To-do list before Study Abroad Trip for first-time Abroaders

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Having troubles preparing for your first trip abroad? Check out our fool-proof tips below for a stress-free (we try) time pre-departure. 

1. Have a passport and (if necessary), a visa.

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If you haven’t traveled anywhere abroad before, it might be a relatively new sounding thing to you to go get a passport, and sometimes, a visa, to visit certain countries for your study abroad trip. The key here is to start your passport applications way ahead of time before your flight date (we are talking about months ahead) especially if the country you are visiting requires a study or a travel visa to enter. While the passport process is quite simple, sometimes red tapes do get in the way and might cause delay to your perfect study abroad plans.

Another tip for first-time travellers after you get your passport is to make several copies of it (preferably colored copies). Take those with you when you travel and leave one with someone you trust back home. You wouldn’t want to carry your physical passport everywhere you go in the new country (in case you have somewhere safe to put it, for example, at the hotel receptionist, or in a locked safe in your room). In the worst case scenario that you lose your passport, a copy of it would help a lot. The same thing applies to your visa, get copies of it and carry with you to the new country.

For those who already had a passport, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check the expiration date. And here’s the tricky part, even with a VALID passport, most countries DENY entry if it is due to expire within three to six months of travel.

2. Get a health check-up

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Go to the doctor before your departure. Photo: Men’s health

There are two scenarios, whether you are going to a country where healthcare is super expensive or a country where it is super cheap, you wouldn’t want to get a check-up or dental appointment in a foreign country. You don’t speak the language and your insurance might not cover that extra visits. Therefore, it is smart to get a thorough check-up or dental appointments before you depart to the new destination so that you can have more freedom to explore the country without worrying about a decayed tooth.

One more important step to take when you visit the doctor pre-departure is to figure out what necessary vaccinations you need to take before visiting the country. This is usually the case, especially when you are going to developing countries where there are abundant threats of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, zika, bird flu and so on. Make sure not to leave having the shots until the last minute as some vaccinations only get into effect after a week or two.

3. Figure out how to communicate with folks back home

Even though you are probably going to be super busy with activities and tours in the new country, it is a good idea to know what options you have regarding how to connect with friends or family back home in case of emergency (or just because).

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There are many ways of communicating with your family back home. Photo: Linkedin

With the growth of social media and networks, there are plenty of options for you to choose from such as: Skype, Facebook video chat, Whatsapp, Line. Check your destination country’s popular means of communication and set up an account for your mom and dad. Some countries, like China, do block the use of certain world-known social networks and only allow the use of Chinese social networks and search engine like Wechat.

Buying a local SIM card is also one of the better options, especially if you are staying for more than one month. Local SIM card is usually not expensive and you can use 3G in case you need directions. Just make sure, if you are using an iPhone, to have it unlocked to use in other countries before you depart on your study abroad program.

4. Set up a budget plan for your trip

You should do this especially when there is a big difference in exchange rates between your country and the foreign country. To begin with, do some research on the cost of living at the destination and make a draft of all the expenses you will have to spend (accommodation, transportation, food, excursions and so on ), make sure to allot a considerable amount to unexpected expenditures.

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Planning a budget for your trip is necessary but never easy. Photo:

Cash or credit card?

Most vendors and stores in developing countries rarely take credit cards and you usually have to pay extra fees when you use your credit card. There are plenty of ATMs available, although ATMs fees do add up if you are on a long trip and it is usually not safe to carry a bunch of cash with you as a foreigner. What you can do is to use services that accept credit card payment, for example, to shop at big chain supermarkets and convenient stores, take Uber or Grab (ride hailing apps) or stay at certain accommodation that accept payment by credit card.   

5. Get a legit insurance

There are different types of insurance you can look into for your trip, whether it is insurance for your health, properties or travel insurance, make sure you know how to claim the insurance if accidents do happen abroad. Maybe you will need to go to a specific clinic or fill in forms to get insured. Whatever the guidelines are, make sure to keep them in mind while you are abroad.

6. Learn about your destination

This is one of the oldest rules in any travel book: to know where you are heading. No matter how many weird things you have experienced in your home country, going abroad is a whole different story. Culture shocks are bound to happen and reading about strange and different cultural aspects of the foreign country you are visiting will lessen the culture shock one way or another.

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Learning about your destination allows you to have more fun when you are there.

Knowing about the country can also be a very good conversation starter if you are planning to make local friends. Showing your interest in their culture make a good impression and they will be more willing to show or tell you more.

7. Pack your Suitcase and Go

Don’t listen to what they say, go and experience for yourself. This is your time to shine and you should not let anything get in the way!

And don’t forget to have lots of fun! :)


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