Study Abroad Preparation: First Steps

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to study abroad. Now, what?

Just because you’ve finally received your acceptance letter doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and enjoy (though you should a little). You thought getting your application ready was hard? Well, be ready to work even harder. Your study abroad application was just the beginning. Now, the real fun begins! (At least for type A planners like me.)

Studying abroad next semester? Click through to find out the first steps you need to take in study abroad preparation process!

There is a lot to do to prepare your semester abroad. Between travel plans and academic choices, you might not know where to begin. Don’t worry! I know what it’s like. If you’re not sure where to head into first, here are a couple things that should figure on the top of your checklist.ย 

Get a visa

No matter where you are going in the world, chances are you’ll need a student visa. Depending on where you’re from and where you are going, getting a visa can be a long and complicated process, so I definitely recommend looking into it as soon as possible. Bureaucracy can be very lengthy and excruciating in some countries, and if, like me, you’re used to getting things done quickly, you should try to get a head start as soon as possible.

If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend checking out the government of your host country’s website. For example, if you’re looking to study abroad in the UK, you should definitely check this tool out. It basically if you need a UKย visa and if you do, what type of visa you need! It’s important to get as much information as you can on the matter before you head into the process so you know everything you’ll need to know before you apply (documents, eligibility, how long it takes to process your application, etc.).

I’m personally still in the process of completing my UK short-term study visa application. I’m leaving in less than 3 months, but the application itself, once completed, takes up about 2-3 weeks to process so I’m not too worried.

Secure your accommodation

Now that you know where you’ll be studying, you also need to know where you’ll be sleeping. Accommodation is one of the most important part of your study abroad preparation, because I don’t know about you, but the idea of not knowing whether or not I’ll have a roof over my head for the next 4 months makes me super anxious.

If you’re even considering living in the dorms, you NEED to start thinking about accommodation early! I actually suggest applying for accommodation as soon as you get your acceptance letter. Why? Because while most schools do try to prioritize international students, it’s not always the case. And it’s not always possible. So unless you have a plan B, you need to apply for accommodation as soon as possible to secure your spot!

If you’re considering living outside the dorms, you also need to get on it as soon as possible. This is probably a trickier option because you won’t be able to visit apartments, but it’s not completely impossible! I do recommend living in the dorms because not only does it allow you to be right on campus (no one wants to get lost in a foreign country!), it’s also a great way to immerse yourself in the student community. But having your own place comes with its benefits and I can totally understand your reasons. You could also decide to live with a host family to completely immerse yourself in the culture!

Also, you might get asked where you’ll be living when you’ll step foot on your host country’s soil, so it’s better to have it figured out before you board the plane!

Sort out insurance

I don’t about you, but insurance turns out to be quite complicated in Quebec. Good thing my parents have decided to help with that step! You need plenty of insurance when leaving for your study abroad semester: health insurance, pharmacare, liability insurance… and the list goes on! Ask your university (at home or abroad) to help you come up with a list of different policies you’re going to need while abroad. My university at home was kind enough to send me a document detailing every type of insurance I’ll need and even gave me a few pointers to help me figure it all out. What I recommend here is:ย talk to a professional. Talk to your current insurance company and explain your situation. See if you’ll be covered while abroad, and if not, ask them to point you in the right direction.

If you’re really lost and confused, talk to your study abroad advisor. Chances are your university offers insurance that can cover you while you’re abroad! Compare different insurance companies and see who offers you the best price (and full coverage!).

This step can be complicated (and is quite boring, to be honest), so I recommend getting out of the way as early as possible.

Apply for scholarships

One of the cool things about studying abroad is that there are tons of scholarship you can apply to that can help you pay for the fees of your trip! Your school might give you a list of scholarships you can apply to depending on your location and where you’re going (and a bunch of different factors), or you might have to do your own research. I suggest starting early so you don’t miss any deadlines! If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships, I recommend asking your study abroad advisor. You can also ask other people who have studied abroad/are planning on studying abroad! They might be able to give you some pointers.

I personally applied to only one scholarship (though I did receive another one that was non-related to my semester abroad) given by the government in my province to encourage students to study abroad. It was the only one I was eligible to (in my knowledge), so I put a lot of hope and effort into it. Well, I’m proud to announce that I recently heard back from them and I have received $4,000 in scholarships for my semester abroad! So trust me when I say that applying to scholarships is not lost time. Who knows what you might get? ๐Ÿ™‚

Get your plane tickets

Okay, so this one might change depending on where in the world you’re going. For instance, if you’re going to Europe, it’s recommended to get your tickets about 3 months before you leave. For America, it’s usually one month. Nevertheless, no matter where you’re going, I definitely recommend checking plane tickets options as soon as possible! This will allow you to compare prices and buy your tickets for the cheapest price possible! Skyscanner, Kayak, Flight Hub and Google Flights are some great resources to check out!

Finalize your course choice

This final step is kind of a lie. While I definitely recommend having your course choice finalized and approved by your university, this is not something that’s urgent. Most universities don’t give you a final “final” course choice until after the semester has begun. (You might still decide to drop a class or change your schedule.) Think about it, even at home, your courses aren’t final until after you missed the deadline. Just make sure you’ll be taking enough credits so you don’t get behind in your degree and that the classes you are taking are actually approved by your faculty/university!

These are only some of the steps you’ll need to take to prepare your semester abroad! I think the five steps mentioned above should be among your priorities, as they are things that take time.

Ever studied abroad? Do you have any tips to help first-timers like me prepare?

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  • Awesome tips!! I’ll never forget the process of getting ready to study abroad – both scary and extremely exciting! I studied abroad in the UK (London) and it was a great experience.

    Also I see you’re from Quebec – I’m headed to Montreal in two weeks! If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them xo

    • You studied abroad in London? That’s where I’m going too! ๐Ÿ˜€ If you have any tips for me, I would love to hear them!

      I live really close to Montreal, actually! Montreal is magical in the summer with all its festivals and outdoors activities. If you want some specific recommendations, feel free to email me at hello@awanderersadventures.com! I have also written a post about Montreal here if you want to check it out: http://awanderersadventures.com/day-in-montreal/

  • I also recommend Student Universe to look for flights abroad! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

    • Oh, I’ll definitely check this one out! Thanks for the info!

  • Carlee Hebert

    These tips are so helpful! I’ll be studying abroad in the spring (and blogging about it)! The application process is long and boring, but it doesn’t have to be hard! Thankfully I won’t have to worry about accommodation because I’m going with a company who helps us with home stays. I’m going to France and I only speak a little French. I can’t imagine trying to find a place to live in a language that I barely know! http://carleehebert.com/

    • That’s so exciting! I’ll be studying abroad in the UK this fall, so I totally understand the long and boring paperwork! France looks amazing though, so I hope you enjoy! And if you ever need someone to practice your French with, don’t hesitate to hit me up. My mother tongue is French and I speak it fluently. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Carlee Hebert

        Thank you! I might have to take you up on that! I can read and write it pretty well, but speaking and understanding spoken French is a lot harder for me!

        • Of course! Just note that I’m from Quebec, so my accent might be slightly different than the French one ๐Ÿ˜‰