Having the chance to study abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime.
The unique cultural experience is unbeatable and unmatchable.
But as someone who’s probably had relatively little to no international travel in their background, there are some major things you need to pay attention to when living in a foreign country.
Here are just a few pieces of advice to get you acclimated to your new home away from home so that your study abroad experience can be everything you dreamed and more.
1. Don’t be that “stupid American.”
Ignorance won’t get you far when you visit and stay in a new country. Prepare by learning its customs and culture — not only does this help you adjust more easily but it shows that you respect the country. The level of interest you have in getting to know proper etiquette and rules lets the citizens of that country know that you care to learn more about their home.
One key aspect to learn is the language of the country. Of course, you won’t be able to absorb every word or phrase, but you can practice the basics, at least to get around and talk to some of the country’s residents as best as possible. Download an app like Duolingo. It provides a fun, interactive platform to learning a new language thanks to its gaming element.
2. Figure out what you need before arrival.
Although you may be able to still ace a test with the highest amount of last-minute cramming, procrastination most likely won’t work in your favor when prepping to go abroad. Think proactively about what you’ll need that might be out of the norm. Much of this list can be decided through the research you do on a country.
For example, does the country have a different type of power outlet? If so, get yourself an adapter so you can plug in your main devices without any issues. Also figure out what type of climate the country you travel to normally endures. If you’re from sunny Southern California, your flip flops may need to be packed alongside some rain boots and a raincoat in places like London.
3. Bring copies of important documents.
Losing legal government documents and identification is already a nightmare when you’re in the U.S. Imagine if you lose them in a foreign country. Be sure to make copies of your passport, visas and any other proof that you are legally allowed to travel in and out of the country you are studying abroad in. By having a backup, you’ll at least have something to start with should you face the unfortunate situation of losing them. There are tools out there like TinyScanner, which allows you to quickly scan and back-up these documents right to your phone.
4. Manage money wisely.
Money can be a tricky thing once you cross international borders. Figure out the exchange rates of the country you’re going to and the value of the dollar there. It’ll help you save up enough or take out enough money for your time spent. Also be sure to notify your banks before traveling so that your accounts don’t freeze.
You may additionally want to consider getting a debit account that waives international ATM fees. At the same time, a travel-friendly credit card can come very handy and very beneficial to helping you rack up more travel points and use leisurely without worry in a different country.
5. Use technology to your advantage.
Some of the most eye-opening and memorable experiences await. Invest in a good camera to capture the moment or at least make sure your phone’s camera can take high-quality pictures and has sufficient space for all the videos and photos you’ll collect. Also bring an external hard drive so you can upload photos to it—after all, you wouldn’t want to lose any of those precious moments you recorded would you? And if you plan to travel in and around the country, buying a portable charger is key to keeping your devices constantly charged while you explore.
6. Get your communications straight.
Maintaining communications while you’re abroad is crucial for safety reasons as well as social ones. You can download apps like WhatsApp to message and call family and friends in another country for free. Or even better, you could get unlimited data plans on your phone plan. Carriers like T-Mobile now have a new ONE plan—you can get unlimited international calling, and unlimited inflight Wi-Fi and data speeds abroad that are twice as fast. Great for any student who is traveling.
You’re about to have the experience of your young adult life. With these tricks of the study- abroad trade, you can make sure your travels and cultural stimulation go off without a hitch.