Countdown - 6 days, 8 hours, and 52 minutes until departure.
Since around this time last year, studying abroad has at times felt like a never ending to - do list. Countless emails, forms, applications, research, meetings, and somehow it has all boiled down to just a few more steps. So as I sign my last couple of entrance documents, and zip up my suitcases, I thought I would share what it has all boiled down to - my 3 P’s of Pre Departure.
- Paperwork. Keep a checklist of upcoming deadlines! If you decide to study abroad in college, this will be your #1 nemesis. Starting with your program applications, your college may have additional requirements to what you see from your study abroad program. Don’t be like me and have to dig around for forms at the last minute - especially because a lot of this work is due around finals! And don’t be afraid to ask for help! See if your college has a study abroad office, or reach out to a peer or class advisor.
- Penny Pinching. Perhaps the most dreaded P of all. Studying abroad can get expensive. Between travel, tuition, transcripts and more, the fees begin to add up. Remember when you are looking at tuition estimates that unlike your school in the U.S, you may be expected to pay for your own meals, or to commute to class every day. And not to mention, you’re going to want to do all that fun tourist - y stuff while you’re there.
- Save now, spend later. In the months leading up to departure, see if you can cut down on extra spending. Put in a few extra hours at work, or offer a service like babysitting in your town. Protip - Talk it up! Friends and family are often excited to pay a little extra for odd jobs if you tell them about your plans.
- Fundraise! Many of your family and friends are excited about your journey abroad, and you may be surprised by their excitement to help. I started a GoFundMe at the beginning of the summer, and it has been awesome to get so many donations and messages from people, some who I don’t even know.
- Apply for grants and scholarships. Remember, the aid you receive in the U.S. may not be the same in your host country! Do some research into offers from your home school and any programs you may want to apply to before you’re accepted, as it may impact your decision. My home school offers a grant to students studying abroad which covers not only my tuition, but a portion of my housing, meals, and travel expenses. IES Abroad also offers a variety of grants and scholarships, and you can apply all in one place. Apply early though - my home school grant meant that I had to submit a request to study abroad early, with a professor’s letter of recommendation. Protip- apply early! Many funds are on a first-come-first-serve basis.
3. Packing. Finally! It’s almost time for you to leave! Your paperwork is filed, your tickets have been bought, and your carry-on snacks are waiting for you. But wait! You forgot to pack! Now, how to fit an entire semester's worth of belongings into a couple of suitcases…
- Ziploc baggies are your friend! Remember that all liquids should be separated from your other belongings in case they break in flight. Baggies can also be a great way to organize your suitcase for easy access.
- Consider what you can buy abroad to save room. And remember you’re going to want to buy souvenirs too! Protip - keep in mind that some products may not be available overseas! Make sure you have necessities like medications in your carry-on.
- See what your program has to offer. My program is providing us with some items like bedding and some cooking utensils that would be difficult to fly with. Some programs or schools may even have donation bins on-site that you can leave and take from as needed!
- Keep important items in your carry on. Remember, it is always possible that your checked luggage could be lost. Keep valuables, entrance paperwork, and a few days worth of clothes and toiletries in your carry on.
Phew. Now you’re all ready to depart. Your paperwork's done, you’ve got your funds, and your suitcases are practically overflowing. Now, all you need to do is arrive. Your study abroad adventure is waiting for you! And in the meantime, I will be finishing my own to-do list with (hopefully) some energy to spare for travel next weekend. See you in Ireland.
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Hello hello! I am a junior at Mount Holyoke College, studying music and theater. This summer, I got to work an internship in a professional costume shop! In my free time, I love composing music, cooking, working with kids, and exploring outside.