Preparing to Study Abroad

Leading up to a semester or year of studying abroad is an exciting, yet stressful time. The months before an adventure are full of choosing courses, buying plane tickets, making packing lists, and spending as much time with friends and family before being away for several months or longer. If you're heading out for an adventure in the upcoming months, the list below will be a helpful tool for your study abroad planning. 

Image from Unsplash | Edited on Canva

Image from Unsplash | Edited on Canva

One to Two Months Prior

  • Check the status of your study abroad visa if you require one for the country you're studying in
  • Make sure that the courses you have pre-selected will be able to transfer back to your home university as credits
  • Sort out all of your travel plans 
    • If you haven't already booked your flight (or train ride or however you are planning on traveling to your new destination), now would be a great time to purchase your tickets
    • Figure out how you're going to get from the airport to the school or where you are staying 
      • Are you being picked up by someone? Are you taking a bus to where you are going?
    • Where are you staying when you get there? Are you staying at a hostel, a hotel, with a host family, in a residence or in an apartment?
  • Check if you need vaccines for the country you are traveling to (some countries require these)
  • Research the country you are going to so you are aware of the traditions, the social norms, and common phrases
    • If you are studying in Sweden, the official website of Sweden has many great resources and links, which you can find here
    • Common phrases like hello, thanks, sorry, and where is (fill in location such as bathroom, train station, etc.) are good to be familiar with as they will come in handy
  • If there are any buddy programs or local family match-up programs, using these resources are helpful in getting to know the culture and locals
  • Check the average temperatures to plan out clothes you'll be needing 
    • For example, if you're going in the winter to a cooler climate, decide if you'll want to bring a winter coat or buy it there
  • Create a tentative packing list
    • Need help with making that packing list? I've got your back! Click here
  • Apply for study abroad scholarships 
  • Start saving as much money as possible (you'll need it)!

Two Weeks Prior

  • Let your country know that you will be living in another country (you can do this on your government's website)
  • Unlock your cellphone if you plan to use a SIM card in it abroad
  • Photocopy multiple copies of your important documents (passport, study visa, credit card, lease copies, acceptance letters from your abroad university and home university)
    • Keep a set with you in your carry-on, a set at home, and email yourself a copy of each (you can also use Google Docs for this)
  • Make a doctor's appointment to ensure your health is in great shape, and refill your prescriptions if you need medication 
    • Also, if you wear contact lenses, get extra pairs of them so you don't run out abroad
  • Get cash in your new country's currency
    • I took about 1500 SEK, which was just over $200 Canadian dollars, so it was enough for the train ride, food, and as an emergency supply 
  • Tell your bank where you're going, so you won't get stuck in a new country with no money (that could be a bit problematic) 
  • Pull that suitcase out and figure out how much space you have
    • I highly recommend using packing cubes, as they keep all of your items organized and prevent them from moving around in your suitcase (they can also double as laundry bags while you're away)
    • Decide how many suitcases you are using and what your carry-on luggage will be.
    • The less you take, the better, as it will make traveling much easier 
    • For my four month semester, I took a large suitcase, a duffle bag and a purse, and realized that even after cutting the amount of stuff I was bringing in about a quarter, I still had too much!

One Week Prior

  • Refine your packing list and start laying out the clothing and items you want to brin
    • ou will want to cut your initial list in about half, as you will need a lot less than you think you will
    • I ended up bringing about a quarter of my original packing list, and I only wore about half of the clothes I brought
  • Decide what you want to bring with you and what you want to buy there
    • Do you religiously use a certain type of shampoo and conditioner that are hard to find elsewhere? Bring those with you
    • If you are comfortable switching things up, wait until you arrive to buy simple toiletries, and instead just pack mini versions in your carry-on for your travels (they're also helpful when you're staying in hostels if you decide to take trips while abroad) 
    • If you are studying in Europe and are planning on using North American hair tools, such as curling irons or blow dryers, wait to buy them in your destination country, as the voltage is very different and you will probably ruin your hair tools!
  • Double-check all of your travel plans (flights, where you're staying when you arrive, when your lease begins if you are renting, connection times, and anything else you have planned) so that you don't end up missing a flight or have no bed to sleep in for a night due to lack of preparation
  • Pack your extra photocopied documents in a folder, so they are all kept together and in an easy place to reach
  • Buy a travel journal if you don't already have one (it's nice to be able to write down your feelings throughout your trip, and it helps fill your time while you're on a train or plane ride)
  • Start packing (it's never too early to do this step, as it will be less stressful later if you are already prepared by packing items you don't need at the moment)

The Day Before

  • Make sure that everything is packed and in its place
  • Carry about a week's worth of clothing onto the plane with you in case you have any issues with your luggage (always good to be prepared)
  • Say goodbye (for now) to your family and friends!

The Day Of

  • Get up bright & early so you're ready to go and not running behind schedule
  • Eat a hearty meal before so that you won't be hungry as you wait for your plane or train to arrive
  • Before you leave, make sure you have your passport, money, electronics and all important items in your carry-on, so they are easily accessible
  • Get to the airport early, so you have time to relax before you head off on your adventure
    • Check in advance how much time you need to leave before the gates close, so you don't miss your flight!

While this may seem like an overwhelming list of things you need to do, it is easily done if you take it a little at a time. You still have some time to prepare yourself, so start chipping away at each task in the order you prefer, and you'll be ready in no time. The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy yourself! When studying abroad, you are opening yourself up to diversity, new challenges, and a seriously amazing experience, so don't forget to enjoy every moment. 

If you have studied abroad and have anything you'd like to add to this list, or any advice you have to prepare students for studying abroad, feel free to add your suggestions in the comment section below. Otherwise, I hope this list helps you out in your preparations for an adventure of a lifetime!

For more study abroad advice and tips, check out my Pinterest board here. To check out some of the awesome places I had the opportunity to travel to during my time abroad, click here

Until next time, 

Kaitlyn xo