Studying abroad is an unforgettable adventure. Period. But before you can become proficient in the language of your choice, immerse in the local lifestyle, and make memories that will last a lifetime, you need to get ready to travel to another country – and doesn’t just mean getting your passport out and a suitcase ready.
1. Figure out the finances
Before you do anything else, make sure you have enough money to pay for the trip – this also includes the money you’ll spend during your time abroad. (Here are our tips for those of you saving for a gap year experience.) As a rule of thumb, you’ll probably spend more money than you expect. Usually, it’s best to have some cash, in a small denomination, but also a credit card for bigger expenses and longer trips. Inform the credit card company where you’re going and how long you’re staying – that way they won’t block the card once you start your shopping spree.
2. Organize an airport transfer
If you want to make your life easier, let your study abroad adviser organize the transfer from the airport to the residence or the school. If you prefer to find your own driver or take public transport, make sure you research the different options beforehand and download the necessary apps – it will save you a lot of time and energy, especially after a long flight. Once you’re all organized at the destination, remember that you’ll also need a ride to get to the airport before you depart.
3. Cover your insurance needs
Your study abroad adviser will also be a good person to talk to about travel insurance, so take advantage of their knowledge. You should also get in touch with your health insurance provider to see if there’s a special offer that covers you while you’re abroad.
4. Copy important documents
Have digital and paper copies of all of your important documents – passport, insurance, credit card company info – and store them in different places. It’s best to leave a copy at home with your family or friends and have a digital and paper copy with you. The digital version should be somewhere safe but easily accessible, like your email inbox or a cloud server.
5. Research your home away from home
Learning about where you’re going and what you can do and see there is probably the best part about preparing for the trip. You can either buy travel guides or just google away to see what your new home away from home has to offer (we have a lot of travel content you can explore as well). Even though it will be much more fun to look at in real life, getting an overview ahead of time can help you plan any trips and excursions to make the most of your time abroad. Don’t forget to read up on any customs, habits and traditions that will help you feel like a local in no time.
6. Pack (duh!)
First, check the weight and size restrictions of the airline you’re flying with. Then, read our blog posts to make packing a walk in the park. Essentials, an adapter, and a change of clothes are best put in the carry-on bag, in case your luggage is delayed. If you stay in a place for more than a few days, buy toiletries at the destination and only bring travel-size containers for the first shower after you land. Once it’s all packed up, make sure you put a name tag on everything.
7. Pick up a few words in the local language
Since you’re reading this on our blog, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re going to learn a language abroad. But why not prepare a little bit before? Traveling will become much easier if you’re used to the sound of the new language and even know a few sentences in the local language. (Long flights are a perfect way to brush up on some basic vocabulary.)
8. Get any necessary prescriptions
If you regularly take prescription medication or use contact lenses, make sure you either have enough for the whole trip or a prescription that you can fill abroad. (Check with your insurance about the coverage.)
9. Write down important numbers
In the age of mobile phones, we hardly remember any phone numbers – or passwords for that matter. If you go abroad, you might have to get a new phone or log into a computer at school: Make sure you memorize or just write down a few important phone numbers and passwords (or hints to passwords), so you can call and log in without panicking.
10. Figure out the cell phone plan
Depending on how long you’re going to be abroad, it’s worth getting a SIM card at your destination. Before you depart, check with your cell phone provider about roaming costs and data plans, so you won’t get a huge phone bill after you return. You can get (free) Wi-Fi in a lot of places – like the school, your residence, and possibly even public places – but it might be nice to also have a way to be reachable when you’re not near a hotspot.
11. Say hi to your host family
If you’re going to live with a host family or roommates and you have their contact information: Introduce yourself before you depart! They’ll probably be as curious about you as you are about them, so saying hi will be a nice gesture. Everyone loves presents, so why not score some more brownie points and bring them a little souvenir, which will also act as the perfect ice breaker, from your home country? Here are more tips for those of you living with a host family while abroad.
12. Be excited
There are so many things to think of and do before you go study abroad, especially if it’s your first trip. But no matter how many times you repack your suitcase, don’t forget to be excited about the unforgettable adventure you’re about to embark on – this is precisely what happy dances were invented for!