Preparing For Study Abroad
Preparing for study abroad can be fun, frustrating, anxiety-inducing and sometimes down right annoying.
You’ve already done all of the exciting stuff – picking the destination, drooling over pictures, google imaging how hot the locals are (come on, we all know you’re doing it), and now you’re left with the all the lame nitty gritty details to take care off.
Preparing for Study Abroad
So what should you do to prepare for study abroad after your acceptance letter arrives to ensure your life changing exchange experience will run as smoothly as you hoped?
Firstly, don’t think you can avoid getting some sort of travel insurance; there is a saying ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel’. Travel insurance should be high priority for every traveler. You may think you’re saving money but think how much you will cost yourself (and most likely your family) if you don’t purchase any and you get in an unexpected situation where you need thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to save your life. Your family may have to mortgage their house to afford your medical bills – how incredibly selfish would that be of you if that happened and it could have been prevented by a small expenditure on your behalf?
Now sometimes your university/ study abroad program will arrange this for you, although this is not always the case. Even if your insurance is provided by your program, you’ll normally have to fill out a form or spreadsheet of some type so you’ll need to make sure you do this by the date allocated. Note that even university funded policies won’t cover you for everything and you may have to get extra cover for weekend trips and travel before and after your exchange. If you have to find your own insurance then don’t settle on the first one you come across, check out a couple so you can weigh up what you can afford and ensure you can get the amount of coverage you need.
I recommend World Nomads because that is what I use but what is right for one person isn’t always right for another so do your research before choosing anything. Regardless of who’s covering your insurance always check the fine print and be sure you know what you are and are not covered for.
You’re going to have to find somewhere to live of course!
Now this could be considered an exciting task when preparing for study abroad by some, or an incredibly boring task by others. It can also be quite difficult to do while on the other side of the world.
Some universities offer on campus accommodation or home stays, which makes the process a little easier. They’ve given you options that are more trustworthy as they are recommended by the university and are likely to be able to get you in touch with past students or at-least provide a lot of pictures or information.
On the other hand if you are looking for share accommodation outside of the university it gets a little trickier. There are normally companies that advertise student accommodation internationally although they sometimes charge a fee or higher prices for the convenience. These companies normally have been student reviewed and you can normally find independent reviews online and can get in contact with past users.
Always check out the reliability and reputation of the company before going down this route; however they often present an easy option for those who wish to live off campus. Despite being more expensive (although they can sometimes work out cheaper) they do make it easier.
The other option is to find a room independently and this will take a bit of research. You can try looking through Air Bnb, rental websites specific to your new city or risk it by trying to find accommodation once you arrive (which may or may not be easy I’ve heard conflicting reports).
If you do book a room from outside the country just be sure to get as many pictures and information as possible, as well as searching out reviews if possible. It can be a bit of a risk so always be careful.
Signing up for subjects
How could we forget the mad rush that is trying to get into the classes of your approved subjects? Always fun. Do this the second you are able to so you can spare the annoyance of missing out on classes and having to get new ones approved by your university. If you’re going through an external study abroad program you may not have this problem but it’s still best to get in early.
Getting familiar with your new home
If you’re eager you can start to get familiar with your new home for the next semester/year. Learn about the customs, bus routes you’ll be taking, etc. If a different language is spoken you’ll want to know at least a bit of that too, enough to get around. It’s also important to find out what the weather will be like while you’re there, otherwise you may arrive during the middle of winter with only summer clothes.
See if anyone else at your university is going to the same place
Who can say no to pre-made friends? The bunch of you can plan together, confide in each other or just feel a bit better knowing that you won’t be in this alone.
Organizing flights and visas
This is probably the most important bit. While visas are always country specific and I can’t offer any specific advice on them, just make sure you give yourself enough time. This may mean arranging your visa before your official acceptance which can be risky – although most exchange programs will be able to officially accept you with enough time to plan your visas afterwards.
Flights on the other hand are sometimes best booked early. I booked part of my flights seven months ahead (which was before I got the official acceptance from the host university), but it was an amazing price ($805 one way BNE to LAX) and I was able to get a refundable ticket. I would not recommend doing this without a refundable ticket.
This one is not fun, especially if just the thought of needles make you cry hysterically (guilty), but it is none the less something that needs to be done. Research all the ones you will need (if any) and if you can handle it get a blood test so you will know your blood type in case you ever need a blood transfusion.
There are quite a few other things that will need to be done but this will depend on your individual circumstances so be thorough!
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