Anyone who has studied abroad would tell prospective students that they simply have to do it, if they can make it work. Studying abroad is an incredibly fulfilling and humbling experience that leaves students with a serious case of the travel bug. It’s an awesome opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and experience a new culture, while getting an education. New people, new traditions, different languages; there’s so much to get out of a study abroad experience, but it’s important to go in prepared.
Thinking of studying abroad during your undergraduate career? Be sure to study these tips before you reach your destination!
Arrive Stocked With Your Necessities
Before traveling, be sure you pack up all of your personal necessities. This includes any prescriptions, your favorite toiletries, and more underwear than you think you need. It can be extremely difficult to have your prescriptions filled in a foreign country, so it’s best to notify your provider of your travels and request enough fills to get you through your stay (or your next trip home). Spread the word as early as you can (like, a couple of months in advance) so that if you run into any trouble, you have time to contact your insurance company and any relevant physicians to get what you need.
Know Your Neighbors
Even if you have a roommate or host family, you should make a point to introduce yourself to the people living around you. You’re studying in a country that is foreign to you, around people you don’t know. Get to know your neighbors and you’ll have more people looking out for you if you are not around.
Protect Your Money & Get A Travel Credit Card
Foreign currency can be crazy confusing, and running into cash flow and/or bank trouble while abroad is more common than any of us would like to admit. Rather than worrying about whether you have enough of the right kind of cash on you, or whether you are going to load your debit card up with fees… apply for a debit or credit card that has no foreign transaction add-ons. Banks like Charles Schwab and Barclay have cards that do not tack on fees every time you make a transaction or withdraw from an ATM when you are abroad. While the fees may be a matter of a couple of bucks… it adds up! Save where you can and be sure to let your banks know that you will be traveling so they don’t ignite travel protection and turn off your card.
Have The Right Gadgets
Be prepared with a travel phone, a backup phone, your laptop and/or tablets and an external hard drive or USB to back up your work. Pickpocket masters target tourists because frankly, they don’t know any better. They can be spotted a mile away, not for any negative reason but simply because they look like they aren’t from around town. Tourists regularly lose their phones, wallets, iPod and other personal items. The best thing you can do for yourself is have a backup plan for anything communication- and school-related, so if you are a victim of theft, you can at least communicate with people and access your work. Also be sure to have adapters, if necessary. There’s nothing worse than bringing all of your chargers and devices, only to find that you can’t charge them.
Act Like You Belong
To avoid being targeted as a potential theft victim, act like you know your stuff and belong! Your chances of being targeted will lessen if you look comfortable, own the streets, know where you are going and don’t look confused.
Know Your Neighborhood
To act like you belong, you’ve got to know where you are going. Before you arrive, research your destination. Study a map to get an idea of what your neighborhood will be like. Where is the nearest grocery store? Can you walk to class or do you need to catch a ride? How far away is the subway? Do a google search of the area… are the blogs and/or forums with general safety and travel information? One of the best things you can do for yourself is to know where you are so you don’t look lost. When you arrive, walk the streets that you’ve studied so you can really understand where you will be for next few months.
Unplug From Home A Little
It’s definitely hard to leave your friends, family and significant other behind, but you truly cannot let that stop you from getting all you can get out of your study abroad experience. It can be really tempting to spend your night video chatting with your boyfriend because you miss each other, or talking to mom on the phone for hours because you’re feeling stressed and homesick. However, if you spend the bulk of your free time doing that, you’ll miss out on everything the country you’re visiting has to offer! Remember to unplug and explore, your people will understand and you’ll thank yourself later for taking on such an incredible experience.
Put Your Subscriptions On Hold
Depending on your length of stay, you’ll want to put a stop on any of your daily, weekly or monthly subscriptions. Put your newspaper and magazine deliveries on hold, and pause any internet-based services that you don’t anticipate using while traveling. Think Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu. If you think you’ll use these while abroad, just be sure that your apps are serviceable in the area you’ll be in. Often you will get to a different country and find that your favorite TV shows are not offered there, thus marking your subscription useless until you get back home. If this is the case, try installing a VPN to browse from your country of choice.
Record the location and phone numbers for the nearest campus security, the local police, the fire station, the closest hospital or walk-in clinic and, of course, your university representative.
You can read Part II of Tips for Studying Abroad here!