Study Abroad Preparation Checklist: 5 Things to do BEFORE Studying Abroad

This ultimate study abroad preparation checklist is here to save your life!

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.

The Ultimate Study Abroad Preparation Checklist

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Update your voicemail before catching your flight

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 on your study abroad preparation checklist.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

Call me beep me, if you wanna reach me…in Istanbul

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 before studying abroad

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.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

My home away in Rome, the John Felice Rome Center.

Check and double-check! Study abroad credits transfer is not something you want to mess up. I had a miscommunication with the registrar at Mount Holyoke and had to take two extra classes during 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. Just don’t leave it off your study abroad preparation checklist.

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Buy your bags

Don’t leave buying a bag off your study abroad preparation checklist. 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 “pickpocket + 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 all #WorthIt.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

My “hella secure and unstealable” purse

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.

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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 someone to split the ride to campus from the airport or to share dinner with during that first awkward night.

study abroad preparation checklist things to do before studying abroad

the squad and me during my first week in Italy.

It’s also a good idea to touch base with your future classmates about sharing the cost of expensive textbooks, planning weekend trips, or troubleshooting Visa issues.

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Get a travel 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 items on my study abroad preparation checklist.

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