Ease the pre-departure jitters: Tips for preparing for your study abroad program

Modern Languages at Finger Lakes Community College - Costa Rica 2013

Students often cite study abroad programs as some of the most influential months of their education as they get the chance to be immersed in another culture while continuing academic studies. The excitement you feel about your impending departure may be dampened a little by the stress of logistical details to take care of before you leave. Get yourself ready for your trip with plenty of time to spare by focusing on several key areas.

1. Pack appropriately for your destination

Research the typical weather during the seasons you’ll be traveling to figure out what clothing to bring. In addition to checking off your packing list, don’t forget to pick the right luggage. If you’re going to a rural or undeveloped area, invest in a large backpack or another type of bag with comfortable straps for carrying. On the other hand, if you’re living in one location for an extended period of time, a large rolling suitcase may be perfect for helping get your belongings there safely.

2. Make arrangements for details at home to be taken care of

If you have a lease on an apartment, you probably don’t want to be paying rent while it sits vacant. Talk to your landlord ahead of time about subletting the apartment to another student while you are abroad. If you have pets, make arrangements for them to live with a friend or at home with your parents during your trip. If you’re leaving a car behind, seek out garage parking so it doesn’t get damaged during your travels.

3. Get all necessary travel paperwork and insurance

Your school will probably provide assistance with guiding you through obtaining a visa and arranging your flights to and from your destination. Other details are up to you. Obtain a valid passport that doesn’t expire until at least six months after your anticipated return date. Because most health insurance doesn’t cover you abroad, look into student health insurance plans to take care of any medical needs that arise while you’re abroad.

4. Start learning the language, if you haven’t already

Even if your classes will be conducted in English, knowing some of the language is beneficial for getting around the city, ordering food and getting help from locals if you need it. Purchase a phrase book and start practicing some of the common phrases you may need to know. If you’ll be doing intensive language study, start listening to conversations in that language to develop familiarity.

Once you’ve taken care of the pre-departure details, you’ll probably feel more at peace about your upcoming time abroad. When the big day comes, you can hop on the plane and go without having to worry about whether you’ve forgotten anything. This freedom is key to being able to fully engage in getting settled and adapting to living in an entirely new culture.


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