10 Step How-To Guide on Preparing to Study Abroad

Studying abroad can be an eye-opening experience and a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of during your time as a college student. You may be curious though how you get from wanting to study abroad to setting foot in your country of choice. Luckily, we have a 10 step guide on preparing for your study abroad.

Three hot air balloons in the sky.

1. Determine your Priorities

Before trying to decide on a study abroad program, you need to consider your priorities. Decide what is most important to your experience and what are you willing to sacrifice. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • How long do I want my program to be?
  • Am I set on a destination, or flexible?
  • Do I want to travel with friends or go solo?
  • Do the classes I take have to pertain to my major?
  • Am I willing to alter my 4-year graduation plan?
  • Do I want to study a language?
  • Are scholarships and financial aid a deciding factor?

Once you know these factors, you can start to assess programs.

2. Do your Research

Now that you’ve decided on what is important to you, it is time to start researching and assessing programs. You may want to look into some of the larger study abroad programs that offer sessions in hundreds of countries or your university’s smaller programs. Using a tool like studyabroad.com can help you gain access to hundreds of programs in many countries.

3. Attend an Information Session

There are probably several study abroad information sessions at your home institution. Some may be general for studying abroad and others could be program-specific. There will be many people at these sessions who can provide you with invaluable information. Especially seek out alumni of the program. They will be able to give you the rawest, helpful information to make your decision.

4. Schedule an Appointment with a Study Abroad Advisor

It will be helpful to speak to a study abroad advisor at your home institution so they can help you narrow down program choices by assessing your best academic, financial, and cultural fit based on your individual preferences. They may also have a checklist or timeline brochure to give you that can help guide you on this path.

5. Submit Application

You’ve decided on either one or a shortlist of programs. Congratulations! Now, it is time to apply. Take your application seriously. Show the program directors what you are hoping to gain from this experience and why you would be a great fit.

6. Apply for a Passport & Visa if Needed

If you don’t already have one, get one! The process can be lengthy and paying for expedited service is expensive. A standard Passport will set you back around $125, but it’s necessary to visit almost any other country outside of the United States. Depending on the program you choose, you may also need to obtain a Visa. Your study abroad program coordinators or advisor will help you determine if one is needed.

7. Apply to Scholarships & Financial Aid

This is most likely a very important step in your journey abroad. Seek out as many scholarships as you can when searching for ways to finance your study abroad. Apply for scholarships at your home institution, your chosen study abroad program, your home institution’s study abroad office, external parties, and file for financial aid. This process may seem confusing or daunting. It will be especially helpful to meet with a financial aid advisor as well as your study abroad advisor again. A joint meeting could be very beneficial for locating as many resources as possible to fund this wonderful opportunity.

8. Book Flight

You’ve been accepted, you’ve allocated resources to fund your program, and you’re beyond excited! The next important step to take is to book your flight. Do your research on finding the best deal for your flight. If you have a significant amount of time before you leave, search for what the sweet spot is for the number of days out to book. Consider opening a travel credit card where you can earn miles for everyday purchases. Choose a reputable company so there are no mishaps interfering with your opportunity to study abroad. Something else to note is that booking a round trip can be significantly cheaper- and less risky than a one way. You can arrange for your flight to fly into one airport and out another if you plan on doing traveling before or after the program ends.

9. Create a Budget

This is extremely important for your time abroad. While it is true that the actual cost of the program may be less than your home institution, the activities you engage in while abroad are typically more expensive than at home. It makes sense. You’re in a beautiful new place and want to explore! Creating a budget that outlines how much you will spend on food, souvenirs, travel, and lodging each week will help you when planning your weekend trips. Don’t be the student that goes broke halfway through the program. Be smart about your finances and you’ll have less to worry about.

10. Attend Pre-Departure Meeting

Most programs will have a pre-departure meeting. It may be at your home institution or a virtual meeting you have to call/Skype/etc. Into. This will have excellent material on last-minute checklist items, how to pack, and general advice on what to expect. This should be the last step before embarking on your exciting adventure!


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