If you’re getting ready to study abroad, you’re likely excited about your international adventure, but it’s also possible that you feel overwhelmed by everything that you need to do before your trip.
To help you prepare to study abroad, our team at Remitly put together this guide to everything you need to do before your departure. Read on for the full rundown of what you need to do to ensure your study abroad trip is successful.
Research and plan
You’re currently doing the first important step in the preparation process for studying abroad: reading. Researching before you go can help you prepare for life in your destination country. Here are some things to research and plan before your study abroad experience.
Get to know the country and culture you’ll be in
Get to know your destination country ahead of time. Find out what the weather is like, how students live, and what local customs you’ll need to know to fit in during your stay. Becoming familiar with traditions can reduce culture shock as you transition from life at home to your study abroad program.
In addition to reading about the foreign country where you’ll be studying abroad, connect with fellow students and other people who have been there. Talking to others who have traveled abroad will provide valuable firsthand knowledge about the country and culture.
Research the university or college you’ll be attending
Become familiar with the university or college where you’ll take classes in your host country. Find out where it’s located and what the campus is like. Learn about the student body and review its academic policies, academic year calendar, and grading policies.
As you research the school, jot down key email addresses and phone numbers. Store them in your phone but keep a paper copy in a safe place with other important documents just in case your device is lost or stolen. Do the same with additional critical contact information like local emergency numbers, your host family’s phone number, and your emergency contacts back home.
If possible, wait to buy books and course materials until you arrive. This way, you’ll have less to pack. Keep track of any orientation sessions or meetings you’ll need to attend at home and once you arrive at your study abroad location.
Figure out how to get there and where you’ll be living
Explore the travel options for getting to and from your host country. Figure out whether you’ll be living in campus housing, off-campus on your own, or with a host family.
Determine how you’ll get around during your stay. Are you staying somewhere that is close enough and safe for walking to campus, or is there public transportation that you can use for your daily commute? You may need to rent a car if you’re living off-campus in a city without good public transportation.
Learn a few phrases in the local language
Even if many people in your destination country speak English, communicating basic things in the foreign language commonly spoken there can be beneficial. Take advantage of language-learning apps that can help you quickly learn how to ask for directions, say hello and goodbye, and get help in an emergency.
International student visas – what you need to know
As part of your preliminary research, find out what the visa requirements are for studying abroad in the country. Will you need to get a special visa for students? Can you study on a tourist visa, or will you need a visa at all?
Keep reading to learn more about obtaining student visas.
What are student visas?
Student visas are travel documents that allow students to enter a country to participate in an academic program or take courses at a college or university.
Many countries have visa programs specifically for students from other countries. The U.S. offers three types of student visas:
- The F1 visa for studying at vocational schools
- The M1 visa for studying at two- and four-year colleges and universities
- The J1 visa for participants in cultural exchange programs
Common requirements for an international student visa
What countries require to obtain student visas varies. Some possible requirements include the following:
- Holding a valid passport that will remain in effect for a few months after your intended departure date
- Showing proof of enrollment at a post-secondary school or participation in a cultural exchange program, such as a letter of acceptance
- Undergoing a criminal background check, which may include fingerprinting
- Demonstrating that you can support yourself financially by providing a bank statement or a document that details the financial aid you’ll receive
The application process for international student visas
Like visa requirements, the process for obtaining an international visa for studying abroad varies from country to country. Some countries allow you to apply online, while others require you to set up a face-to-face or video conference appointment with an immigration officer.
To find out what you’ll need to do, contact an embassy or consulate for the country where you intend to study abroad located in your home country. You can search for foreign embassies in the U.S. and Canada online. If you want to study in the U.S. or Canada, you can also search for embassies and consulates on government websites.
How long does it take to get an international student visa?
How long the application process will take depends on where you’re studying, whether you provide all the documentation requested at the time of application, and the current demand for visas.
The embassy or consulate office can provide a specific time frame, but generally, expect the visa application process to take at least a few weeks. If you need a new passport because yours expired or you have never gotten one, apply first.
Plan your finances
Before you leave for your study abroad program, make sure you have your finances in order, so you won’t have to worry about money while you’re away.
Plan your budget
Create a budget for your entire trip that includes your tuition, living expenses, and the cost of traveling to your destination and throughout the rest of the country. Know how much you’ll need to save and how much things cost in your destination city or town compared to back home.
Look for scholarships or grants
Studying abroad can be expensive, between tuition, fees, books, plane ticket, food, and cultural activities. Fortunately, resources are available to help cover the cost of your trip. Check out our articles on scholarships and alternative funding for more information.
Set up a bank account in the country you’ll be in
Having a local bank account can make it easier to get access to money while you’re abroad. Research financial institutions in the new country to determine what you’ll need to open an account, the initial deposit requirements, and the fees you may be assessed.
An online bank account is often a good option for international students because it allows you to check your balance, transfer money, and complete other transactions right from your phone.
Notify your bank and credit card of where you’ll be
Before you leave, call your home bank and the credit card company for each card you bring. Notifying them of your travel plans ahead of time can lower the likelihood of transactions being declined due to suspected fraud.
Before you leave, photocopy the front and back of all your debit and credit cards and keep the information in a safe place in case your wallet or bag gets lost or stolen.
How to pack and get ready to leave
As the day of your departure approaches, get your belongings ready to travel.
Check the weather and pack for the climate
Weather can be unpredictable, so look into weather history information for the past few years. Make sure to bring clothing that is suitable for the weather and acceptable from a cultural standpoint. For example, in some foreign countries, college students may be expected to dress professionally for their classes, or women may need to wear head coverings in public places.
How much you’ll need to bring depends on the length of your stay. If you are only spending a few days abroad for a short program, you can pack lighter than you’ll need to if you’ll be studying for a year abroad.
Make sure you have all the necessary documents
Gather all the documents you need to bring with you, like your photo identification, passport, and visa. Consider placing them in a holder or wallet and figuring out where you’ll keep them in your luggage to ensure you can access them quickly.
Double-check your phone and devices
Find out whether your smartphone will work while you’re abroad. Before your trip, you may need a new SIM card or a brand-new phone.
Also, learn about the electrical standards and outlets in the foreign country. Buy adapters ahead of time so you can plug in your laptop and other appliances.
Health and safety preparation
Even if you’re in good health, an unexpected accident or illness may occur while you’re studying abroad. Make sure you’re prepared by taking the following essential steps.
Make arrangements for medication and more
If you take a prescription or over-the-counter medication regularly, determine how you’ll get it while studying abroad.
In some countries, bringing certain drugs through customs may be illegal. Find out ahead of time to avoid any issues.
Those wearing contact lenses may want to bring extra pairs or find an optometrist in their destination city.
Get any necessary vaccinations and travel insurance
You’ll need to get vaccinated against some illnesses and diseases to travel to some places. Talk to your medical provider about how and when to get the necessary shots.
Keep in mind that your health insurance likely won’t cover you during your time studying abroad. Contact your health insurance provider to double-check.
If you aren’t covered, look into travel insurance that can pay for your healthcare costs while away.
Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and healthcare options
Learn how to call for help at your study abroad destination. Research the healthcare system to determine if you’ll need to seek medical care at a specific hospital or clinic. Sometimes, your host university or college may offer student health services that you can use on campus.
Be aware of potential safety risks
Before you travel, check out the U.S. State Department website for travel advisories. There may be certain areas that you should try to avoid for safety.
Stay in communication with your family and home institution
Having some independence from your loved ones while you’re away is important, but make sure to check in on a regular schedule. Give your daily schedule to someone you trust at home, and let somebody know when you’ll be deviating from your schedule, such as taking a trip to another region or city.
Knowing what steps to take before your departure date is an important part of learning how to study abroad successfully. Use this guide as a checklist to prepare for studying abroad, and start as early as possible to ensure you have plenty of time to get ready and relax before you travel.
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