As many of you will get to do at some point (I hope!), I’m going on exchange and studying abroad for a semester of university. I’m taking the plunge and listening to my international business professor who told me to broaden my view of the world. I’m throwing myself into a new environment and hoping to surface a better person.
After a bit of frantic Google-ing and asking my friends for tips, I’ve taken a few steps to help my exchange go smoother. And because I feel obligated to include a disclaimer, please do remember that I haven’t actually left yet. Let’s just hope that I’ve got the basics covered.
Without further ado, here are a few things to think about before leaving for your semester abroad:
- You don’t want to get hit with foreign transaction fees on credit cards. It’s pretty much impossible to find a card without these fees, so consider a prepaid travel visa card or look for a bank card where you don’t have to pay ATM fees. For example, Scotiabank’s global ATM alliance allows you to withdraw local currency fee-free from banks around the world that are part of the alliance.
- Don’t forget about different currencies! You might only need Euros on hand if you’re travelling around Europe, but it’ll depend on where you’re going. Make sure you plan ahead, depending on where you plan on going.
- Keep some cash on hand. There’d be nothing worse than showing up with only cards and realizing that they don’t work as you expected. Set aside some funds to exchange to local currency so you have time to figure things out when you first arrive.
Let’s face it – we live in a world governed by technology. You really can’t travel anywhere without your electronics, so you’ll want your phone and laptop to work abroad.
- Adapters! You’ll absolutely need adapters and be sure to check for voltage differences too. Most electronics will work in other countries, but you don’t want to fry them just in case. Just be extra careful with your electronics, and be prepared to possibly purchase new ones if they end up not working properly. An all-in-one power bar and voltage converter can prove to be extremely useful.
- Consider bringing some extra chargers. I also definitely recommend bringing a portable charger for unexpected situations.
- Plan to buy a prepaid SIM card there. You’ll generally find much better deals for plans abroad than plans at home, but be sure that you don’t get into a contract (you’re only there for a few months!).
- You don’t have to pack everything. Chances are you’re going to a pretty major city that will have anything you might need available to buy. For example, I’m skipping throwing in all my heels and planning to buy some cheap pairs there.
- Make sure you have the few essentials. Create a list of your absolute must-haves (passport, visa if necessary, letter of acceptance to exchange university, proof of accommodation, travel insurance, etc.) and check that you have those. You can get by without the other stuff.
- Roll your clothing! I love this newfound packing trick. It saves space and makes my luggage look neat, which is a major plus.
- Plan ahead for your trips. You may be flying somewhere cold, but planning to travel to warmer places too. Bring appropriate clothing for all types of weather you may encounter.
Alright, that’s all from me for now! Though I’m sure I haven’t foreseen everything, I hope that some of these tips are useful to anyone with travel plans in mind. A big thank you to the friends of mine who left for exchange a few weeks before me and contributed to these tips. Here’s to new experiences, and here’s to traveling abroad!