Preparing to study abroad is a super exciting time…so exciting, in fact, that you might forget to take care of some things before you jet off. Because I’ve been there, done that, messed that up, I’ve put together these study abroad planning tips to save you from the stress.
- Update your Voicemail
Typically, students choose a study abroad phone plan that might allow limited use within their new country, but without access to calls from home. If you plan to apply for a job during your program, then updating your voicemail is one of the most important things to do before studying abroad.
The message should be short and sweet:
Hi, this is [your name] and I’m out of the country until [date]. In the meantime, please contact me at [your email].
I lost out on a cool job because I forgot to update my voicemail before leaving the country. Don’t let it happen to you!
- Confirm your Credits
Confirming your credits is worth stopping by your school’s international programs office in person — just to check. Before you leave to study abroad, there is still time to add/drop classes in your program. Your academic advisor or your school’s international program coordinator will be able to confirm the exact number of credits you need to take abroad and how they will transfer back to your home university.
Check and double check! Study abroad credits transfer is not something you want to mess up. I had a miscommunication with my registrar at Mount Holyoke and had to take two extra classes my senior year to graduate on time. No fun.
Don’t let this scare you, though! It’s not a reason not to study abroad. A little elbow grease and #ConstantVigilance can totally prevent any issues.
- Buy your Bags
One of my main study abroad tips for women is to upgrade your purse before you leave. Also, if there are any guys reading this, ain’t no shame in rockin’ a new murse.
I’d like to recommend a “pick pocket + slash proof” bag like this one or this one. But fear not, you don’t have to sacrifice style for safety. I scoured the interwebs for the cutest choices because you’re #WorthIt.
Since studying abroad on a budget is also key, a small investment in a budget airline approved suitcase will you a lot of money on weekend adventures in the long haul.
I have this one from Rick Steves and am absolutely obsessed with it. It’s basically a Mary Poppins bag, in that it holds way more than it appears to.
- Make some Friends
There is usually a Facebook group that you can join to ask questions specifically related to your program and semester and get to know your classmates. It’s a great resource for finding sometime to split the ride to campus from the airport or to share dinner with during that first awkward night.
It’s also a good idea to touch base with your future classmates about sharing the cost of expensive textbooks, planning weekend trips, or trouble shooting Visa issues.
- Get a Credit Card
Many of my friends had their debit cards eaten by ATMS or swiped by pickpockets. Getting a replacement debit card while abroad is SUCH a hassle, and you don’t want to consume your semester dealing with it. If you bring a credit card with you, you already have a replacement card handy if “disaster” strikes.
Credit cards are also easier to dispute fraudulent charges with, so if you fall victim to any shady travel companies, you are more likely to get your money back, making this one of the ESSENTIAL things to do before studying abroad.
If you’re already abroad and starting to feel homesick, be sure to read my tips on how to deal with it.
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