I remember the day I was accepted into the study-abroad program in Paris. 26/05/2015.
Have you ever felt like you are on top of the world?
I was over the moon. You couldn't pull me down if you tried.
But this feeling was short-lived when I realized how much I had to get done.
For the next 2 months, I searched the internet for a short cut. A checklist. Something to help me prepare for the journey ahead.
My efforts were to no avail. So, I created the ideal checklist that anyone getting ready to study abroad can use.
This list is easy but thorough. Let's dive right in.
Get the papers
1. First of all, the right documentation is everything. Do you have a valid passport? If you don't, you had better get one asap.
2. What type of visa are you applying for? A student visa?
3. For how long is it valid? 3 months? 1 year? Find out if it is extendable.
4. Does the visa allow you to work and study at the same time?
5. If it does, how soon can you get a job after arrival?
6. If it doesn't, how do you plan on surviving for an entire semester, or for the year?
7. Are your parents going to pay for everything?
8. What is the standard of living anyway?
9. And the exchange rate? Can you afford to stay in that country?
10. If yes, then you need to book your flight. Reserve your ticket 2 to 3 months to the travel date.
11. Wait... before you book your flight, find out more about the school you will be attending?
What about the school?
12. What courses will you be taking? What is your schedule like?
13. Will you be able to study, work, travel or do whatever else you would like? In other words, is it flexible?
14. At the end of the program, are you transferring credits or actual grades back to your university?
15. You should choose lighter, but meaningful courses. There are so many distractions on a study abroad program. Hello, Amsterdam!
16. Speaking of distractions, find out if your visa allows you to travel to neighboring countries.
Okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
17. You shouldn't get ahead of yourself. You should have low expectations. You will have more fun if you don't raise the bar too high.
18. Okay, maybe a few expectations. So, what are they?
19. Will you learn something in class that you can practice in real life?
20. Be open to gaining new skills. I learnt all about travel blogging in my digital marketing class in Paris. Thank you Prof. Mirza.
You want more? Okay...
21. Accommodation. Do you have a place to stay?
22. How far is it from the school? Or your workplace?
22. Google to find out the distance. Do not just believe what the house agent says.
24. Is it safe?
25. Speaking of safety, how safe is your money?
Money and Insurance
26. Will you store it in a bank account or with you at all times? The former is better.
27. Find out if you can open up a bank account in that country. You don't want to lose your money due to negligence.
28. Speaking of losing stuff, are you insured?
30. What are the necessary health checkups before leaving your home country? Any vaccinations you need to have?
Onto the deep stuff...
31. Are you emotionally ready for the experience?
32. How different is the culture from yours? Will you be able to cope?
33. What language do they speak? Can you learn a few phrases before you travel?
35. Expect culture shock.
36. Don't worry, you will be fine. Just remember to be sensitive to the locals' culture as well.
37. Do your parents know that you are planning a semester/year abroad?
38. You will need their moral support while away (when things get tough). You will need your friends too.
39. Do you know anyone who has had a similar experience? How did they cope?
40. Learn from them. Read articles. Watch YouTube videos. Many people have gone through this experience and are happy to share pointers.
Want more articles like this?
By the way...
42. ...the first day is crucial. Feels like your first day of high school.
43. Engage in school activities. They are a good way to meet other exchange students and make international friends. How exciting is that?
44. Speaking of exciting...how badly do you want to travel to the neighboring countries?
45. Do you have enough money? You do? Good.
46. Now, do you have emergency money.
During the 2015 Paris attacks, I was in Spain for the weekend. Right after the attack, the borders were temporarily closed. Wasn't sure if I could fly back for my Monday morning classes. I learnt that it is very important to set some money aside for the inevitable.
Up in the sky in a cable car (Barcelona, Spain). Ah...the good times!
Before we conclude...
47. If you are getting a job to support yourself, ensure that you make enough. Can you survive on what you make?
48. Remember not to spend it all as soon as you get it.
Once you arrive...
49. Don't forget to register with your home country embassy. They may need to contact you in case of emergencies.
50. Get ready to have the time of your life. What ever happens, you will never be the same again. Are you ready?
Creating this list was so much fun... I hope to use it again when I finally apply for Masters' school next year :-)
If I left out important pointers, feel free to include them in the comment section below.
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About the author
Angelica is a Ugandan travel blogger. She could spend 27 hours chilling at an airport (and she has). That's how much she loves traveling. To keep up with her new articles, subscribe to her mailing list (jeez, its weird speaking about yourself in the 3rd person.) Anyway, talk soon!