With warmer weather just around the corner, many students at IU South Bend are gearing up for study abroad trips to Costa Rica, Florence, Oaxaca, London, and Edinburgh during spring break or summer break. As a student who traveled on a study abroad trip last summer to Berlin and Prague, the main advice I can give to these students and any prospective student is an old standby: preparation, preparation, preparation. How exactly can our IU South Bend students prepare for their study abroad trips? How can preparation and organization make other students want to study abroad, too? These questions are going to be answered in four ways that I believe all students should know before they study abroad.
1. The first preparation tip should be the most obvious and most important of all: the passport. Do you need a passport to travel to your destination? If so, make sure to apply for a passport about three to six months in advance of the departure date of the trip. Not only that, but make sure to have copies available of your passport with you in case of an emergency. Keep your passport, passport copy, and personal identification card on you at all times during your study abroad trip!
2. The next tip is one that should begin around the same time as acquiring your passport. When preparing to travel to your specific location, you must first become familiar with the place you will be visiting. Researching the location will help you to better understand local cultures and differences between your home country and a foreign country. Two of the most fun aspects to research, in my opinion, are local delicacies and the country’s language. Although you may be tempted to revert to English, make sure to learn a few key phrases in the country’s native language.
3. As a chronic over-packer, my biggest issue was deciding what to pack and what not to pack for my trip. The essentials are appropriate clothes (for layering in case of warmer and/or cooler weather), comfortable shoes, plenty of socks, underwear, or swimwear depending on your location, cell phone/cell phone charger, basic and minimal toiletries, and any books you know you will need for your time overseas (i.e. English to foreign language dictionary, books to read on the plane, sketch books and/or journals). It is extremely important to keep in mind that although it might be tempting to bring all your own toiletries along, most locations will be able to provide you with cheap and small versions of your favorite products. Keeping enough space in your luggage for souvenirs and goodies to bring back home is key when deciding on how much to pack into your suitcase.
4. Lastly and equally as important, when you prepare yourself to study abroad, you must go in with an open mind. Traveling to a foreign country can seem exciting and frightening all at the same time, but just remember that you will learn to grow as a student and as a person when experiencing a new culture and gaining lifelong experience with internationalizing your education. The most important piece of advice I can give you all when preparing for study abroad is this: put yourself out there and have fun!
Need more preparation tips and advice? You can find a few fantastic resources for study abroad and traveling here, here, and here. Do you have any study abroad advice or stories? If so, let us know in the comments!