Studying abroad is an exciting, life-changing opportunity. Whether you’re getting an engineering degree or a Business degree, there is always a lot to learn by looking at your chosen subject through the lens of a different culture. Being fully immersed in another culture is an eye-opening experience. To make the most of your trip and soak up the journey in full, take care of the necessary logistics before leaving. With the paperwork, planning and headaches finished before you hop on the plane, you’ll be free to enjoy your time abroad to the fullest.
Happy and Healthy
Missing out on touring Venice because you’re dealing with an Italian doctor’s office would be a nightmare. Before you leave, make sure everything is squared away with your medical insurance. Have a health insurance card on hand at all times and find out if your insurance provider covers worldwide travel. Make sure you’re up to date on required vaccines and order all of your prescriptions ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about refilling overseas. Ask your doctor what steps to take in the event of an emergency, have contacts established and don’t do anything too risky.
Informed and Advised
If you’re going to live in The Czech Republic for a semester, it’s a good idea to stay up on their news, current events, politics and global relevance. Try to make research part of your daily routine. If you’re used to reading the local news online every morning, spend a few extra minutes reading about your destination. You might want to know if they’re anticipating major leadership change, increased crime, economic shifts– or on the brink of a revolution.
Stay up to date on the currency exchange. The rate is subject to change, and you’ll want to know how much your dollar is worth. Start with a loose budget then begin to refine and tighten it as your departure date inches closer and you have a better idea of your main expenses both for traveling and living.
Paperwork and Documentation
Passports and visas can be a headache. You’re dependent on the timing of others and governments aren’t exactly known for their speediness. Don’t delay applying for or updating your passport and obtaining the proper visa. You don’t want to miss out on your opportunity because of a technical error. Give yourself plenty of time. Start the paperwork process as soon as you possibly can to avoid sleepless nights waiting to hear back from France about the status of your Visa. Make copies, both paper and digital, of all of your important documents including credit cards. Have your flight and travel itineraries printed and ready to go to make your trip as easy as possible. If you have three connecting flights, a bus and train to take, the last thing you want to do is miss one. Go over the itinerary and address any concerns with your study abroad program or the travel provider before departure.
If you’re not staying with a host family or don’t have housing provided by your school’s program, nailing down a place to live can be difficult to do from overseas. Sometimes, the only option is to wait until you arrive and hope to find a place in person. Have a back-up place to stay in the meantime and do research before you leave. That way you’ll have a rough idea of how much you’ll need to pay and you can factor it into your budget. If you’re living in Amsterdam, for instance, websites like Craig’s List can give you examples of how much you’ll need to pay depending on your area and preferred details.
Let your bank know that you’ll be traveling so they don’t panic when charges start showing up from Greece. If you need a bank account while you’re abroad, plan to set one up as soon as you arrive, before classes start and before you start traveling locally. Also plan to get an international cell phone to communicate with friends you meet while you’re abroad and to use in case of emergencies.
Plan Ahead and Leave Plenty of Time
The further ahead of time you begin planning, the more prepared you’ll be. Don’t wait until the last minute to work out details, big or small. Consult reliable websites and resources like the government international travel page and be aware of any changes for travel and extended overseas residence.
Your time abroad will be worth the paperwork, insurance checks, investments and negotiations. Get the hard work out of the way first so you can take in all the country has to offer.