Studying overseas is often most educational outside of the classroom. After doing your time in a traditional school setting, the most valuable experience is simply immersing yourself in the culture and experiencing life in a foreign land. Although it’s not something to enter into lightly, studying abroad can be a life-changing experience you’ll carry with you forever.
But in order to get the most out of your experience, it’s important to make sure you’re properly equipped with everything you will need. No matter how light you intend to pack, here are 10 things you need to have with you when you go on a study abroad trip.
1. Passport and Visa
The only way you’re getting out of the country—and into another—is if you have your legal paperwork in order. Have your passport in hand when you leave and make sure your visa arrangements have been made to avoid any hang-ups as you make the trip to your home away from home.
Communicable diseases are no joke, especially when traveling around the world. Even if you aren’t sick, you could infect a person who doesn’t have an immunity built up against certain illnesses. Make sure you’ve had all the necessary shots before you head out of the country.
3. Travel Insurance
Even if you have a health insurance plan, coverage almost never extends internationally. Before you leave the country, you need a travel insurance policy providing health insurance and other protections in the event of unforeseen emergencies overseas.
4. A workable budget
Money issues can get serious in a foreign country. It’s easy to spend more than you have in the bank, and as an international student you’ll likely have trouble getting a job. Make sure you have a decent amount of money in the bank and be rigid with your budget while you’re out of the country.
5. The currency of your destination country
American dollars are accepted at a lot of locations outside of the country, but you shouldn’t take that risk when traveling. Getting currency before you arrive is important. Most international airports have currency exchanges you can visit to exchange American dollars for the currency of your destination country, although you may get a better exchange rate simply by withdrawing cash from a foreign ATM affiliated with a major bank. Since you’ll likely be hit with service fees, consider making a few large withdrawals rather than numerous small ones.
6. Buy a plane ticket early
The earlier you buy a plane ticket, the cheaper it will be. If you can, purchase your flight tickets six months in advance. Purchasing ahead of time will also make sure you don’t run out of money overseas and lose your ability to fund your return trip.
7. Get a translation guide
If your destination country is non-English speaking, you’ll have an easier time getting by if you can communicate with locals. Take language classes if you can, but whether you do or don’t, make sure you pack a translation guide with you. And be sure it’s in the correct language; in China, for example, there are seven major dialects, each of which can be broken down into many different sub-dialects.
8. Make a bucket list for your travels
Do some research ahead of your trip to see what about the destination country appeals to you. Make a list of 5-10 things you’d like to see or do and mark them off as you complete them during your trip.
9. Verify that electronics will work overseas
Some electronic devices, like your cell phone and DVD player, won’t work overseas. Others, like blow dryers, may need an electrical outlet adapter to function properly. Do your research ahead of time and make preparations accordingly.
10. Invest in a guidebook
Learning through immersion is nice, but a guidebook can help you get more out of your travels—and maybe save you from some bad experiences. Purchase a good travel guide and browse it before you embark for your studies.
With the right complimentary items, you should have no trouble enjoying a rewarding experience abroad. As a student traveler, the most important thing is ensuring your own safety and minimizing risk. And when it comes to being safe, a little planning goes a long way, so don’t delay in preparing for your international adventure.