A study-abroad trip is a dream for many students, and for good reason. It allows you to travel and to see the world. Maybe you can even visit the country you’ve been dreaming of since you were little. You can explore new places, have an adventure and still work toward your career.
However, this kind of trip isn’t the same thing as a family vacation. You’ll need to be well prepared, especially since you’ll be having classes on top of all the travel. There are plenty of things to do, but let’s touch on some basics.
Learn the Language
If you’re going somewhere that isn’t an English-speaking country, then this is one task you shouldn’t skip. You probably aren’t going to be fluent in the local language, as that skill will come with living there and using it on a daily basis, but you should at least learn some key phrases (hello, please, thank you, how do I get to [your address]). Being able to introduce yourself and ask the location of things are both very helpful skills. Listening to music and watching foreign films are both excellent ways to familiarize yourself with the language. Trying to only learn from books can result in incorrect pronunciation, so make listening to it part of your curriculum.
Travel abroad doesn’t have to be expensive, but unless you already have a job lined up, you’ll need some savings to live on. Most study-abroad trips will last at least a semester, so you’re probably looking at money for about 15 weeks. Check out your finances to see what you’ve got, and where you think you’ll need to be. Make sure to factor in things like food, drinks and some sightseeing opportunities. You’ll most likely want to purchase a souvenir (or 20), go out with new friends and spend money on extras, so make sure you have a budget for that as well.
Research the Country
Some of you might have dreamed of going to a certain country for years; others might only have thought of travel abroad recently. Either way, it’s a good idea to look into the country you’re going to. Learn about the history, important events and what the current political climate is. Not only will you be better prepared for general conversation when you go, but it might also help you find some things you’d like to do. In addition, this information will help you to deal with the culture shock. You’ll be able to find things exciting instead of frustrating, and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the worst of it.
Figuring out where you’re going to live in another country can either be really easy, if the school is providing housing, or it can be significantly more difficult. It’s a good idea to look into a host family, especially if there are some that are associated with the university you’re attending. This works because you aren’t left on your own. You have people already there and willing to help you, and that kind of familiarity can help combat homesickness and make the cultural transition much easier. You’ll be able to cultivate your independence while still having some backup when things get rough.
Organize Life at Home
You’re getting ready to head to another country for what’s expected to be a decent amount of time. You will need to work out what will happen to your things while you’re away. That can mean asking friends and family for some help. Do you have plants or pets that need taking care of? How will you get to the airport? Once you land, how will you get from the airport to the place you’re staying? Where will your mail go? If you have a job, you’ll need to talk to your boss and see if you can take a temporary leave or if you’ll just have to quit.
Get Your Documents in Order
You won’t get too far if you don’t have the right documents to travel. You’ll need a passport at the very least, and other countries may require documentation of recent vaccines. You’ll want your plane ticket, driver’s license and work/school visa if you have one. It’s also a good idea to have a list of your credit card numbers and have a written list of important phone numbers. You probably won’t need them, but if you happen to lose your bag, you’ll be really glad to have them.
Prep for the Flight
Some people fly well; others have a harder time. It can be especially nerve-wracking if it’s your first time flying alone. You can investigate certain tips and tricks for flying solo, but the most important thing is to stay calm and pay attention. If you’ve planned ahead, then hopefully you’ll have arrived at the airport early enough to find the correct gate. Additionally, make sure your baggage is easy to pick out. A plain black suitcase is easy to lose. Add a brightly colored tassel to the handle and baggage claim becomes a breeze.
Be Aware of Danger
This is supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. You’re going to have fun, see the world and become immersed in another culture. While you’re probably not going to experience something like that movie Taken, there are real dangers in traveling– especially when traveling alone. There are normal, everyday dangers that are made worse by being unfamiliar with the rules, such as looking the wrong way before crossing the street. Certain parts of the world offer other dangers, such as pickpocketing or even human trafficking. The key is to be alert and pay attention to what’s around you at all times. In researching your country, investigate which crimes tourists report the most often. You’ll be better prepared if you know what to watch out for.