Study Abroad Checklist: 9 Steps to Prepare for a Semester Abroad in Sydney

Jan 17, 2019 12:12:00 PM / by Kara Davis

Sooner is better than later when it comes to getting ready for your study abroad semester. In her first post, Kara takes us through a step-by-step guide on how to prepare and have a seamless pre-departure experience before you get on your flight to your global city. Spoiler alert: this list will let you know the 9 things you must  absolutely do to get everything sorted—from passports to courses to insurance and medications!

Planning to study abroad in Australia next semester but don’t know where to start? Read on for 9 things you can do right now to get started.

(Note: Although the following content is tailored to the CAPA Sydney program, the basics can still be applied when studying abroad in other locations or with a different institution.)

1. Obtain Passport, Visa, and Other Documentation

My PassportMy American passport.

Having all the right documentation is a necessity for any kind of travel. Students studying in Australia for less than three months are required to obtain a Visitor (Tourist) (subclass 600) visa from the Australian Department of Homeland Affairs. Applications can be completed online or by paper and can take up to four weeks to process.

In order to apply for any type of visa, you must already have a valid US Passport. In addition, the Australian government requires that you provide an Evidence of Character document in the form of a penal clearance certificate or police check. An easy way to obtain this is by requesting an Identity History Summary Check (FBI Identification Record). Once the request is submitted, you must mail a fingerprint card (which can be obtained from either a public or private provider) to the FBI CJIS Division. Once received, it takes about three to five business days to receive the Identity History Summary Response.

2. Purchase Plane Tickets

It is said that for best prices, plane tickets should be purchased about three months in advance. However, this is not always the case. I recommend using applications such as Google Flights and Skyscanner to track flight prices three to six months in advance, then waiting to book until prices are low.

3. Get Some Cash

Australian CashMake sure you get some Australian dollars in hand.

Although credit cards are increasingly the payment method of choice, most other countries have not embraced the cashless culture as much as we have in the US (source: The Telegraph). For instance, many businesses in Australia charge a small surcharge for card purchases. Given this fact, try to obtain about one week’s worth of expenses (excluding prepaid ones like hotels or flights) before or following your arrival.

Also make sure you know the conversion rate, so that you can make appropriate cost estimations when dealing with another currency.

4. Notify Your Bank

For any type of foreign vacation, you must let your bank and/or credit card company know of your time and place of travel so that your accounts do not become disabled.

This also applies when making foreign purchases prior to arrival, such as activity or hotel bookings. I had attempted to purchase a ticket for a Great Barrier Reef tour through an Australian tourism website, but my payment was declined due to it being made prior to my declared travel date.

5. Get Courses Sorted Out

Before you register for courses abroad, make sure they will transfer as needed to your home university. Your university may have an online transfer credit guide, where you can search courses that have been approved as course equivalencies or submit a new one for evaluation. If this is not available, contact your academic advisor about this as soon as possible.

6. Complete All Necessary Pre-Program Materials

Flight info (old Flight info, not current)One of CAPA's pre-departure surveys.

You may be required by your home and/or host university to complete materials such as agreements, questionnaires, and orientation videos beforehand. CAPA requires that students complete an internship application (if interning), course preference form, roommate survey, and flight details survey prior to the program. There is also an optional but highly recommended online webinar held one month prior to the start date that covers basic information about the program and answers questions. It is very important to complete all of these materials so that no complications or consequences occur later on.

7. Do Your Research

Do Your ResearchDo your research on the Australian culture and things you can do in Sydney.

For any type of travel, do some research on the history, culture, geography, and climate of the country and specific regions you plan to visit. For Australia, check out websites like Australian Explorer to get started.

8. Handle Medications and Insurance

If you are planning to take any medications (both prescription or over the counter) while abroad, double check if they are available, legal, or eligible for an exemption in the country you are visiting. Failure to do this may lead to having materials confiscated or, in extreme cases, an arrest. Visit here for more information related to medicines and medical devices allowed in Australia.

Also check if you will be covered with health and/or travelers insurance by your home or host university. If no coverage or the policy provided does not fully cover your needs, consider purchasing a policy.

9. Pack Your Bags

Lastly, it is time to pack your bags. To keep baggage costs down and for ease of travel, limit your luggage to one checked bag and one carry-on item. If you plan to travel before or after the program, consider bringing just one large backpacking backpack so that you can easily move from one place to another. For tips on packing for study abroad, there are dozens of posts written by previous CAPA bloggers to check out.

I hope that this post was helpful in helping you to prepare for studying abroad in Sydney!

Thanks, Kara!

Kara Davis


Kara Davis is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Sustainability major at Arizona State University, she is studying abroad in Sydney this semester.

Kara's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

Learn More about the CAPA Sydney Program

Topics: Sydney, Australia, Predeparture & Study Abroad Preparations