Hey collegiates! As this year comes to an end, I hope you have seriously considered study abroad and are already planning for it! Studying for two weeks, a Maymester, a summer, or a semester is wonderful, but I highly recommend an academic year if you want to truly challenge yourself and get emersed in a culture. Here is your timeline to your next academic year exchange.
Disclaimer: This is my personal study abroad experience, as I did the Northumbria Exchange with the English department. Your timeline may vary from this one, so use this as a general guide.
One Year Before Departure, September to December
I learned about the exchange and started to seriously consider study abroad. This is the time to start talking with whoever is the head of the exchange and to your academic advisor on how it could affect your graduation deadline (make sure to get MULTIPLE opinions on this cause advisors can be…eh). If there is a study abroad fair in the fall…go to it! See what your options are. In November, I personally had an informational (nothing formal or binding) just a way of getting to know the exchange. Over December, contemplate and do more research.
Winter – New Year
By now you should know which exchange you are doing, and perhaps have a backup one if the first option doesn’t pan out.
I find that most programs have this as a deadline if they are the next semester (i.e. summer, fall, the upcoming spring, or a year). This is also when scholarships that your school offers can have a deadline too. By now, you should apply for your program and scholarships, and hope for acceptance. Make sure to talk to whoever is in charge. Let them know that you are really interested and how much it would mean to go. They don’t want to just send people to send people, they want people who truly want to be there. Make sure you’re one of them.
By now you should know whether you’re going or not, so make sure to get your housing in order (i.e. looking for someone to take over your lease if you live in an apartment, or making sure not to reapply for housing in the fall.) Around late March is when I got my acceptance into the program, but this can differ for a variety of reasons.
Hopefully, your school will have some type of orientation like mine did. Mine was lovely because a representative from the host school flew out to tell us about stuff. Previous students who had done it answered questions for us and parents. If you are going for a full year they should also talk about the visa process and give you info on the application. Also, if you are going over with others, this is a great time to get to know them, so start a group chat and plan for a little get together right before you head over.
I bought my ticket in late June, and I would say this is the LATEST you want to buy your ticket. For the UK visa application, you had input specific flight info, so you had to know the exact date you were going. Tip: use Student Universe or Sky Scanner for cheap tickets. You also may need to get a medical exam around the summer, maybe even before you submit your application. Find this out. Also, find out how you’re going to do your banking. I personally got a Capitol One 360 account, because they had no foreign transaction fees. You may or may not get a foreign bank account but make sure you are at least able to use your own card over there for the time being. Call your bank and let them know you’ll be traveling. Tip: have you and your parents get the Cash App, so they can send you money to your card instantly in case of an emergency.
This is usually when your visa stuff comes around. In my case, after I completed the application, I was given an appointment at a center in my city, where I would be screened and have my photo taken to get my visa. Make sure you have the address right, you have all the documents that you need, and you get there really early, just in case you need to obtain something that you didn’t have. Also, if you have medication that you need, in my case birth control, talk with your doctor about giving you the ability to get all of it at once, or plan for your parents to pick it up and send it to you routinely throughout your trip.
If you are going over with a group, and you didn’t already meet up before school let out, this is another good time to go out. As you know from my previous articles, you may not get along with your group once you go over, but that doesn’t mean that you all shouldn’t be acquainted. You all will have to rely on each other to figure out things.
1 week or so before departure, August/September
Your time has finally come! Double check your flight info, and arrange for travels to get there. By now you should for sure have your passport with your visa inside (if not, uh oh, call the embassy and let your program director know). You will most likely have to get an additional suitcase anyway so don’t pack more than you need. Don’t bring bedding, kitchenware (ok, maybe your favorite mug for tea), a ton of new clothes, or furniture. Research on things that you can get here that you can’t get to the country you’re going to, and get that. For me, I looked on the UK’s Amazon to see they were lacking natural hair products, so I made sure to stack up on mine and my hair and took that over with me.
Tip: Hug your family now. No matter what goes down leading up to it, you are going to eventually miss them.
November to December of your trip
By now, things will start to become routine, but that doesn’t mean you’ve completely settled in. The phrase, ‘Bloom where you are planted’ applies here, but understand blooming is just that, you don’t grow overnight. Give yourself time and patience. By now, you should know whether you are staying or leaving for Christmas if you didn’t already buy a roundtrip ticket.
April to May of your trip
Start planning on what you’re going to bring with you, what you will donate, and what you will throw away. By now you should be purchasing your ticket and following up with your program leaders on how your credits will transfer back. Have a safe flight back home!
This concludes my study abroad series. It’s been a ride, but it has been so rewarding to share my experience! Thanks for listening and supporting, and I hope this has inspired you to travel. Be adventurous, be a citizen of the world, and get outside your comfort zone! I’ll see you on the other side of the pond.