Study Abroad Preparation Checklist: 8 Essential Steps

Ginger Abbot

Mar 23, 2022
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Preparing to study abroad is an exciting, albeit hectic, time in a young person’s life. Between researching programs and finding a new roommate, there’s not a lot of time to do much else. Yet, there are a number of essential steps you must complete before boarding the plane for your study abroad destination. Add the following to-dos to your study abroad preparation checklist so you’re ready to rock n’ roll when departure day finally arrives.

1. Establish a Financial Plan 

One of the first things you should do when planning to study abroad is to make a financial game plan. How will you fund the trip? What kinds of living expenses must you include in your monthly budget? Consider currencies and keep exchange rates in mind as you formulate a budget and save money. Then, once you know you can afford the trip — and all associated costs — you can move on to the following steps.   

2. Search for Scholarships

Some students punch a clock and save for years to afford a semester abroad. Others fundraise just months in advance. Meanwhile, those who like to work smarter — not harder — focus on finding scholarships. Check your new university’s website for available awards and grants. While many are subject-specific, needs-based or exclusive to minority and high-achieving, others are open to anyone who applies. Externally funded scholarships may also be available to a wider audience, so they’re certainly worth looking to. 

3. Register for Language Tests

Non-native English-speakers who want to come to the states and study must take a language proficiency test to prove their communication and comprehension skills. The same is true for native English-speakers who want to study abroad. Because some classes might be taught in a foreign language, you may have to take a standardized test to apply for certain programs. Ask your advisor which exams are necessary and study up to improve your interpersonal skills before the trip. 

4. Apply for a Passport and ISEC

Of course, you should apply for a passport well in advance, too. The entire process can take several months, so it’s wise to apply a year before your departure date. Ensure you put this item at the top of your study abroad preparation checklist.

If you already have a passport, check the renewal date to ensure it’s still valid — and will be for at least six months after your return or departure date. While you’re at it, apply for an International Student Identity Card. This travel essential functions as an internationally recognized I.D. and offers discounts on products and services around the world. 

5. Get a Student Visa 

If your destination country requires you to obtain a student visa, you must apply for one as soon as possible. In most cases, your new university will assist with the application process. However, if they’re small or unaccredited, you may have to call the embassy and apply for a visa yourself. Remember to bring your passport, proof of funds and all other necessary documents to any subsequent appointments so you can receive your visa well before the departure date.

6. Purchase Insurance 

Insurance is probably the last thing on students’ minds when they’re planning to study abroad. Yet, prepping for the unpredictable is key to staying safe and enjoying an extended stay in your host country. Purchase travel or medical insurance to cover any mishaps that might occur during your trip, be it illness, theft or injury. A small, one-time payment will give you incredible peace of mind as you say yes to adventure and embrace every experience as it unfolds.

7. Visit Your Doctor 

Make sure you’re in good physical condition before leaving home by scheduling a visit with your primary care physician. They’ll conduct a full physical exam, refill prescription medications and advise you on which vaccines to get based on your travel destination. They may also perform a COVID-19 test in the days leading up to your departure to ensure you’re virus-free and ready to fly. Remember to get all necessary vaccines at least four to six weeks before you travel so you’re fully protected by the time you leave. 

8. Cover Communication

You probably couldn’t survive without your phone, especially far from home, which is why it’s important to think ahead when it comes to communication. Using data outside the U.S. can be incredibly expensive depending on your cell phone carrier. Hot spot and roaming fees can also cause unnecessary stress. Therefore, it’s best to purchase a temporary data pass or a SIM card once you get to your host country. Doing so will ensure you can still use Google Maps, translation services and messaging apps while you’re away. 

Adventure is Out There

Checking these items off a long study abroad preparation checklist might not sound like fun, but planning ahead is a crucial part of studying abroad. If you think ahead, anticipate challenges and prepare well in advance, you won’t have to worry so much after you arrive at your destination. Instead, you’ll be able to relax and have some fun meeting new people, exploring new places and making some of the best memories of your life. 

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