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Studying Abroad? Here Are Four Tips You Should Know

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Irvine chapter.

I think it’s safe to say that, at some point in our lives, we all wished to travel to another country. Fortunately, many colleges provide a wonderful opportunity to do this through their study abroad programs. This summer, I will be studying abroad in South Korea through the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). Truthfully, this process has been stressful. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been out of the country before this program, so I can only imagine how much more nerve-wracking it would be if I was a first-time traveler like many students are. Because of this, I’ve decided to compile a list of things that might be helpful for first-time travelers entering a study abroad program.

1. Be Proactive with Your Planning

When I first started to apply for the study abroad program, I thought the program would do a lot of the planning for me. I thought they would help register me at the foreign school, and would help with visas and other related things, but that is not the case. While there are written guides on what you should do and program advisors you can talk to, nothing will be completed unless you take the initiative. The program can tell you the best place to buy tickets, but you will need to buy them yourself. The program can tell you where to go to apply for a visa, but you will have to fill it out yourself. Many of these things are time-sensitive as well, so it’s easy to fall behind.

2. Get a SIM Card/Personal Hotspot

Most data plans will have extremely high rates if you decide to use them outside of the United States. I recommend you get a new SIM card for the duration of your program or a personal hotspot. While there are pros and cons to both, I recommend you to do research on your country to decide what is the best option for you. For example, a SIM card is the best option for Korean travelers because many services in Korea require a Korean phone number. Other countries may not have this same necessity or the personal hotspot may be cheaper. 

3. Know About Your Host Country’s Health and Safety

Since most of us have been fully vaccinated since we were young, we might not even think twice about the possible health risks that can occur in other countries. However, many of us are at risk of other countries’ diseases. For example, malaria is a somewhat large issue for most of Asia during the wet season. The CDC outlines all of the health risks of other countries and the vaccines/medications they recommend you get depending on your situation. I recommend staying ahead of this because many vaccines/medications recommend you to get it a significant time before you depart for your program and certain vaccines have two or more doses that need to be taken a certain amount of time apart. 

4. Underpack

The one advice I’ve gotten is that you can definitely overpack but you can’t underpack. Remember, most countries outside of the United States rely on public transportation and walking. You do not want to be lugging around a giant heavy suitcase of things you can buy. Your host school will probably be near a store where you can buy essentials. Also, the bonus of underpacking is that you have so much more room to bring stuff back when you return to the United States.

These are all of my tips for studying abroad based on my experience. While I recommend you follow these tips, I also recommend doing your own research. Lastly, I have one last tip and it’s to have fun! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so make the most of it.

Jasmine Doan

UC Irvine '25

Jasmine is a Vietnamese-American history major at UCI. She loves to read, write, and watch K-dramas.