Preparing for a semester abroad can be both thrilling and scary. There’s so much to take into consideration before traveling, including any travel plans to other countries as well. You have to think about what to pack, where to go, how to best budget your money, and so much more. Here’s a guide to help you get started on preparing for a semester studying abroad.
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Once you commit to studying abroad, there are a number of steps to make sure that prepare yourself properly. If you need to apply for a student visa that should be your number one priority, along with making sure your passport is up to date. You won’t be able to even arrive at your destination if those two items aren’t in order. When it comes to passports and visas, there can be long waiting periods and setbacks to your documents being delivered, so it’s best to start that process as soon as possible. Legal and travel priorities should definitely come before you worry about what to pack.
The next important consideration is, of course, transportation. If you’re going with a group or through a school program, then your airfare may already be taken care of. Even if that is the case, it’s still a good idea to verify that you have a seat reserved and that you know the date and time of the flight. If you aren’t traveling to the airport with others, make sure to allow yourself several hours prior to take-off to go through security. International flights aren’t cheap, so you don’t want to miss that plane. If you have to purchase a ticket on your own, this should also be a priority early on. The best prices on tickets will go quickly, so the sooner the better. You don’t want to wait until the last second and have to spend thousands of dollars.
After you’ve squared away your transportation and documents, you can start to plan weekend trips, pick out clothes, and figure out how to spend your time and money wisely. Depending on how long your trip is and the flexibility you have, your planning will vary.
In terms of finances, you have to think about how much you’re are willing to spend on experiences, food, and flights. So while it may be fun to fly to a new destination every weekend, your bank account might not appreciate that. Creating a budget can be a useful solution to this problem. You don’t have to know everywhere you’ll be traveling, but you can try to estimate how much you’ll spend on weekend trips. Flight information can be viewed months in advance, but you should remember that as it gets closer to your trip the prices will go up. Try to leave a little room in your budget to allow for emergencies and splurges if increased flight prices need to be factored in.
When packing your clothes, it’s important to take into account the climate and culture of the country you’ll be primarily staying in. If you plan to travel to warm climates, but will be spending most of your time in a cool area, don’t stock up on too many swimsuits and shorts. Additionally, try to only pack what is absolutely necessary. You might want to bring some room decorations, but remember you have to prioritize what is truly necessary first.
Packing also means taking into account what you will be bringing on the plane, and how much you want to bring back with you. Most international flights give you one checked bag under fifty pounds, one carry on and one personal item for free.This is important to remember while packing, and you also want to take this into consideration when you’re buying souvenirs to bring back. To avoid having to throw things out when you return, leave some room in your luggage to account for the shopping you’ll do while traveling.
Your school or study abroad program will most likely have a definitive packing list, information on currency, local laws and regulations, and what the learning culture is like. If not, reach out to your school or program and ask if you can speak with someone to answer your questions. Most importantly, have fun on this trip! Studying abroad is a rare and enriching opportunity, so make the most of every second.
Abigail is a rising sophomore at Emerson College studying for a BFA in creative writing. She spends most of her free time during the year working for her school newspaper, but also enjoys going to poetry readings, spending time with friends, and cheering for her hometown Philadelphia sports teams.