Studying abroad is a thrilling opportunity for any college student. Traveling, meeting new people, and exploring a foreign culture is a life-changing and character-building experience. If you are considering taking advantage of your school's exchange programs, these tips will help you better prepare for your academic journey.
Research your new country
The most important thing to do when moving abroad is gather as much information about your destination as possible. When choosing a study abroad program, you want to ensure both the field of study and country are right for you. Do thorough research on the culture of your new country, read expat forums, and check out blogs by other students studying there. Visit the country's consulate or embassy website for more information on the customs regulations, visa requirements, and work permits if you plan to have a job during your stay.
Other things to consider
- Your living quarters: Exchange programs will often provide lodging in dormitories or with a sponsored family. Find out the space constraints, the neighborhood, and any other pertinent information
- Appropriate attire: Accepted fashion choices differ in other parts of the world. Some clothing that you find perfectly normal may be considered offensive or inappropriate in other countries, so be sure to pack the proper pieces.
- Health insurance: Study abroad programs sometimes include health insurance benefits, but if not, you'll want to find out if your provider offers coverage in your new country or obtain a new policy
Get your passport and paperwork organized
A passport is always required anytime you enter another country. They take some time to obtain, so be sure to begin the process months in advance. Find out any other essential documents you'll need, specifically for your student visa and possibly a work permit. Keep several copies of your passport (plus one digital) just in case it's misplaced.
Apply for a student visa
Visas are necessary for extended stays overseas. Since you are on a study abroad program, you would require a student visa. Make sure you are approved to participate in the country before applying for the visa. Contact the country's consulate or embassy for more information on the application and requirements.
Learn a little of the language
Learning a foreign language is an important tip for students studying abroad. You don't have to become an expert, but a working knowledge of your new language will be significantly helpful during your stay. Take an introductory language class, read textbooks, or use a language learning tool like Rosetta Stone. Knowing some common words and phrases when you move overseas will make it easier to pick up more of the language, communicate with locals, and limit feelings of isolation.
Don't try to bring everything
After an international move, your living situation may not be suitable to accommodate your entire wardrobe or teddy bear collection. Bring essential weather-appropriate clothing, school supplies, some favorite books, movies or CDs, and perhaps a favorite quilt or pillow. Resist the urge to ship any furniture items to your new country--customs can be complicated and expensive, and you may not have the space for your favorite chair in your new room.
Determine your budget
Depending on the program that you have chosen, the cost of studying abroad may include tuition, lodging, transportation, meals, books, health insurance and other expenses, or just tuition. Determine what will be covered in your program, and what other costs you will be responsible for to plan your budget properly.
You should also consider what you need when comparing programs -- an all-inclusive program that costs a little more than a bare-bones tuition-only program may be cheaper in the long run if you require housing and other services. However, if you have family or friends to stay with, a tuition-only program may be more economical while studying abroad.
Get a map
Another important tip for studying abroad is to get familiar with the routes of the new country. When you move overseas, you will be excited to get out there and explore. However, getting a good map will prevent you from becoming lost or ending up in a dangerous neighborhood. While you may want to avoid looking like a tourist as you wander around the city looking at a map, finding your way around is essential in an unfamiliar land.