You are planning to study abroad as an exchange student for a full year, or you might have been accepted for an internship program lasting a few months. How do you prepare for the journey? Aside from securing your airline ticket, books, and accommodations while overseas, what do you need to do before you leave and what do you need to bring with you when you go?
A typical travel checklist won’t work well in this scenario because of the array of different factors that need to be taken into account - different personal needs, preferences and unforeseen factors that could always arise and surprise you. But however “puzzling” living abroad may seem or however diverse the individual cases may be, there are at least 5 key preparation steps that nearly everyone should take:
1. Prepare Your Cell Phone For Life Abroad
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, our mobile phones are key tools in our day to day lives and something we rely on every day. Overseas, that equation is only going to intensify. So, it’s not just you who should prepare for life abroad, but your smartphone need to adapt too.
First, do not renew your contract (if you have one), then convert your phone to a prepaid plan. You just need to buy a new sim card. You want a US-based SIM when you leave and return so you can use it in the airport and don’t have to rush-change your SIM just before/after transitioning. You’ll also need a local SIM while abroad, but you can avoid that hassle too and still get cheap international roaming charges with plans from various providers, that include unlimited texting and low-per-minute international calls.
2. Prepare Your Laptop And Electronics
Besides ensuring you will have Wi-Fi service, you also need to take the time to research what kind of voltage the outlets you will find there will carry. Most of the world is on twice the US voltage level, though Japan and most of the Americas are “US standard.”
Additionally, you will likely need to buy several outlet adapters as well. A small matter, perhaps, but how would you like to get there and be stuck for days on end for the lack of one, small, simple adapter? Be prepared.
3. Learn To Pack in a Smart and Compact Way
You will have to decide which articles of clothing are most important based on the climate, so do some season and location specific research. Even pay attention to the forecast for the day of your arrival so you know what to have on. Also learn how to pack all the basic essentials in two normal-sized suitcases only.
4. Prepare Yourself Academically
It’s easy to get so excited about preparing for a life in a new country, meeting new people, and experiencing things, that you forget this is, after all, a study tour. Therefore, make sure you not only have all the books you’ll need (either bring them or research where you’ll be able to get them once you arrive), but also get a head start on the curriculum.
5. Prepare Yourself Culturally
Also take time to do research on the culture you will be entering. Learn at least the basics of the language(s), and bring a small pocket dictionary. Find out what to expect as far as cuisine, traditions, holidays, and cultural taboos are concerned.
“Culture shock” can paralyze you just when you need to be productive and alert during your studies. This can be easily avoided. You also want to enjoy the new culture not hide from it. So get a little taste of it before you leave, and you’ll have an easier time adapting.