Studying abroad means that you are subject to the customs and the laws of a foreign country. While studying abroad is not one fraught with accidents and serious troubles, it pays to be prepared at all times. Getting familiar with the foreign country’s laws and customs is one of the best ways to ensure that you have a great learning experience, even for a short while, in a foreign land. Here are some tips to plan ahead.
The first thing you have to do after you have determined where you plan to visit for your study abroad program is to apply for your passport, and in some cases, a student visa as well. Do this as early as you can as there could be backlogs, particularly during spring breaks and holidays. You need a passport to enter and leave most countries and there are places where U.S. citizens still need to secure a visa before being allowed entry into the country. Check the embassy of the foreign country you wish to visit for all the entry requirements.
Keep your immunizations and vaccinations updated
Before leaving for your study abroad program, you should check whether you need immunization shots and other required vaccinations. Get advice from the program advisors or directors. Likewise, it is a good idea to check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Invest in travel and medical insurance
Check if your program offers comprehensive insurance coverage plans for students studying overseas. You need insurance for medical emergency, as paying out of pocket might be too draining on your personal budget. There are organizations and agencies that provide specialized insurance packages for students, such as HTH Worldwide, Student Travel Guard and the Council on International Educational Exchange
Learn basic information about the country
One of the things that would make it easy for you to blend in when you reach your destination is to learn something about the country’s culture and its people, and other up-to-date developments in the country. Things you should learn include the country’s culture, history, government, current political situation, geography and economy. You can look for consular information sheets on the country or countries you are planning to visit while studying abroad.
You should also learn about the weather, currency and exchange rates. Learn some basic courtesies and useful phrases in the native language. This will help you to be on your own, as the program staff would not be available to help you 24/7. Learn about the country’s dress codes, local cuisine and accepted behaviors. Be a wise traveler by doing your own personal research as not all tips would be given to you by the program’s advisors.
Bring only what you absolutely need and buy the rest in the foreign country upon arrival. If you are bringing electronic gadgets make sure that you have your chargers and adapters. Pack a folding umbrella, a rain jacket and clothes that you can layer. Make copies of all your prescriptions and important documents. Make sure that you leave a list of important contact information with a relative back home. It would also be a good idea to register online to the nearest embassy or consulate in your destination country. This will come in handy when there is an emergency. Bring some photos and other mementos from home to help you when you feel homesick.
After all your preparation for your journey, there is still one thing you have to do – prepare yourself mentally. Be ready to observe and learn the differences, do not be judgmental and expect the unexpected.