I am exactly a week away from the commencement of my first study abroad experience and have already learned several lessons in preparation. While there are many things that you should try to do, there are also things you should try to not do, so in this post, I will share some of what I could have done better when getting ready to study abroad.
- Don’t wait until the last minute
Yes, you’re busy with finals and yes, IES Abroad preparations can wait till afterward… but not all of it. Between housing forms, medical waivers, financial guarantees, and travel plans, you’ll regret it if you wait to do everything right before you leave. I left a lot to do all at once and was overwhelmed. While the tasks themselves are fairly simple, they require meeting with people (doctors, bank tellers, etc) for signatures, which is a whole adventure. The only thing I would say to not do too early is the housing orientation. I read the document in detail and it recommended the best places for students in Dublin, which made me way too excited, and then I was bummed out that I still had to wait a week. So don’t do that one until right before you leave.
Another note. If you take any prescriptions, don’t wait until the last day to pick them up. Again, that’s what I did and I was sweating pretty hard trying to figure out all of that in a time crunch. The insurance will usually cover travel overrides (meaning that you can get enough of your prescription to last your whole stay without paying out of pocket) but it takes time to get everything approved so definitely do that far enough in advance that you have wiggle room if everything doesn’t work out on the first try.
- Do NOT take your phone apart the day before you leave
This may seem like a no-brainer but once again I did not think things through. The screen on my phone was cracked (also my fault) and the battery fried, so I ordered replacement ones that I could install myself. How hard can it be right, there are videos online? It’s hard. It’s tedious tiny screws and sensors, which in theory just requires precision. But I was sitting on the floor of my room surrounded by all the crap I was trying to pack and I had terrible lighting, making it way harder than it needed to be. So anyway I tore the cable that connects the home button and as it turns out those are irreplaceable, which means that now I’m stuck that way for the whole summer. Not a huge deal because you can use an on-screen home button instead of the physical one but definitely unfortunate. Lesson learned: don’t do risky things to your important belongings the day before leaving the country.
- Don’t make little travel plans before you go
Once you’re there you will meet so many new people and what you already planned may no longer be convenient or sound like the best use of your time. It is easier to make spontaneous plans than to cancel pre-existing ones. On the other hand, it could be nice to work out some travel plans for after the trip - for example, I have a friend who will also be in Europe after the dates of my program and we made plans to go backpacking together in the Alps. Having a vague idea of what you want to do can be great, but I would recommend against buying plane/train tickets and making reservations because it may be difficult to get a refund.
There are things to not do before you begin your study abroad experience and I’m sure you will do things that may make your life a little harder, but in the end, everything works out and once you make it to your destination you will have an incredible trip!
More Blogs From This Author
Stella is currently a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder, where her goal is to always have at least one foot out of her comfort zone. When she is not on the engineering grind, she is passionate about playing guitar, backpacking, climbing, dancing, or really anything that will get her outside and soaking up the sunshine. Being raised in a French/English bilingual household, she grew up with an appreciation for other cultures and traveling. As she continues on her journey toward adulthood, she hopes to keep experiencing the unfamiliar and become an increasingly global citizen.