Studying abroad shouldn’t be all that hard, you say to yourself. You’ve consulted with counselors who’ve given you plenty of answers, you’ve read up on all the brochures and program descriptions, you’ve studied program reviews from previous students and talked to study abroad alumni.
Although you can logically say to yourself that “you’re ready,” there still may be a tiny voice inside of you that is saying, “do you really?” The truth is, a lot will transpire during your study abroad trip. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are five things you need to know before you start a new stage of your life anew as a study abroad student.
Buy Your Ticket in Advance
Your parents have probably been bugging you to purchase your plane ticket six or more months before you start your study abroad experience. While they’re aiming to give you peace of mind, buying a ticket that much in advance isn’t the most economical decision. In fact, the best time to buy your ticket is in the three month range before your departure – this is when prices are at their lowest.
The plane trip to the country of your destination is when your adventure begins. Spring for either an aisle or window seat (depending on how close you want to be to the bathroom), watch movies galore on your personal TV screen and enjoy the not-so-bad plane food. Be excited!
Travel tip: Get instant notifications on low flight prices when you set up travel alerts on Airfare Watchdog or Kayak.com.
Choosing Your Place of Residence
The study abroad program you signed up for will surely give you a choice as to where you could stay, anywhere from a dorm on a college campus to a shared apartment to a home stay. While you’ll have your pick of options, there is no right or wrong decision when choosing lodgings for your study abroad experience.
This said, if you’re looking to have the most immersive, fascinating experience possible, we highly recommend you push yourself out of your comfort zone and find lodgings that allows you to live with foreigners. Mingling with foreigners on a daily basis is a truly rewarding experience, and choosing instead to live in an isolated manner would just diminish your opportunities to know the culture better.
Travel tip: Talk your options over with your counselor months before you leave and pick the type of residence that is best suited to the experience you are looking for.
You are responsible for your behavior when you are abroad for your studies. As you will be immersed in another culture and society, it is important that you take into account the local customs. This will influence the way you interact with local people, how you speak and the way you dress.
Your behavior, unbeknownst to you, may offend locals unnecessarily and invite bad treatment of not only yourself, but of the group of people you are traveling with. It’s important for visitors to practice cultural sensitivity throughout their trip.
Travel Tip: Learning how to carry on simple conversation in the local language will do a lot to surprise and please the locals. They’ll be much more open to you in appreciation of your efforts, which will enable them to help you more.
Bring Good Walking Shoes
If you come from a culture where driving is the norm, like the United States, you may forget to take your trusty walking shoes to your study abroad destination.
The fact of the matter is, many countries are typically walking societies. You’ll be on your feet a lot longer than usual in these parts of the world, which is the idea if you are looking to take in all the cute little off-street spots of your study abroad destination. While high heels are fashionable, you simply won’t be able to cope with them along long city blocks or cobblestone streets. Spare your feet, lower back and general sanity by being sure to bring along a reliable pair of walking shoes.
Travel Tip: There’s no trade-off between style and comfort when it comes to shoes. Find shoes that are padded and durable yet stylish so that you can wear them during the day and night in your study abroad destination.
Your Toiletries Can Be Purchased Abroad
It’s best to pack as light as possible when traveling across the world. Consider ditching your mainstay cologne for a new scent abroad. It will not be hard to find shampoos, soaps, make-up, laundry detergent, contact solution and other replacement toiletries abroad. However, if you’re the type who has a love for certain cosmetic brands, then spoil yourself and stock up on your precious brand name items for your journey.
Your mom and dad might be happy to spoil you in this regard and buy your essentials for you – this is a perk. However, the perk for buying your toiletries abroad is that some of these products might be considerably cheaper abroad. It’s your choice.
Travel Tip: Young women may have a problem finding quality feminine products abroad and should think of stocking up for the entire length of their stay overseas.
Guest Post by Sean Hopwood
Sean Hopwood, MBA is founder and President of Day Translations, Inc., an online translation services provider, dedicated to the improvement of global communications. By helping both corporations and the individual, Day Translations provides a necessary service at the same time as developing opportunities for greater sympathy and understanding worldwide.