Friday, April 1, 2016

Preparing for Study Abroad

Are you thinking about studying abroad during your college years? Or if you are lucky you’ve already been accepted into a study abroad program! Getting ready to study abroad in another country can’t be done properly overnight. Studying abroad is not just an extended vacation… For a semester or sometimes even a year, you will be living in a new city, thousands of miles away from your family and friends.  Here is a list of tips to get ready to study abroad and make the most out of this amazing experience.
preparing for study abroad

1. Research your destination 

Knowing the basic history, culture and customs of the country you have chosen will greatly improve your study abroad experience. Purchase a couple of travel guides and start reading! Check out Tripadvisor to plan the sites you will visit first when you arrive, and plan which cities and towns you would like to explore during your trip. Check out the culinary specialties you need to try.

Learning about your study abroad destination will not only make you more and more excited as your trip gets closer, but it will also keep you out of trouble. Foreign laws can be very different than what we accustomed to in the United States, and what would result in a minor write-up on campus could land you in jail in another country. So before you jet out for what will surely be the best experience of your life, do your research and know what to expect!
adventure awaits
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2. Learn the Language

If you are travelling in a country where English is not the primary language, learning the basics of the foreign language will come in extremely handy. We definitely recommend getting Rosetta Stone, which is the best language learning software currently out there. Basically, Rosetta Stone combines interactive technology with native speaker voicing and a visual environment to mimic the complete immersion process. You can get through the lessons on your iPhone or your tablet, and it’s actually really fun to do.

We’d recommend completing at least Level 1 in your new foreign language in order to learn the basics. Knowing these can help you to overcome the first few days of adjustment. If you have time before you leave try to get through Level 2 as well to be able to initiate conversation with locals, and have a better understanding of your surroundings. You can even get a student discount at Rosetta Stone to make it an even better deal!
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3. Save up.

Creating a savings plan will be your best bet for being prepared financially while abroad. You want to make sure that you will always have money in your pocket for weekend trips, shopping, dining, or in the case of emergency.

You can also search for study abroad scholarships through your school or program for additional aid to use during your time abroad. Creating a plan and knowing your options will allow you to have the most fun with what you have to spend.
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5. Get ready for departure

  • Check out Immigration requirements
Studying abroad almost always requires a study visa. While your school will assist you through the application process, make sure you are pro-active and aware of all deadlines. Have your passport renewed well in advance if it is close to expiration, as you almost always need a 6 months validity to enter any country.

  • Make a doctor’s appointment
Your doctor will be able to advise you with any vaccinations or medications required for traveling to your destination. Keep in mind that you might want to travel to neighboring countries while you are abroad, so it better to be safe than sorry. Getting a full physical before studying abroad is always a good idea as well. Ask your doctor for basic prescription medication to carry with you: upset stomach, antibiotics, an EpiPen if you have any allergies, etc… Navigating the pharmacy aisle is a foreign country can be a very daunting task.

  • Get appropriate health and travel insurance.
Even if you are still covered under your parents’ health insurance, you will most likely need your own coverage while you study abroad. Getting a good travel insurance will also pay off in case of trip interruption, loss of luggage, or any travel related unpleasant circumstances.

4. Create a communication plan.

Once you arrive at your study abroad destination, one of your first order of business will be to get yourself a cell phone. Make sure to purchase an unlocked cell before you leave so you can buy a prepaid SIM card to use when you get there. Call your US service provider before you leave to make sure your phone can be used abroad in case of emergency over the first couple of days. The last thing you want is to find yourself stranded on your layover without a phone. For instance, T-Mobile offers unlimitedinternational data and text, so you can use all these tools right at your fingertips to help you stay in touch.

Apps like Viber, Skype or WhatsApp also come in very handy to keep in touch with your friends and family back home. Make sure to use those apps over wifi to save your data. Use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to give everyone updates on your whereabouts. You could even consider starting a blog where you update everyone on your adventures.
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5. Prepare yourself mentally.

The idea of getting out of your comfort zone and saying goodbye to your friends and family for a couple of months can be very scary. But try to think of all the excitement that is yet to come! Head for this new experience with an open mind. Foreign cultures are different, not weird or wrong. While studying abroad you will meet many amazing people that you will form new friendships with. Never forget that you also have a strong support system at home that will help you get through the challenges. Now start packing, and enjoy the ride!

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