Preparing to Study Abroad

If you’ve ever given though to studying abroad while in college, then this post is for you!

Many students consider going abroad at some time during their college career, but are deterred by the seemingly difficult and confusing process. But really – it’s not so confusing at all!

With a little bit of organization and forward thinking, you’ll be ready to pack your bags in no time!

Tonya Pell, a Study Abroad Peer Advisor at Central Michigan University breaks down the process and makes it easier to understand when you should be doing what.

  • One Year to Six Months Before

“If you know that you want to study abroad, I recommend planning around a year in advance. Stop into your school’s study abroad office, research the different programs they offer, and try to find the right fit for you,” says Pell.

“It also depends on your school’s study abroad program; check with them when the application process begins and what their timeline is like. I would also recommend, once you get it down to a few programs, to look at the university’s website that you want to visit abroad. It’s a great source of information and will give you a feel of what to expect.”

Chances are your university has plenty of resources available to you as a student preparing to study abroad; and most universities really encourage their students to go explore new cultures, and will be more than happy to help you every step of the way!

Another thing to look into during this time period is any scholarships your home and host universities offer for students to study abroad. Traveling can be expensive, and any extra money will always be a big help!

  • One to Five Months Before

Continue to stay in contact with the study abroad office at your university. Also try to get in contact with other students that have gone abroad, preferably ones that have visited the country you are going to.

As well as that, try to connect with people that are going at the same time as you. While you may be strangers to start, having a somewhat familiar face in an otherwise alien environment will go a long way when you’re far from home.

Apply for proper documentation and paperwork. If you’re confused, be sure to consult your study abroad office; remember they’re there to help you with every stage in the process, so utilize them!

If necessary, get any vaccinations needed to go abroad plenty of time in advance of your departure. This way, if you have an adverse effect from the medicine, it won’t hinder your travelling plans.

“In the months leading up to your departure, find out as much information about the country you’re going to. Find out about their government, culture, education system, and more. It will help make the transition easier and less confusing.

Also, make sure you properly get a Visa and all the other documentation you will need to leave the USA and enter your country. Every country is different, so research!” advises Pell.

  • The Final Month

Begin planning and packing the things you are going to take with you.

“If you know what kind of weather to expect, pack about a week and a half to two weeks worth of clothes. You will definitely purchase clothes while you are abroad; so don’t worry about running out. Bring a variety of clothing that will mix and match well with each other, so you don’t have to wear the same old clothes all the time. Pack sensible shoes!”

As far as toiletries and hygiene products, Pell says

“It really depends on the country you are going to. Like I said before, research! It will really help make everything, even packing, much easier.”

Electronics can be a bit more tricky. Many countries have different electrical outlets and voltages than you may be used to.

“Also, if you are bringing any electronic devices find out what the voltage is in the country you are going to. You will probably have to buy a converter and/or adapter in order to properly charge your laptop, camera, etc.

I wouldn’t recommend bringing your hair dryer, straightener, or any of those kinds of items with you. They take up unnecessary space and you could probably purchase them for cheap when you land.”

And last but not least,

“Bring something from home that will comfort you when you’re feeling homesick. Whether you download your favorite movie onto your laptop, bring pictures of your friends and family, or even your favorite sweater, it’s those things that make it just a little easier when you’re feeling homesick,” says Pell.

  • Money and Budgeting

As far as this goes, Ms. Pell has some sage advice:

“A lot of people ask about budgeting when they study abroad. My biggest advice is to wait a couple of weeks before you set a final budget. Get a feel for about how much you should be spending each week, between groceries, travel expenses, and personal expenses and then stick it that budget. It’ll make for a less stressful trip!

Setting a budget is also a personal decision; if you would rather spend money on souvenirs than visiting museums and other tourist attractions, that’s your choice! Studying abroad is all about your own experience, so spend your money how YOU want to!”

Her final advice?

“Just have fun. Experience a culture that is so different from your own and learn from that experience! Grow as a person and create memories that you will remember for the rest of your life.”

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Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson

Elizabeth Benson is a freshman at Central Michigan University, currently pursuing a degree in Journalism. Elizabeth is a member of the CMU Honors Program, and is a staff reporter at Central Michigan Life, the student run campus newspaper. When she’s not in school, she can usually be found reading, writing, or watching movies, and enjoys traveling and performing in plays.
Elizabeth Benson

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