Tips for Spending the Semester Abroad

One of the best decisions a college student can make is to study abroad for a semester or a year. It is a completely life-changing experience. Your journey will take you to new places, allow you to meet new people, and have a ton of new experiences. Before you can jump on that plane, there are a few things you need to do to ensure study abroad success.

Paperwork:
Once you have decided on the host country, you need to make sure all appropriate paperwork is in order. Make sure your application to study abroad is in on time and you understand all the requirements. If you have a passport already, pull it out and make sure it doesn’t expire any time soon. Otherwise fill out the paperwork to renew it. If you don’t have a passport, head to the drugstore and get your passport photos taken. It can take up to 12 weeks to get your passport so make sure you have plenty of time. Some countries require a visa, so double check with your host country’s consulate to determine any paperwork you need to fill out. Allow yourself plenty of time to get all this paperwork completed.

Culture Shock:
Be prepared for a new language and culture. Even the language of the United Kingdom is different than American. Although it is more common today to find people abroad who speak English, it is best to learn at least some of the basic phrases before hopping on the plane. Most people appreciate an attempt to speak their language. If you have spent years honing your language skills, you are already a step ahead. Your classes will probably be conducted in the language of your host country. Try to plan some time to take a few language courses before heading abroad. If you don’t have time for that, you will probably be required to take some courses once you are there.

Culture shock can happen to anyone. It can also make your journey more difficult if you let it consume you. Knowing the signs and a little preparation are good ways to combat that shock. Research your host country before you leave home. Get a feeling for the political, cultural, and religious structures. Besides learning how to prevent a few cultural faux pas, this is also a great way to pinpoint sights of interest. Once you get to your host country, make friends with the locals. They will enjoy sharing their culture with you. They can even tell you about the hidden gems of their city.

Be Open to New Experiences:
Open yourself up to new experiences. Immerse yourself in the new language and culture. Be prepared to try something you have never had before. Chances are you can find a McDonald’s anywhere in the world, but head to a local restaurant and try some of the local cuisine. Don’t close yourself off to the experience. These are the stories you are going to tell later and laugh about. Would you want to get home and realize you only sat around and watched television? Enjoy the nightlife! Enjoy the tourist areas! Enjoy those spots that only the locals know about!

Packing:
Packing for your trip abroad is an inevitable step. Make sure to pack efficiently. There are luggage limits on airplanes, which are even stricter today. Check the airline so you know exactly what those restrictions are. When deciding what to bring, consider how the locals will dress. Jeans and sneakers scream American, so if you want to blend in, think about dressing a little more formally. Try to stick with neutral colors that are easy to mix and match. If you get to your host country and realized you forgot something, like deodorant, ask for a care package with your favorite brand. A good trick when packing is to make a list of what you want to pack and then cut that list in half.

Money:
When preparing to study abroad, you also need to think about finances. Not only do you need to make sure you have enough money to pay for the semester, but you also need to make sure you have enough money to get you through the semester. Bringing a debit or credit card with you may give you the best exchange rate. Check with your bank so you know of any charges. Also let your bank and credit card companies know you’ll be traveling abroad. If they are unaware and see a charge in England, they can put a freeze on your account. Traveler’s checks are commonly used when heading abroad as well. Get to know the exchange rates before you head abroad and understand the commission fees charged to cash the Traveler’s checks. If you can get a week’s worth of the currency before you leave, that will help you out in the very beginning.

Safety:
Safety is another concern. Make copies of your credit card and debit card numbers. If they are stolen, you need to be able to call and cancel them. Copies of your passport and traveler’s checks are a good idea too. Keep a set at home with your parents and have a set stored somewhere safely in your luggage. Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your stuff. Nothing is worse than falling victim to a pickpocket in a busy tourist location.

As you prepare for your experience abroad, these are just a few tips to get your started. If you have researched your country, you have probably made lists of places you want to go and events you want to take part in. Once all the details are taken care of, you can enjoy your experiences. Don’t forget your journal so you can write about all the things you do and see!