A Guest Post by Kelsey Tharp, who is a Content Marketing Specialist at Seven Corners Insurance
So, you’ve been accepted to study at a school overseas. Congratulations! Now you’ll need to start thinking about what comes next.
To make the most of your international education experiences, try applying these tips:
Research your destination country
After you’ve finished filling out all your paperwork and telling your friends and family that you’re studying abroad, research is the next step in your journey to pursue your education overseas. This will set the tone of your entire trip, so make sure to do your due diligence.
Where do you want to visit during your limited free time? What restaurants do you want to try? Where should you live? How do you want to get involved in community, sports, and social circles at your university? The more research you do before you start the school year, the easier it will be to adapt to your new home.
Plan and schedule recreational excursions early
A major part of studying abroad is traveling. After being restricted to your home city for a while, you’ll likely be ready to start exploring further afield all the new, exciting cities and off-the-beaten-path areas around your city. Unfortunately, no matter how savvy a traveler you are, getting to these new, exciting places takes money. So, before you start exceeding your budget for studying abroad, make sure you’re prioritizing the most memorable destinations.
You may not be able to see all of the attractions and experience everything you wanted to. But fear not, you have your entire life to travel, and you can always return for another visit, possibly to reconnect with your classsmates or other new friends.
One easy way to find the best places to go is by getting recommendations from locals. Try talking to your fellow students, roommates, and professors — each group is sure to have a list of their favorite spots. If you’re lucky, you may pick up a few traveling companions this way, too! Universities often have Meetup groups with common interests and backgrounds.
Here’s a tip from a student who has graduated from her adventure studying abroad.
Give yourself a chance to get to know the people you’re traveling with before committing to an extended vacation with them. They may be a great friend, but not as great a traveling companion.
If you aren’t into joining with a group, there’s always the option of traveling alone. Solo travel is getting increasingly popular. As long as you’re careful, it’s certainly worth trying. You may feel lonely at first, but it’s a great way to develop your independence as a traveler and truly learn how you like to experience a new location. We highly recommend you try “flying solo” at least once.
Adapt to the Local Culture and Learn the Language
Something that you may take for granted: studying abroad doesn’t just entail taking classes at another school — you’re living in another country for significant amount of time. You will find that if you truly immerse yourself in the local traditions and languages, you’ll find making friends with students who were born natively in the country where your university or college is located.
No matter how long you’re staying, from three months to several years, try to think of the country where your school is located as your home away from home. This means experimenting with some trial and error to get some home comforts set up.
- Where should you get groceries? Can you adapt to local foods, or seek out favourites from home?
- How do you navigate the public transportation system to get to school?
- Should you get a local mobile service set up, or stay with your home country’s carrier service roaming?
- Will you have the time and energy to do "digital nomad" freelance work?
- Where should you shop for clothes and home furnishings?
- How will you do your laundry?
These are only a few of the many questions you’ll need to answer. Another consideration is how to handle your money. If you need to transfer money easily — without fees — or are curious about currency conversion rates, the XE Currency Converter and Travel Expense Tracker are an excellent resources. Exchanging your money when rates are in your favor can save you a great deal of money over time. You can move money from your US account to overseas banks easily through XE Money Transfer.
It’s mundane but accomplishing these to-dos will make you feel like you belong in your new city. Researching your destination will help you understand where you’re going, and this level of micro-exploration will help you flourish abroad.
Keep a journal to capture special memories
Take the time to document and photograph everything! Eventually, after you return home, the memories of studying abroad memories will start to fade.
Make sure to snap it all: pictures of your school, your apartment, your friends, and even your daily commute to school. These pictures will capture wonderful moments in your life and are fun for you and your family to look back on long after you’ve returned home.
A travel journal is another great way to keep track of your thoughts and feelings while you’re studying abroad. If you aren’t a writer at heart, don’t feel pressured to write a book each day. Try spending a few minutes each night capturing the day’s major events and how you felt about them.
If you’re a visual person, try making a picture journal. You can post pictures from your trip into your social media channel or photo collection website of choice and write about the memories behind the pictures. When you’re working through the reverse-culture shock back home, this is a great way to help steep yourself in memories, celebrate the amazing times, and then slowly move on from them.
Sign up for a student travel insurance policy
No matter how cautious you are, accidents and illness can (and often will) happen when you’re traveling. When you leave your home country, your health insurance often doesn’t follow you. This means if you slip during a hike and break your leg, you could be liable for the entire cost of your treatment and care, from the ambulance ride to the hospital to the follow-up visits to the doctor.
That’s why it’s so important to purchase student travel insurance before leaving on your study abroad adventure.
One insurance company for our American audience to consider is Seven Corners. They’ve been in the travel insurance business for more than 25 years and serve millions of customers. Their student plans provide coverage for up to 364 days at a time, and they offer a broad spectrum of coverages for minor or emergency healthcare claims.