So you got accepted for studying abroad? Bravo! You must be excited; it’s one of your first experiences living abroad! And you should be because it’s better than you can imagine! However, for your studies, you should come prepared. That’s why I’ll quickly share the 11 study abroad tips that I’ve gathered.
Your upcoming semester will be one of the best times of your life. You’ll meet new friends and have fantastic experiences which will shape you and your future. Most of all, this will widen your scope, and you’ll become more accustomed to traveling and trying new things.
Ready to get started? Here’s tip #1.
Get your documents ready
First of all, you should check if your passport is near its expiry date. Some countries won’t allow you to enter if the expiry date is less than six months. In other countries, the deadline may be even longer for study abroad students.
Other than your passport, you should check if you need to get a visa. Mostly for students, you do need to get a visa if you’re staying longer than five months. To apply for a visa, you should get a university acceptance letter first. Sometimes, vaccination certificates are also required for staying for longer periods.
Make sure to take copies of your documents and e-mail them to yourself before departing. Here’s a great article on what documents you usually need for studying abroad.
Read about your destination country
For your studies abroad, you should come prepared. Read a bit about their culture, traditions, and history. You will appear to be more respectful of their culture and get to know something new. Also, go through some lists of items that you need to get before traveling to a specific country. You can find this by googling: “*Country* packing list.” Another option is to browse Reddit or post a topic on an appropriate subreddit, asking what items you need for the specific country. Each country is very different, so I can’t cover everything that you would need.
Luggage and bags
Usually, if you’re studying abroad, you should bring a few packing options. I’d suggest taking a suitcase, a carry-on, and a backpack.
In the suitcase, you can stuff most of your heavier belongings. You will be using it only for your first flight and your return flight. Also, you can stuff an empty backpack inside the suitcase, as you will need it for your studies as well as some weekend trips. If you need to get a new suitcase, check out this list of the 16 most popular luggage brands.
Other than that, you should take a carry on as well. It will be perfect for your 2-3 day weekend trips and for stuffing all of the smaller items that you couldn’t squeeze in your suitcase. If you need to get a new carry on, I’ve also reviewed several brands that offer great choices: Travelpro, Ricardo Beverly Hills, and Mia Toro.
Get your banking and insurance straight
As an ex-banker, I can tell you that SWIFT international money transfers can have fixed fees of up to 30-50 dollars. It can be ridiculous if you need to transfer small amounts to other countries. Most of the times, the best option is to use your current bank and credit card and check all of the fees with your bank before departing. See how much is their currency conversion fee, what they charge for ATM withdrawals in another country and if they charge anything for paying in another currency. Other times it may be easier to open an account in your destination country. However, it’s usually a lengthy process for non-residents.
Also, you should purchase insurance that covers medical expenses, theft, and luggage loss for the whole period of your stay. Although medical costs usually aren’t as expensive as in America, they still can cost in a few thousand, so it’s better to get insured.
Tips for studying abroad: Get an ISIC card
If you’ve never heard of an ISIC card, basically it’s a credit card that’s issued only to students. It offers various discounts for students, and you can use it as proof that you’re a student. Here’s the official ISIC webpage for more information about ISIC cards. Due to the massive discounts that it offers, it’s one of the most essential tips for studying abroad, that you should sort out before departing.
If you already have an ISIC card, check it’s expiry date and renew it before your trip. In Europe, ISIC cards offer lots of discounts, usually in clothing stores, restaurants, and sightseeing places. Usually, the cost of the card is many times cheaper than the discounts that it offers.
Grab a new phone plan
When staying in another country longer than a few weeks, it’s usually a good idea to purchase a local mobile phone plan, which includes calls, SMS, and internet. If you continue to use your private phone plan, your fees can get higher than 100 USD per month. So you should do a little bit of research before departing and purchase a new number with some megabytes included upon arrival.
One of the most critical study abroad tips: weekend traveling
Generally, this one is the most important of these study abroad tips. Your studies shouldn’t be boring and packed with hard studies. You will be in a new environment, and you should take advantage of that. I’d recommend spending your weekends doing short travels – domestic as well as international.
Great news! If you’re studying in Europe international flights usually are really cheap, especially if you book them a few months early. You can get two-way tickets for less than 100 bucks and the flight times are usually one to three hours long. If you ask me, it’s the perfect opportunity for a two-day or a three-day trip.
Furthermore, in Europe, most museums, galleries and other objects of attraction have huge discounts for students. Some of them are even free to enter for students. So your weekend trip should be really cheap, especially if it’s a domestic one.
Don’t schedule your every weekend
I know it can be tempting to plan your every weekend. However, I advise against that.
When you arrive, you will meet new friends. With new friends, comes new events and activities. If all of your weekends are fully scheduled, you will regret to miss out on some of these new opportunities.
As a rule of thumb, I’d say that it’s ok to schedule a trip your every third weekend.
Kitchenware & home appliances
Contact the place you will be staying. Ask if you will have all the necessary tools for cooking, doing laundry, e.t.c. If you’re staying at a family, you should be covered. However, it’s always good to ask beforehand.
If you find out that you will be short on some tools, you should think twice about bringing them with you. Sometimes it may be a better option to buy cheap items there, rather than having an overweight suitcase.
Before packing your wardrobe, check the weather forecast.
Don’t take with you your whole closet. Before departing, read forums and look for what weather you should expect and what are their cultural traditions for dressing. If you’re staying there for a while, you will likely want to buy some clothes in the local stores to look less like a tourist and more like a local student. I’d advise to bring only a few pairs of clothes and buy the rest when you arrive.
Immerse yourself in their culture
Don’t be the shy student who stays in their room instead of going out. On the other hand, don’t be the clubber as well. You can go clubbing when you arrive home. Try to attend some semi-cultural events. For instance, festivals, outdoor fairs, music concerts and local diners. I’m sure some of your classmates will fit this lifestyle perfectly. Start talking to them and you will be presented with many fun events to attend.
Also, try talking to the locals as much as possible and learn about their traditions. This will help you broaden your view on life and become smarter.
While there, try learning their language.
Before departing, you should learn some basic words in their language. This will make your stay easier, and the locals will think better of you. In my opinion, you should try learning their language, because rarely will you get a better opportunity. It widens your scope and makes your more educated. Upon arrival, try to engage as much as possible so that you can polish your new language skills.
Keep a journal and take photos.
In the upcoming years, your study abroad experience will be one of your top life moments to remember. You’ll remember it as a time when you met new friends, had new experiences and lived abroad. So it’s a good idea to document your journies so that later you can reminiscence.
Writing a journal will not only help you document your experiences but also become better at expressing yourself through words. Just a basic notebook where you write entries weekly is more than enough.
Also, try to make the photos with you in them. You don’t want a bunch of plain photos only with the scenery. They’re boring. Here’s a great article on how to take good travel photos.
Got some more study abroad tips? Please share them down in the comments, and I’ll include some of them in this article!