services — but either way, make sure your passport is renewed and all of your information is correct.
Take care of any medications before you go: Try to get a supply of any medications you are taking — three months worth or more — before you leave. Be sure to make copies of your prescriptions (email them to yourself, too!) and keep them with you. Keep in mind that some countries will not allow certain types of medications, so make sure you look into what is allowed before you travel.
Get emergency numbers and addresses handy: You should know where your embassies and consulates are located in the area you are studying. To be on the safe side, you should carry emergency numbers of these offices in case you need assistance at any time.
Switch your cell phone carrier: This may or may not be necessary if you have a provider that offers services internationally at a rate you can afford, but the last thing you want is to be hit with an astronomical cell phone bill due to unexplained roaming charges. If need be, you can suspend your current cell phone and get a prepaid one abroad. And for long chats with mom and dad, there’s always Skype.
Get familiar with the language: Nobody said you had to master the native language right off the plane, but knowing some conversational phrases will help you adjust and find your way around much easier. Chances are, you will become fluent in the language faster than you would without taking prior initiative.
Prepare for a long flight: You could be facing a 15- or 20-hour flight, so make sure you have a good book, laptop, music, snacks, or anything else that will keep you occupied throughout the duration.
When you land, get a map: You may be eager for adventure, but you don’t want to go wandering around in a foreign land without any idea of where you are going. Have a general plan. You should also consider scoping out fellow exchange students on your flight, so you can have someone to travel with while you get acquainted with your new temporary home.