In this post, CAPA Alumna Nora puts together a top 10 list of study abroad prep tips to help you get ready before you head to your global city.
From one study abroad student to another, there are some things you need to know before you head to your global city. While learning from experience is a great thing, it also helps to make sure you're prepared beforehand. Check out these 10 things to do before you study abroad!
A view of Northern Patagonia in Argentina!
1. Start Your Scholarship Search Early
Start searching for scholarships months in advance. Usually there are some scholarships available from your home university and then some from your study abroad program. Ask questions if you think you may qualify for some of these if it isn’t clear from the description. You never know and you don’t want to leave any funds on the table! After exhausting these avenues, search for funds from outside sources. You can usually find multiple linked in the aforementioned places of your home university and your study abroad program (the CAPA website has a robust Financing and Scholarships page on their website!). Then conduct your own search using scholarship search engines and good old Google.
2. Keep a Monthly Budget
After searching for funding, make a budget of how much your study abroad experience will cost you using Excel or Google Sheets. (I am a secret Excel enthusiast. Don’t tell anyone.). Once you have this target sum you can start working toward it. Now tighten your belt for the next few months. Keep a monthly budget and stick to it. You may want to tape a poster of your host city to wall so you can look up at it while you munch on ramen waiting for departure time!
3. Save More with a Part-Time Job
I also nannied part time in the months leading up to my study abroad. Nannying paid well and worked with my class schedule. There are many ways to save for your study abroad and a part-time job could help with that.
4. Practice Your Host City's Language
If you are headed to a non-English speaking country make sure to keep up with your language learning. Personally, my academic plan had required that I take a year off from Spanish before heading off to Buenos Aires so I had to be extra intentional about utilizing things like Duolingo, free conversation groups offered by my university and local library, and shows in Spanish on Netflix. It’s also fun to try to look up specific phrases and slang used in your city. Spanish is super different across Latin America depending on where you are.
Colonia Suiza is part of the country's historic heritage sites.
It is one of the first European settlements in Patagonia.
5. Research and Get Excited
Watch videos by people who have studied and visited your city or of course people who live there. Watch movies set in your city and absorb the history this way! If you like, make a picturesque Pinterest board. This always gets me excited and it’s a good way to organize your touristy To-Do with gorgeous accompanying photos.
6. Create a Big Packing List
Who doesn’t love a big packing list? Look at ones other people have made and cross off the stuff you don’t think you’ll personally need (but be practical and think about those suggestions. For example, I neglected to bring an umbrella but ended up buying one here).
7. Select a Phone Plan
Talk to your program directors and do some research before selecting an option for your international phone plan. There may be more economical options when you arrive that conform to your program requirements.
8. Bring a Notebook
Here's my journal.
If you like to journal, or are considering it, bring along a notebook to write down your thoughts and observations or do some sketches on your surroundings. It’ll organize your thoughts and be a fun thing, all to yourself, to look back on in the months and years to come.
9. Pack Vitamin C Tablets
Bring some vitamin C tablets and remember to take them if you start to feel a little under the weather. I cannot stress this enough. There is so much going on and so much to do each day abroad and you will be stretched a little thin. Additionally, you are in a different climate breathing different air. All this is to say that even though I thought I was very prepared and being super careful, I ultimately got sick and had to spend a few days in bed. Oh well. It happens to the best of us, but make sure to learn from my mistake and remember to get lots of sleep and make use of vitamin C tablets!
10. Be Cognizant of the Climate
Make sure that no matter how hot or cold it’s getting in your home city that you know what the weather will be like during your study abroad. This is sort of an embarrassing one but I really didn’t realize quite how cold and rainy it would (sometimes) be in Buenos Aires during this time of year. As I said I had to buy an umbrella and there are some clothes I brought with that I will barely ever wear because it is just a bit too cold.
Even the trees wear sweaters! Yarn bombing is sort of big in my area in Buenos Aires.
Most of all get excited! Study abroad is an amazing experience. You’re going to learn so much, have so much fun, and meet some great people!
Nora Callahan is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An International Affairs and Math major at Northeastern University, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Nora's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.