My entire room was a colorful combination of every single one of my clothing items. How am I going to possibly pack all of this? I was leaving for four months tomorrow, and I hadn’t packed anything.
I grabbed a few shirts and stuffed them into an already stuffed suitcase. When am I ever going to wear this? I grabbed a random assortment of clothes and threw them into the “not taking” pile, feeling a bit relieved that I had narrowed it down.
I have a tendency to over pack. A lot (which is why I prefer to live minimally out of a backpack. It’s much simpler). This was especially worse a year ago, when I was about to leave for study abroad. I hadn’t really prepared, and to be honest, I didn’t even remember what classes I was taking.
Which is why I’m making a list for YOU on how to prepare for studying abroad – to help your transition to go as smoothly as possible.
Research the city you’ll be living in.
There’s nothing that will get you more excited than looking at pictures of the city you’ll be living in, and of course, researching the bars, museums and restaurants, OH MY! Most of the information you’ll be finding online from your research will be common tourist destinations, which will be beneficial in helping you assimilate to a new culture. Once you get settled in, you’ll be able to search for lesser known spots which will soon become your favorites and make you feel at home.
Pack ahead of time.
Find out what the weather is going to be like during the duration of your trip. It could save you those precious pounds when you check your bag at the airport, and prevent you from paying the overweight fee. Trust me, you’re not going to wear as much as you think. I also guarantee you’re going to come back with a ton of new trinkets, clothes, or in my friend’s case, dozens of shot glasses, all of which will take up room in your bag. I brought home stickers and a strobe light from a bar that my friend ripped off of the wall… don’t ask.
Figure out the Visa requirements.
Most of the time your school will help you with this, especially if it is a study abroad institution. If not, ask! A study abroad representative will help you apply for your visa and help you with all of the necessary paperwork before arriving. Don’t wait until the last minute with this one.
Make sure your passport is up to date.
There would be nothing worse than realizing your passport expired when you’re abroad. Make sure that the expiration date is AT LEAST 6 months away from the date you come home. That way, any potential problems will be prevented.
Prepare for any emergencies.
It would never hurt to research the nearest hospital, police station, and Embassy from your dorm. It’s also a good idea to research where you would need to go in case your laptop broke or you needed a new phone. It only takes a few minutes to make a mental note, and may even end up saving you from any trouble in the future.
Get in touch with your bank and exchange your money to the foreign currency.
A few things here: First, let your bank know you’ll be in another country for a few months so they don’t shut down your card the first time you use it abroad! Second, ask your bank ahead of time to order cash in the foreign currency so you have it upon arrival, in case of any emergencies. I brought about $200 worth of Danish Krone with me to Denmark and was happy I did. It acted as emergency money. I also didn’t feel obligated to immediately look for an ATM until I was situated into my dorm.
Make sure you have everything you need for your classes.
My school, the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, gave us our textbooks (which was included in tuition) when we arrived in Copenhagen. I doubt that a school would make you travel with a few five pound textbooks (I’d rather bring every textbook on the plane with me as a carry on than pay that overweight fee), but just double check. Figure out supplies and any prerequisites you need before arriving at your destination.
Join your school’s Facebook group or contact people in your program via email.
This was one of the best things I did before leaving for study abroad. There was a Facebook group for DIS students which I joined. After we found out where we would be staying, I kept an eye out for people who posted they were in the same dorm as me. When a new “Gammeltoftsgade” post popped up, I sent a short message to them on Facebook. It made my arrival a lot smoother since I already knew a few people that were going to be there.
Preparing yourself will only make things easier when you arrive in your new country. You’re going to feel scared, anxious, and excited, but trust me, it’s all worth it. Every second is a learning experience, not only about yourself but about a brand new culture as well. Don’t be afraid if you don’t know the language either. I went to Denmark and only knew a few phrases in Danish from a handbook I picked up (very useful!). Once you’re in the country, it’s a lot easier to learn at least an elementary level of the language.
Do you have anymore useful tips for those leaving to study abroad?