One of the best first steps you can take prior to studying abroad is to learn about the culture of your host country and the experiences of students who have studied there. Below are some questions to ask yourself to help you consider and set realistic expectations for your time abroad, allowing you to have a safer, more enjoyable experience.

What do you hope to take away from your experience abroad? New skills? Deeper knowledge?

  • Have you ever traveled independently for an extended period of time? Have you ever lived abroad?
  • How well do you adapt to change or uncertainty?
  • What personal resources or experiences do you bring to your experience abroad?
  • How are Americans (or students studying at American universities) perceived in your host country?

Here is some basic information to learn about your host country/culture prior to traveling abroad:

  • Can you say some basic greetings/phrases in the host country language?
  • Can you name the political leader(s) in your host country?
  • Can you name any other prominent figures in your host country (e.g. athletes, artists, actors, etc.)?
  • How do people greet each other (e.g. kiss? handshake?)
  • What currency is used? What is the current exchange rate?

These are suggestions about what you can do to finalize preparations for a safe and productive study abroad experience.

Budgeting and financial planning

  • Discuss your travel budget with your family and be sure to check current exchange rates.
  • Notify bank(s) of the fact you will be abroad. Be as specific as possible regarding dates and locations of travel. Contact the bank(s) with updates as travel plans change.
  • Research transaction fees on ATM cash withdrawals and credit card charges abroad and budget accordingly.

Visas

Documentation

  • Make multiple photocopies of your passport information page and visa. Keep one copy in the U.S. with family, one or more copies in safe place abroad but separate from the original document.
  • Photocopy the front and back of all credit and debit cards. Keep one copy in the U.S. with family, one scanned copy in your email, one or more copies in safe place abroad but separate from the original document.
  • Make sure all of your important travel documents are in your carry-on baggage rather than checked luggage.

Packing

  • Make sure you are aware of luggage size and weight limits of the airline, as well as limits on carry-on baggage. Note that restrictions for the return flight sometimes differ from those on the outbound segment.
  • More information on packing

Communication

  • If you plan to use your U.S. smart phone, make sure to unlock the phone BEFORE going abroad.
  • Make sure your family researches telephone cards or international long-distance calling plans that will allow them to call you at the most reasonable rates. Make sure they are familiar with skype or other free methods of communication if you plan to keep in touch with them this way.
  • Develop a communication plan with your family. This can outline how and within what timeframe your family expects to be contacted when you arrive in country, or if there is an incident of any sort (natural disaster, political unrest, act of terrorism, etc.) that may affect you in your host country or while traveling.
  • Download any apps on your cell phone to facilitate communication with family and friends back home (WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.)
  • More information