If you are a college student and you love adventures, studying abroad is probably on your bucket list. Indeed, it’s a wonderful way to explore the world, have fun, learn new things and broaden your horizons while meeting new people and making new connections before your life in the “real world” begins. However, planning for something as big as a semester or even a full year abroad is by no means a small task. There’s a lot you have to consider in advance before making your decision and there is a lot of preparation involved that will take time. However, if you really want this and are ready for an experience of a lifetime, it’s more than worth the effort. Here are 9 things you need to consider beforehand.
Choose your destination wisely
You probably have a list of dream destinations you would be ready to drop everything for at any time, but when it comes to choosing your destination for studying abroad, there are other factors to consider as well. First of all, pay a visit to your university’s study abroad office and inquire about what kind of programs they have available. They might have some partner schools in various countries and if you’re lucky, one of them will pique your interest. However, even if your university does not offer what you were expecting, don’t get disappointed. There are also large organizations that offer study abroad opportunities in numerous countries all over the world, although the prices of these options vary.
Keep your objective in mind
Another thing to factor in when browsing programs is, obviously, your studies. Even if you find an affordable program at your dream destination, if you cannot transfer their classes back, it might create a difficult situation down the road. If graduating on time is a priority for you, look for a program that you can make the most out of academically. If all this sounds overwhelming, talk to an academic advisor who might be able to point you in the right direction or suggest ways to compensate for credits lost, such as taking extra classes over the summer. If, upon comparing your options, you conclude that a semester abroad might interfere with your progress, consider delaying your plan and look into master’s programs that foreign universities offer.
Talk to other students
There is a lot of research that goes into preparing for a semester abroad, and your best bet to getting first-hand information (and even handy tips you won’t find anywhere else) is talking to other students who have participated in such programs before. If you can find a person who has been to your university of choice, jackpot! But even if you just talk to students who have experience with applying for student visas, finding accommodation and getting paperwork done for studying abroad, it’s still a great help. Your university’s study abroad office can most likely point you in their direction.
Consider the language
In today’s connected world, sometimes we forget about language barriers as most people speak at least a little English. However, you still need to take the possible language barrier into account when planning for your semester abroad. In English speaking countries such as Australia, universities will most likely require you to provide proof of your language proficiency before you can enroll. Unless you are exempt from this, you should find English courses that prepare you for the tests that are accepted as proof of language proficiency. If your choice is a non-English speaking country, you might want to learn at least a little bit of the local language beforehand to make your immersion easier. While you can usually get away with not knowing the language, your experience will be much better if you can communicate with the locals and make friends outside of the circles of other exchange students.
Start visa applications on time
Once you know where you want to go, it’s essential that you look up whether applying for a visa will be necessary and if yes, what the visa requirements are. Do thorough research as this is quite a pricey part of the process. Start the application well in advance because it can take a long time to get approved. Make sure the visa will cover your entire stay abroad, and if you are planning to work during your stay, too, look into what the required paperwork for that is. This is certainly the most stressful part of the process, but your university’s office for study abroad can help you with it. In the meantime, don’t forget to check your passport’s expiration date as well, as you will be going away for quite a long time.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so to have peace of mind, you should look into various insurance policies that will cover you in case of unforeseen circumstances. Of course, you will need medical insurance for your stay abroad (it is part of the visa requirements), but besides that, you should also protect yourself from travel-related circumstances. For instance, considering that you never know what might happen in the world that might make it difficult or impossible to go through with your studies abroad, it’s a good idea to get student travel insurance that will cover you in this case.
Visit your doctor
Your health is the most important, so before your big adventure, you are advised to go to a checkup and make sure you are healthy and ready to go. Depending on your destination, it might be necessary to get some vaccinations prior to your trip, but you should also consult your doctor for any other health considerations. If you are taking prescription medicine, you will need to request them in advance, too.
Right now, your study abroad plans might still be distant. However, you should still keep up-to-date with what’s happening in your country of choice. Check the news regularly to get informed about events that might influence your plans, but don’t panic about everything. Still, being informed is always better. You should also keep track of the currency exchange rate, as it might change drastically in countries that have volatile economies. When you’re budgeting in advance, you need to keep these kinds of things in mind, too.
Organize transport and accommodation in advance
When your plans are starting to take a form, you should start looking for accommodation as soon as possible. Look into options other students have leveraged to find affordable housing that is also close to the university you will be studying at. When it comes to transport, you should also do your best to book your tickets in advance. If you’re flying to the other side of the world, chances are your flight tickets are going to be one of your major expenses from the get-go, so the earlier you can book them, the better. The prices of flight tickets can grow drastically over time, so this is a great opportunity to save even as much as a few hundred bucks.
Studying abroad is a dream of many college students and it’s an opportunity few would reject. It gives you experiences that can change your whole world view and teach you things you would not be able to learn elsewhere. However, there is a lot of preparation that goes into such a big adventure. Make sure you do ample research and are thorough with your preparations, and you will have nothing to worry about. You will come back with irreplaceable memories and possibly new friends for a lifetime!