In the past three months, I have learned a lot about preparing for study abroad through trial and error. I learned that packing is probably the smallest task you will have to accomplish leading up to study abroad (which was not my expectation at all!). This is my second post in my Study Abroad series, click here to see how to pick where to go! Here are some helpful tips about how to efficiently prepare for study abroad:
I was one of those people that thought all summer that study abroad was so far away and it wasn’t something I needed to worry about yet. Now, I’m a week away from leaving and scrambling to get everything straight! I should have started slowly working on preparing in May (that’s what my school recommended, but did I listen?….nope). Starting 3 or 4 months before will make your life so much easier than trying to do everything AND PACK in 2 weeks.
Make lists for anything and everything: things you need to do, things to pack, things to read, things to research, things to try, people/places to call, etc. Having a checklist will make sure you don’t forget that small but very important detail! (and it’s always more fun to check things off on paper than in your head).
Passport and Visa Always Takes Priority
Fortunately, this was not something I had to deal with personally, however, I had a lot of friends who waited to get their passport and visa in order and were scrambling to get it done. This processes of getting/updating passports AND applying for a visa can take months and usually requires shipping off your passport or going to an embassy for an interview. Do this first (like 4 months ahead of your program) because it will take the most time.
#2 GO TO THE DOCTORS!
Right after you start the process for passports and visas, immediately schedule a doctors appointment. Even though prescriptions only take hours to fill now, this doesn’t mean getting a 4 month or 6 month supply is going to be simple. Talk to your doctor months in advance about larger prescriptions. This is because insurance may have policies that won’t cover it or you may have a controlled substance that needs to be verified before the pharmacy can hand over more than a 3-month supply. This also makes it easier in case you need any vaccinations or physicals before you leave. It’s also just really nice to not have to stress about a simple thing like a doctors visit in the midst of study abroad prep chaos.
Get a binder AND folder and start collecting documents early. I only just started doing this (a week before I leave) and it made my life so much harder. Some documents you need are bank statements (another thing to get early on), passport copy, prescriptions/doctor’s notes, return flight information, school acceptance letter, etc. Having these all in a folder that’s ready to be slipped in a carryon makes packing SO much easier. The Binder is for general information. My school sent me an orientation packet through email which had important information about where I was staying. This along with potential weekend trip plans, list of transportation options and a few other general informational documents were in the binder. Now I have one place to look when I have any questions!
Get Logged In
Getting logged in to the school’s website and confirming all forms and applications are filled out will make life so much easier if you do it a month before you leave. I ran into a problem of not being able to log on which became stressful because I a deadline for a form was coming up and I hadn’t even started to fill it out. You will also usually receive more prep information (orientation times, class schedules, etc.) if you are logged on to the website.
Read Up on the Country
This is by no means necessary in preparing, but you will have a better grasp on the experience you will have if you read a little about the country you will be living in. This could be reading up some history (it makes museums and historical sites even cooler if you have background knowledge already) or you could just read some recent news articles. This is a culture you will be living in for months, take the time to understand it a little before you get there.
This may seem redundant, but I’m not talking about the social/political/cultural climate of the country. Know the area around your housing. Are there grocery stores nearby? Are you walking or riding a bus to school? What is there to do there? What is the average temperature (REALLY IMPORTANT TO RESEARCH BEFORE PACKING!)? It might be worth it to get one of those travel books like this one to learn more about day trips you may want to take.
Packing Tip: Research Brands in the Country
I was really concerned that my favorite shampoo and conditioner wouldn’t be available in Ireland. But, I did a little digging and found out I didn’t need to lug 4 bottles over with me! One of the most helpful things I figured out was to go on to google maps and search for drugstores in the area you are staying. Most stores will have a website that includes brands they hold. I was able to confirm all my everyday products were available in Ireland. Now I’m not stressed about toiletries and I don’t have to weigh down my bag by bringing more than travel size versions.
I hope you found this helpful! Let me know what other study abroad topics you would like to see in this series!
Until Next Time,