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5 tips for planning your study abroad journey

Here's some great advice from World Education Services (WES) on how to get organized as you plan your studies abroad.
BY World Education Services |   20-05-2019

Five Tips for Planning Your Study Abroad Journey

You've made the exciting decision to study abroad. You have selected your courses, purchased a plane ticket, and are anxiously awaiting your departure date. So: what’s next?

How do you prepare for your journey?

Although studying abroad can be challenging at times, it can also be one of the most fulfilling, eye-opening experiences of your life. World Education Services (WES) is a nonprofit that helps students from around the world pursue higher education in the United States and Canada, so we know exactly how rewarding it can be—and how to avoid the obstacles that might stand in your way. In this post, we are delighted to share some of those insights so that your journey is as smooth as possible!

Here are five tips for planning your study abroad adventure:
  1. Gather the Necessary Documents

    Your study abroad program should provide you with a list of the documents you’ll need to take with you. This list will likely include:
    • Passport
      • Your passport should expire no sooner than six months after the end of your study abroad term. You want to allow for some leeway in case you end up traveling after your program ends or staying extra time in the country. Also, make sure that your passport has blank pages; if it’s almost full, you will need to request a new one before you leave. That’s because you can’t have extra pages added to an existing passport book. You definitely don’t want to run into passport problems when you’re abroad!
         
    • Visa
      • If you need a visa to study abroad, apply as soon as possible. Depending on the country, visas may take over six months to process. Verify with your program exactly what kind of visa you will need. Also, contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country where you will study abroad to learn about visa requirements and any special travel restrictions.
         
    • Credential Evaluation
      • If you are considering a full degree program abroad, you might need to obtain a credential evaluation, A credential evaluation compares your academic accomplishments to the standards in the country where you will be studying. It is an official validation of the degrees or credentials you have earned before you enter a new country to continue your studies. This will help your new school understand your educational background. There are different kinds of credential evaluations: A basic report will simply list your academic credentials, and a more detailed report will evaluate your GPA.

         
  2. Get Travel Insurance

    Even if your health insurance provider covers you overseas, you should still consider buying travel insurance. Why? Travel insurance covers potential problems that may arise while you study abroad that health insurance may not.
    • Travel insurance typically covers:
      • Loss or theft of personal belongings
      • Coverage if your flights are delayed or canceled
      • Transportation or evacuation in the event of a medical emergency or natural disaster
      • Lost or stolen luggage
      • Death or disability
         
    • The more time you will spend overseas, the better an idea it is to buy travel insurance. It will give you peace of mind in the event an accident or mishap occurs!

       
  3. Get a Physical Before You Leave

    Visit your doctor and set up a physical before going abroad. In addition to ensuring a clean bill of health, your doctor can give you a copy of your medical records to take with you. They can also refill any prescriptions that you may need while you are overseas.

    While you’re there, be sure to check to see that you have all required (or recommended) vaccines and immunization requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has the most up-to-date vaccination requirements for all countries, plus health and safety tips that international travelers should know.

     
  4. Start a Journal

    Before embarking on your study abroad trip, you should start a journal. Begin to write down your hopes and goals for your semester or year abroad. List any places you want to visit, foods you want to try, or experiences you don’t want to miss out on

    If you have the time, keep up journaling while you’re abroad. Journaling can help you adapt to life in a new country. In your journal, you can record your thoughts, feelings, or observations—you may even want to jot down new words or phrases that you learn, or write about experiences that you don’t want to forget upon returning home.

     
  5. Prepare for Culture Shock

    Living in a new country means you will have to adapt to different cultural norms and behaviors. The feeling of resistance or tension when encountering a new environment is known as “culture shock”—and it may be especially pronounced if you study abroad in a country where the primary language is not your native language.

    Living with a host family can help you overcome culture shock. A host family can introduce you to regional foods and traditions, teach you local slang and expressions, and help you meet new people when you arrive.

    Here are some other ways to overcome culture shock:
    • Make local friends
      • You can find events online that match your interests, like sports or music, and then participate in community clubs. Volunteering is another great way to get involved and meet locals.
         
    • Reach out to other students
      • Share how you’re feeling with others in your program, and ask how they’re doing with all of the changes. Remember, they’re going through the same thing as you! You can bond by talking about the things that you miss back home and trade coping strategies. You will feel less alone, and perhaps learn about other cultures and the countries that your peers are from at the same time.
         
    • Contact your program coordinator
      • A study abroad coordinator or field director is not just there to help you with your itinerary and classes. It is their job to help students who are having a hard time adapting, too. So don’t hesitate to reach out to them!
         
    • Explore the area where you live
      • You’ll be surprised how much better you feel the more you leave your house or dorm. Walk around your new neighborhood—take in the scents, sights, and sounds. Wander into local shops, restaurants, museums, and parks. The more you immerse yourself in your new culture, the less homesick you will feel.
Studying abroad will change your life. With these tips, you will be fully prepared to take advantage of this exciting adventure!

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WES is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping international students and professionals achieve their educational and professional goals in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1974, WES evaluates and advocates for the recognition of international education qualifications.


More advice on how to make the most of studying abroad:
Tips to make the most out of relationships, studies and finances at university
#SmartStudent: 4 tips for finding great housing as an international student
Mental Health Awareness Month: 7 tips to manage your mental health in college

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