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Study Abroad Tips for College Students Taking Their Very First Semester Abroad

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Studying abroad can be one of the best and most memorable experiences of your college career. Deciding where you want to go, what you’ll be studying and the details that come along with it are exciting. But it can also be overwhelming. Where do you start?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are some helpful tips for studying abroad to check off before you leave.

A note before we get started: If you are dying to study internationally but your school does not offer any study abroad opportunities, don’t close the door on studying abroad yet. There are several programs out there, such as CIEE, Best Semester, and others that will work with your school to send you abroad.

Now, let’s get started.

Tips on How to Study Abroad on a Budget

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The first thing to do is check with your school for any financial aid that can be used to cover certain costs of studying abroad. If the program goes through your school, often times whatever aid your school normally gives you can also be used for studying abroad. If you are going through a program separate from your school, check with them to see what aid they can offer.

Another way to help save money would be to look into scholarships your school or program offers for studying abroad. There are also plenty of organizations online that offer study abroad scholarships.

When applying for scholarships, remember that every little amount helps. Apply for as many scholarships as you can. You will be grateful later on.

Calculate All the Extra Costs

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Besides the initial cost of studying at the university, you will be going to, there are other costs to take into consideration when you will be studying abroad. Here are a few of them to keep in mind:

Figure Out the Study Abroad Program’s Housing and Food Costs

Depending on the program you use and the university you go to, the pricing of housing and food will vary. With some programs, you will pay the housing and food costs of your home university, and it will go to your home university. Through other programs, you will pay the costs of your host university. Either way, you might be able to get financial aid to cover the majority of these costs. That said, it is a good idea to know beforehand so you aren’t caught off guard by these costs.

Also remember that although your home university might have a meal plan on campus, your host university might not. Some universities expect you to feed yourself, so keep some money tucked away for potential food costs.

Determine if There are Any Additional Transportation Costs

Transportation is another cost to consider when studying abroad. Depending on your program, your flight ticket may be included. If it isn’t, finding cheap flights are not always easy. Here’s a tip: airlines sell the cheapest tickets on Tuesdays in the afternoon.

Besides the initial plane ticket, there may be other transportation fees that come along with studying abroad. If your host university is in a city, transportation may be easier and cheaper, as there will be more options. If the university is a bit more hidden away, count on either staying on campus or spending a bit more to get where you want to go.

Here’s a helpful hint: Wherever you go, make sure to look up trains or city buses you could take. In many places, you can buy a single train ticket or bus pass that will allow you to travel around a lot for a very small amount.

Don’t Forget to Add a Little Spending Money

And, of course, you can’t forget to keep some spending money on you during your semester abroad. It’s likely you will want to buy souvenirs, go out to eat with friends, or have an emergency stash in case.

Ideas on What to Pack When You Study Abroad

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The key to packing for a semester abroad: keep it minimal. Only take what you know you can’t or don’t want to buy there. For example, if you don’t have room in your suitcase for your shampoo and conditioner, leave them at home and buy some once you arrive. Also, try to avoid packing your entire wardrobe – pack your essentials.

Check your university’s website for things offered there, such as sheets, pillows, fans, and lamps. Many universities will have these items for incoming students. This way the students don’t have to bring them.

Many students will miss home while they are away. Here’s a homesickness tip: consider bringing a few comfort objects that remind you of home.

Checklist of Things to Do Before You Leave for Your Semester Abroad

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Things can get overwhelming and confusing when you cross the borders into another land, but here are a few things you can check off your to-do list. Try to plan ahead so that you aren’t overwhelmed when you get to your host country.

Check the Status of Your Passport and Make Sure It’s Valid

This one may seem obvious, but make sure you have your passport and it is valid. Check the expiration date for your passport to make sure it will not expire anytime while you are away. Some countries may deny you access if your passport will be expiring during your stay. If you do not have a passport, head to your nearest Post Office.

Research International Cell Phone Plans

Check with your cell phone provider to make sure you are on a plan that allows international calls and texting without it being an added cost. There are several plans out there specifically for traveling outside of the country so it would be a great idea to look into those.

If it is an added cost and you don’t want to switch plans, there are definitely ways to outsmart your provider. Get to know these apps: Skype, WhatsApp, and Line. Apps like these allow international calling and texting without any cost.

Currency Exchange

A great way to avoid standing in long lines and trying to figure out where your ATMs are is to exchange your bills while you are still in the United States. An easy way to avoid having to exchange your currency would be to get a credit card for your time abroad. That said, it’s always a good idea to have some cash on you as well.

Get a Student Visa

Your university usually helps along the process of acquiring a student visa for their students studying abroad. If they don’t, the student visa process can be long, so make sure to get started as soon as possible.

Along with the visa often comes certain regulations for students studying internationally. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these regulations. For example, in some countries, an international student is not allowed to work in that country while they are studying there. Knowing this information beforehand is important so you don’t get into trouble later.

Make Sure You Can Transfer All the Credits You Earn While You Study Abroad

This is a big one for all students studying abroad. Before you leave to study abroad, be sure to have at least an idea of what classes you will be taking and if they will be transferable.

You will have to meet with an academic counselor to go over the course guide. Your academic counselor or advisor can help you choose classes and make sure the school approves all your courses and credits.

This is vital for you to get the most out of your study abroad experience without holding back your graduation.

Keep These Things in Mind if You’re Studying Abroad For the First Time

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Go on Short Trips by Yourself

Especially if you haven’t done much traveling, going on short trips on your own is a great opportunity to get the feel of studying abroad. When you study internationally, you will need to be comfortable figuring things out on your own and adapting to new places.

During your time abroad, you’ll likely get lost or have to find your way to somewhere you’ve never been. By putting yourself in similar situations before you go, you can learn to adapt very quickly and feel more at ease when you travel abroad.

Prepare for a Culture Shock

Even if you think you are going somewhere where the culture is similar, there will always be some amount of culture shock when you go to a new place. A great way to lessen this culture shock is to familiarize yourself with the culture. Try to gather at least a basic understanding of the culture before you go.

If the language is different where you’re going, consider learning a bit of the language so you aren’t completely lost in translation. Also, think about getting familiar with your surroundings there; what is around your school? Learning things like this will help you feel more at home when you arrive.

All of this will benefit you, and it will also be appreciated by the people who live there.

Final Thoughts on What You Need to Know if You’re Studying Abroad

There’s a lot to think about when you are preparing to pack up your life and transfer it to another country. In the midst of the chaos, it’s always nice to have a checklist to keep your thoughts in order. It’s all in the details! Find your financial aid, pack the essentials you need, and get comfortable traveling to new places.

Have you studied abroad before and have any good tips or wise words you’d like to pass on? Let us know in the comments below!

Last Updated: 06/21/2017 By: Author Name Emma Hanson

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