So you’ve been accepted to a terrific study abroad program and can’t wait to start your overseas adventure. To make the most out of your experience, follow these expert tips on how to prepare for studying overseas.
Passport and Visa
Without a valid passport and student visa, you’re not going to get very far off the ground! Be sure your passport is up to date, giving yourself at least three months to apply for a new passport. If you intend to return to your home country, be sure your passport will not expire within six months of your intended date of return. If this is your first time getting a passport, you will need:
- Birth certificate
- Two passport-sized photos
- Certified identification
- Passport application form
To study abroad, you will also need a student visa. Since each country has its own requirements, contact your destination’s embassy or consulate to learn about their rules and regulations. And don’t forget to apply early, since student visa applications can take months to process.
Planning ahead is the name of the game, especially if you want to secure a cheap flight. Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways to find great deals and discounts on flights,
including student travel agencies and websites which provide side-by-side comparisons of flights and rates on your preferred dates. Keep in mind that you may want to arrive a week or so before your study abroad program begins to give yourself a chance to settle in and get your bearings in a foreign country. Check also how flexible your flight dates are, in case you decide to come home early or want to extend your overseas adventure a little longer.
Travel insurance, of course, is a must, so that you will have medical and accident coverage while you study abroad. Depending on your health policy, you may have to purchase supplemental health insurance. Fortunately, there are inexpensive rates available to students from the US, and your overseas study program may offer comprehensive coverage plans for its students.
In addition to getting a full physical checkup before you leave and to carrying a copy of your medical records, find out what immunizations your destination country requires. Normally, this information will be provided by your study abroad program. If you have an existing medical condition, it’s also advisable to carry with you enough prescription medication to last at least the first few months. Finally, you can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date immunization requirement information.
Since the airlines are increasingly stingy with their luggage allowances, pack only what you need to get started, knowing that you can always send for more things later on. A traveler’s backpack is a wise choice for your carry-on, since it’s sturdy, easy to carry, and perfect for any weekend or hiking trips you may be making. Most study overseas programs will send you a list of recommended items to pack.
Here are a few more packing tips:
- Pack an adapter if you are bringing electrical appliances
- Make sure your luggage is clearly labeled and easy to identify
- Bring copies of important documents and prescriptions
- Carry valuables in your carry-on
- Pack some toiletries and a change of clothing in your carry-on in case your luggage gets lost
Do Your Homework
One of the best ways to prepare for studying overseas is to research various aspects of your destination country. The more you understand and know about the new culture, the more likely you are to fully enjoy, appreciate, and grow from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Before you take off, do some homework to learn about:
- The government
- The climate
- The history
- The geography
- The people
- The currency, including current exchange rates and how much things cost
- The culture, including dress, food, customs, traditions, holidays, events, and more
Traveler’s checks are the safest way to carry money and are accepted in most places. ATM, debit and credit cards are also popular, allowing you to withdraw money from
your home account. However, be sure to inform your bank and credit card company of your study abroad plans or else your card may not work overseas (they may issue you an international ATM card). You can exchange money at the airport (at a slightly higher than normal exchange rate), however the experts recommend that you arrive with about $100-$200 in the currency of your destination country to get you started.
Staying in Touch with Family and Friends
Here are today’s most popular ways to stay in touch with family and friends back home while you are studying overseas:
- Purchase a SIM card with a good long-distance plan, allowing you to make international calls with your cell phone
- Purchase a local calling card (typically cheaper than using a cell phone)
- Email and text
- Video chat via Gmail, Skype, or Facebook
Learn the Language
Finally, to help you communicate and fit in right off the bat, get a head start on your foreign language skills by learning some common phrases and expressions. Better yet, study the language online, enroll in classes, speak with people who are fluent in the language, and/or purchase a pocket dictionary to study in your spare time.
Best of luck on your study overseas program and have a safe trip!
Einat Mazafi is the owner of NY International Shipping, an International Shipping and moving company based in New York. She is also a specialist in providing the best relocation solutions to clients worldwide.