Study Abroad Series Part 2: Preparing to Go

07 July 2013

The following post is part of a three part series concerning study abroad. Hopefully I will be able to assist anyone who is thinking about studying abroad and explain just how the whole thing works. Because I am an American who studied abroad in Europe, most of my advice will be anecdotal and center around these facts. If you are from another country or studied abroad somewhere else besides Europe, I'd love for you to contribute your own thoughts and tips in the comment section!

Downtown Le Havre, where I studied abroad
Continuing with my study abroad series comes part II! This post will be addressing that awkward time in between getting accepted into a program and actually leaving. This can be a very exciting time but also quite vexing. Here I've put together a check list of things that will help prepare for the smoothest transition abroad from my own personal experience.
  • While I recommend researching how people dress in your host country, that doesn't mean you have to adopt the exact same style. Many will say "don't wear blue jeans or you'll look too American!" This is false. Everyone wears jeans nowadays.
  • However, know the cultural standards of dressing so as not to offend.
  • Research the weather. If you're spending a summer in China, a sweater will definitely not be needed!
  • Less is more! When you're actually carrying your luggage around on your own you'll hate yourself for taking so much. 
  • Don't forget a converter for your electronics.
  • Account for the fact that you'll probably be coming back with more than what you left with.
  • Remember that many things can be bought once you are abroad. The only things you truly need to pack are clothes and some personal care items.
  • Have some of the local currency when you arrive. You can do this by going to a bank and exchanging money beforehand.
  • Become familiar with the exchange rate if you're changing currencies.
  • Contact your credit card company and let them know that you will be using your card out of the country. 
  • Also ask if there are any fees for using your card abroad. I found the cheapest option was to withdraw large sums (200-300 euros) at a time and store it somewhere safe instead of using my credit card for purchases.
  • Make sure your home university is aware that you will be abroad and has all their paperwork in order. If you have scholarships, verify that you will still be receiving them if applicable.
  • Have extra passport quality photos. Once you arrive at your host university you will have even more forms to fill out and they usually require photos.
  • Research the "in between" travel. Sure, you may know that you need to go from airport to so-and-so train station once you arrive in your host country but how will you go about doing that? Figuring that out on the fly is no fun when you're hungry and jet lagged.
  • Learn customs of your host country such as table manners, how to greet, gift giving, etc. You don't want to insult someone!
  • Have print and digital copies of all important documents. That includes passport, visa, credit cards, social security card and birth certificate.
  • Contact your cellphone provider and see what it will cost to use your phone abroad. It may be cheaper to just buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you are abroad.
  • Come up with a budget. Account for cost of living, costs for school, and any travels you would like to do. 
  • Make sure your host university knows when you're arriving. They can even arrange to have someone meet up with you and help you out if you ask.
  • Become familiar with the education system of your host country such as how the credit system works. Even things like how to write an essay vary drastically from country to country.

Have you studied abroad before? What are your tips?

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  1. Great article!:)
    I'm looking forward to the time when I'll have to pack for the uni, or for a year in China (in case I get to the uni I want, but one must look a bit forward, right?:D ) I'll see if I'm able to make use of all the facts provided:D It's awesome that you write articles like this, because they can save people from making unnecessary mistakes while traveling and also a loads of time (it takes time and experience to figure these little things out) :)
    Btw, I know I promised to write something and I haven't forgotten about it, but despite it's already summer break, I've had NO time to write so far. However I'm soon going abroad, and I suppose you can expect that article in two weeks time:) I'm really happy about our collab and I hope I'll have more time to work on my blog too:)))

    1. I'm always happy to help out! And no rush- send it in whenever you can :]