Preparing to Study Abroad: What to Expect

There are a lot of things that go into studying abroad that people might not think about. The process can be long and, unfortunately, kind of grueling. There are numerous steps people usually have to follow to ensure the process is completed before they even leave.


Visiting the Study Abroad Office

The first step in all of this, before even deciding where you want to go, is to visit the study abroad office on campus. The employees there will have more information than you could ever need and are eager to help. If you tell them the experience you want and what your studying, they can help find you a match. Some schools have special relationships with universities abroad and these opportunities just might be what you are looking for. Usually you will be assigned an advisor who will help you through the entire process and being in contact with them often will help you endlessly. When planning my trip, I visited the office on campus half a dozen times before figuring everything out.


Picking Your Place and Applying

After visiting your SA office and you have found the place you want with the program you want, your next step is to apply. Sometimes the application process can have a lot of steps but the program you are applying through will always be happy to help. I am going through ASA and they have been awesome throughout the whole process. Some things to keep in mind when applying are you will likely need your passport to even apply and some places require an application fee. There will also likely be criteria you need to meet such as a certain minimum GPA in order to be considered. My university required me to apply through them as well as ASA to ensure I was eligible. Once you are accepted, the real fun begins (that was sarcasm, by the way).


Forms, Forms, Forms

The next step is the worst part of the process (besides dishing out thousands of dollars when you pay for your program). There is an unreal amount of forms you have to fill out before being able to do basically anything. If you are accepted into the study abroad program, you fill out a form. When you apply for housing you fill out a form. When you need insurance or possibly have to apply for a visa, you fill out a form. You get the idea. Lots and lots of forms. The main thing you will need to do is ensure that the credits you take abroad will transfer and count at your home university (if you plan on taking them for credit, some people don’t). You will likely need to meet with your academic advisor and potentially the department chair and compare curriculums to see what they can transfer as.


Housekeeping Items and Preparing for the Trip

There will likely be some last-minute things you need to do before leaving such as making sure you are all set with your home university and confirming things with your program. Finding out things like when to land and where you’ll be picked up at the airport or if you need a cab and where you’ll be living will be items that should be on your mind. Packing is also a big piece of this, and as someone who leaves for their trip in TWO WEEKS and HAS NOT packed, it can be stressful! How do you fit your three months worth of living into a checked bag? Impossible. I am not looking forward to the feat so wish me luck. Other things you may want to consider is making sure your rent will be taken care of while you’re gone if you pay rent, if you have any plants or animals make sure you have someone to care for them, ensuring you leave your car in a safe place since you’ll be gone for potentially several months, if you have a job making sure they will hold your position while you’re gone or having a plan for a new one when you come back. Make sure you plan everything ahead so you don’t have to stress about things happening back home while you’re already stressed about the new things abroad.


Going and Having a Blast

Once you’re all packed up and ready to go, be prepared for all the hard goodbyes. Although I haven’t done this part yet, I’m not looking forward to it. Leaving my family and friends and pets for three months will be a challenge but I know it’ll be worth it. Think of all the fun and new adventures you will have and let that be your motivation.


Studying abroad is something few people get to experience and for those that do it changes their life. There is something about being thrown into a foreign culture that helps people grow and find out who they are, which may sound corny, but it’s true. So, if you’re reading this because you plan on studying abroad, not only will I tell you to do it, but to enjoy the process and thrive.