By: Chloe Williams, Columnist
Featured image courtesy of Best Western
Thinking of studying abroad? Here’s how to plan for your trip before you get there, from someone who is spending a whole year across the pond in Leeds, England:
1. Get a Passport
This seems a bit obvious. However, it is important that you don’t wait too long to apply for your passport. Government documents can take a while to obtain and you won’t get far in the study abroad process without one. You need your passport for almost every paper you will have to fill out in the study abroad process, so the sooner you obtain yours, the better.
2. Get a Visa
The sooner you can apply for your Visa the better. I have met plenty of international students who waited until the last minute to apply for their passport and because of it, had to wait until the last minute to buy their plane ticket. The longer you wait to book a plane ticket, the more expensive your flight is going to be. Not to mention, some Visa applicants may need to meet face-to-face with a government official to discuss their application. Make sure that you are allowing enough time for your application to be processed, a meeting to occur if need be, and the time it will take to mail you your Visa so that you don’t end up with a plane ticket that seriously stunts your spending money.
3. Make a Study Abroad Binder
This was perhaps the most valuable thing I did to prepare for my journey abroad. This is a book of every single document, email, and receipt you have ever come into contact with regarding your study abroad experience. My binder has seven sections: confirmation of studies, confirmation of exchange, my Visa, medical records, housing, my new school and Towson. I filed each document into these sections, slid my passport in the back cover, and slid the papers I would need to present the immigration officer at the U.K. border in the front cover.
4. Research Your School
University in Leeds is much different from college at Towson. It’s not just that the schools themselves are different, but the school system in general is, well, foreign. Your preconceived notions of what college is supposed to be may be cruelly destroyed in a wave of culture shock unless you prepare for the differences by doing a bit of research. Try watching vlogs on YouTube or finding online forums about students from the USA who have studied in the country you are traveling to, and what experiences they had. You may still find some things about college in a foreign country that you weren’t expecting when you arrive, but at least you’ll be prepared for them.
5. Start Asking Questions Early
Find a notebook and write down every single question that you have about study abroad. Research what you can on your own, ask your study abroad advisor at home whatever you think they can answer and send the rest of your questions to your study abroad advisor from your new school. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get answers from your new school’s advisor right away. It turns out that you aren’t alone as an exchange student! Tons of students study abroad every semester, and it may be that your advisor is still getting to know who all of you are. Also, you may have a significant time difference from your new advisor’s country, which is something to keep in mind when sending them emails or calling. However, the sooner you ask your questions, the sooner they will be able to respond, and the less time you will spend left in the dark about an important inquiry.
6. Make a Packing List
Try and make a detailed list of items that you want to pack. If you have a favorite pair of shoes, write them down so that you can start thinking about outfits that will match. Jot down clothing for every type of weather that you will experience in your chosen country so that you won’t forget a much-needed winter coat or gloves. Also, remember to pack things that will keep you happy. The basics are obviously important, but it is also valuable to pack the little giraffe figurine that you and your best friend both have, for example, or your favorite book of all time. Make your new space in a foreign country your home instead of your hotel.
7. Get Excited!
The months leading up to studying abroad can be very difficult. There’s a lot of goodbyes to be said and a lot of hugs to be given, but at the end of the day you are going to have the experience of a lifetime. You should feel proud of yourself for having the courage to take this journey.