You have successfully jumped through all the hoops and made your way through this whole study abroad maze. Finally you are ready to leave, just counting down the days until you fly off to the destination of your dreams. But, as always, there is still some unfinished business that you must take care of before boarding that flight.
1. Checked your passport and visa details!
This is probably the most important question you should be asking yourself in this final push toward studying abroad. Your passport needs to be up-to-date and have at least one empty page. Most study abroad programs help you with applying for a visa, but it is still your responsibility to contact the embassy and get everything done. Each embassy has its own rules on how to apply for a visa, so check the website in advance.
2. Book earlier for cheaper rates.
I started checking for plane tickets three months in advance, using websites like StudentUniverse and Statravel. I also used an app called Hopper that predicts changesin prices and alerts me when the ticket is the cheapest. The plane ticket can easily be the most expensive part of the program, so make sure to look in advance for the cheapest option.
3. Take packing seriously.
Yes, we all know that checking the weather before packing is a good idea. But packing is a lot more complicated than that—for example, I am not bringing really short shorts or off-the-shoulder tops to Japan because such outfits are culturally impolite. Not only should you consider the culture of the country, but you should also think about what kind of activities you will be doing. Are you planning to hike in Sweden’s beautiful nature or dance all night in Germany’s disco clubs? Heels or sneakers, yoga pants or classic black dress, pack smart!
4. Learn the basics.
If you have been learning Spanish since high school, you probably don’t need to learn the language before going to Spain. But if you are going to another country where you don’t know the language, it is polite to learn at least the basic phrases. Some Americans have the tendency to speak English even in foreign settings because they assume English to be the “universal language,” but as a Korean who has witnessed Americans blatantly speaking English in Korea with zero effort to attempt Korean or at least slow down in English, it is just rude. Apps like Duolingo and Quizlet really help with learning the language fast!
5. Prepare your mind.
Studying abroad is a rare and probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What do you want to accomplish during this trip? For me, it is visiting all the art museums in Tokyo and the surrounding cities. It can be as simple as traveling a lot or making new friends. The majority of my friends who have already studied abroad have told me that homesickness is a real thing, and having goals really helps you get over the loneliness and helplessness you may feel in a foreign country.
With only a month left to go before I leave for Japan, I am busy learning Japanese, saving up money, and most importantly, mentally preparing myself for this trip by always keeping this quote in heart: “Open your arms to change but don’t let go of your values.” —Dalai Lama