You’re almost there! You have a place to sleep, your plane ticket, and confirmation from your university that you’re ACTUALLY GOING ABROAD. How exciting!
Before we get too excited, there’s some stuff you’re going to want to take care of before you walk through airport security with your head in the clouds. You may have looked into your ATM options, but you can’t get very far if your bank locks your card and leaves you stranded in the middle of your host country. Not to mention that you probably don’t know how to get from the airport to wherever you’re supposed to be after you land!
Without further ado, here is your reminder of everything you need to get squared away before you close the door to Life Before Study Abroad!
Health Records/Health Insurance
Depending on what country you’re coming from and what your accommodations are, you may be required to prove certain immunizations at any time, especially if you have to go to the hospital. Go ahead and get some official health records from your doctor, make a copy, and pack both in your carry-on. Since you’re going away for a while, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
On a similar note, double check that your health insurance covers your trip. If not, look into international health insurance, or see if it’s even needed in your host country. Korea has a national health insurance but requires an Alien Registration Number that you get during visits over 90 days. If you’re lucky, your host country may be cheaper than what you’re used to, especially if you’re from the US!
Home University Tasks
Most universities require students to do certain documentation before they are cleared to go abroad, like course approval for transfer credit, legal documents, and informing the Study Abroad department of your itinerary. Make sure you talk to your advisor to get everything that they need to be done so you’re not stuck while you’re away, or worse, when you come back.
Outside Scholarship Tasks
If you were lucky enough to get outside funding that isn’t linked to your home university, now is a good time to make sure you have everything those funders need before you take off. If they need anything that you can’t readily make available while abroad, get it done before you go. Examples of these would be preliminary blog posts, letters of purpose, and legal documents.
Letting People (and Important Companies) Know You’re Leaving
This is more than just having a going-away party, but it’s cool if you do that too! Register with STEP if you’re from the US. Tell your banks and credit card companies where you’ll be and for how long so they don’t lock your account for suspicious activity. Same deal for your phone company, especially if you’re going to be using your phone in your host country using a foreign SIM card. If you’re renting an apartment and not going to be around, let your landlord know and if possible, look for someone to sublet the property while you’re away. Also, if you’re subscribing to any kind of services (e.g. subscription boxes), you might want to put those on hold or change the address to someone who will be around to get them for you.
If you require a visa to touch down and enter your host country, triple check to make sure you have it in your passport and that it has the correct dates. Also make sure that you have plane tickets, that those plane tickets are for the correct date, and when the time comes for you to check in (early bird gets the worm! *cough* upgrade), I’d suggest doing it online versus at the airport.
All Packed Up!
The last thing you want to do is get all the way overseas to realize you left important medication or something else you can’t live without. Need help with packing? Check out this list I made to help people going to Korea (but can easily be adapted for other countries).
If you’re not the type to sleep on the entire ride, I suggest you bring one to two things to do when you’re completely done with watching in-flight movies and TV shows. It can be a book, a video game console (calling all Nintendo Switch lovers!), or even a crossword puzzle! Whatever you bring, just make sure it’s allowed to bring onto the plane.
Host Country 🇰🇷
Please make sure you have a way to get your host country’s currency upon landing, whether that’s ordering it while you’re home, or bringing your home currency to exchange at the airport. You absolutely need cash to get you started while you get situated to a new environment.
(For Korea) Passport Photos
Since I’ve spent most of these posts harping about my experience in Korea, I’ll do those headed there a solid: bring passport photos. “But Jada, why do I need passport photos?” For some reason, almost every application requires a passport photo. Off the top of my head, the Alien Registration application requires one to get your ARC, and I needed one for my student ID as well. This website is a great way to get a bunch for cheap, so don’t find yourself scrambling when you get there!
Research Host Country
A lot of people think they know about the country they’re going to, but ultimately go with the idea of being “pleasantly surprised.” While it’s nice to go in with little expectations, you want to make sure you don’t offend people in the process. Research basic cultural norms, how to say “please” and “thank you,” and surface-level politics (president? prime minister?). You’re an ambassador when you leave your country, so try to be prepared to represent yourself well.
Accommodations and Transportation
Double-check your accommodations and your agreed move-in date, as well as the location, and your method of getting there from the airport. If needed, print out a travel itinerary so you have something to fall back on after a long day of moving around.
Host University Tasks
There shouldn’t be too much for you to do in this department until your orientation day, but if there are mentor groups requiring registration, or if course registration happens before you get there, make sure you’re on top of that. For Korea, I just had to make sure I was registered for the right classes and find the date of my orientation.
Find a way to log adventures
You’re going to be away for a while, and if my psychology coursework has told me anything, it’s that the human memory is pretty unreliable. Whether it’s a journal you write in once a week, a vlog, a blog, or a flurry of pictures in your camera roll, find something that works for you. It’s a tremendous experience to experience another culture that not many can do.
I hope you found this helpful. Enjoy your trip, take lots of pictures, and make sure to use the hashtag #mbtravelers on Instagram for a chance to get your photos featured on the blog!