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10 Easy Tips for Studying Abroad

female student studying abroad

If you’re interested in studying abroad, you probably have a good idea what it can do for you both academically and personally. However, you may have questions about the process overall. There is a lot to learn and even more to do before you make a temporary home in a foreign country. As the college moving experts, we’re here to help. This guide will give you some basic, yet simple tips for studying abroad so you can start planning your journey. 

What is Studying Abroad? 

Again, you probably have a good idea. But just in case, studying abroad is when a student lives in a different country while attending college. It’s usually coordinated by the student’s college through a study abroad program. According to the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs, more than 300,000 American students take part in study abroad programs annually. Students typically live abroad for a semester or an academic year and stay in either furnished dorms or with a host family. 

1. Plan Ahead as Soon as You Can

As soon as you know you want to study abroad, start making plans. You can start by talking with your academic advisor and researching study abroad programs offered at your school and what you need to get accepted. Some schools have hundreds of programs, so give yourself as much time as possible to go over the details and find the right fit. You may also want to create a study abroad checklist to ensure you’re making progress. You’ll want to give yourself at least six months to prepare. 

2. Start Saving Money Now

A big part of preparing is getting your financials in order. We know, as a college student, you might not have a lot to save. But anything helps. Make it point to put money aside wherever possible to give yourself extra wiggle room when you’re abroad for things like food, clothing, and more, even if you plan on getting a scholarship or grant. If you don’t have a job currently, it might be a good idea to get one. If you have one, maybe take on more hours or even consider a second part-time job. 

3. Apply for Study Abroad Scholarships and Financial Aid

Speaking of finances, did you know you can apply for financial aid specifically for studying abroad? This might be another good topic to discuss with a school advisor or financial aid office. You may be able to get a scholarship or grant to help fund your experience. This, in addition to your own savings, will help cover the cost of housing, travel, food, and more. It can be expensive to study abroad, so be sure to explore every avenue you can to help cover the costs. 

4. Get Familiar with Your New ‘Home’ Beforehand

You probably have a lot on your plate as a college student, but we recommend you do some extra ‘studying’ and get familiar with the basics of your destination before you arrive. That includes learning some of the language, cultural norms, customs, transportation options, and even some local history. It may seem like a chore, but you’ll feel more comfortable when your feet hit the ground if everything is a little less foreign. Plus, the locals will appreciate the effort. 

5. Plan to Journal or Document Your Stay

It’s a safe bet you plan on making memories while abroad. Keep those memories fresh for years to come by documenting your experiences in some fashion. Journaling the old-fashioned way with a notebook and pen is an easy way to document your trip that doesn’t require Internet access or even electricity. Photos are also a must. To go a step further, try documenting your adventure in the native language. Your friends back home will surely be impressed. 

6. Don’t Be Shy

Why go through all the trouble of planning and saving if you’re not going to get the most out of your trip? We recommend you keep an open mind and don’t be shy. Make friends with local students, eat strange foods, go on weekend trips to see other parts of the country, and try embracing the culture shock. Of course, we recommend you stay safe and make good decisions. But don’t be afraid to mix things up and open yourself up to new experiences. 

7. Remember, You’re Studying Abroad

With that said, keep in mind you’re there to study and continue your education. It’s good to have fun, but don’t forget you need to go to class, just like you do state side. This is where the saying “work hard, play harder” comes into play. For example, a weekend getaway is a good way of rewarding yourself after you’ve chipped away at your schoolwork and had a good week of going to class.  

8. Pack Light

Many students assume they need to bring almost their entire dorm with them abroad. But you’ll be better off packing light. First, it’s cheaper to fly with less luggage. Second, you can buy the essentials after you arrive, or your host family might have plenty to share. If you’re wondering what to do with your stuff during your time abroad, check out the Collegeboxes Summer Storage service

9. Make a Plan for Your Phone Usage

Your cell phone as is probably won’t be available to you abroad. Many travel experts recommend you acquire a local SIM card to use with your cell phone so you can make calls and texts internationally without Wi-Fi. If you’re unable to use a SIM card with your phone, consider looking into a local phone plan of some kind or talk to your provider to see what options are available to you. Another option is to download free text apps like WhatsApp and Messenger, though these require an internet connection. 

10. Find Out What Documentation You Need

Traveling abroad is a complex thing. Every country has different requirements for entry and temporary residence. Do your homework and find out what your destination requires. You may need a student visa and a passport, for example. Those types of things take time to acquire, so you’ll want to get that sorted out as early in the process as you can. Talk to your study abroad advisors to find out if there is any special documentation required for your adventure ahead. 

For more information, please visit our Study Abroad page.

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