More students than ever are reaping the benefits of studying abroad. Whether they're studying from a remote location, exchanging places with a student from another family, or simply taking international classes, a study abroad experience provides opportunities to learn about other cultures from a first-hand level. However, there are some things students should do to prepare for their big adventure. Follow these five tips before you start your time as an exchange student across the world.
Learn Which Banks Accept Your Card
Living abroad can get expensive if you constantly have to pay fees to remove cash from foreign banks or pay with your credit card. Some countries, like Germany and Japan, are very cash-dependent, which means most places won't accept a credit card unless it's a major chain.
If you visit a bank that's not a partner with your current institution, then you could be charged two fees: one for using that bank and one from your bank for using a foreign one. Before you leave, talk to your bank to see if it has any partnerships with other international financial institutions. For example, Bank of America will waive fees for customers who pull cash from Barclay's in the UK. You could save hundreds of dollars per year in fees just by checking with banks who waive them.
Talk to Your Phone Provider About International Rates
While you might be able to get by on Skype calls home over Wi-Fi or chat apps like Whatsapp, many students still need international data plans when they travel. If you're not careful, you could accrue a massive phone bill just by wandering around the city and using Google Maps.
Before you leave, talk to your current phone provider and ask about its international rates. Most companies typically have monthly plans with limited data caps, so you may have to pay extra while you're away.
If you're going to be gone for several months, look into getting a local phone plan when you arrive. You can also talk to the organization that plans these trips to see what is best. You might find it's cheaper to use Vodafone or Orange instead of AT&T when you arrive.
Invest in Travel Insurance
Even if you're traveling across the border to Canada or one of the safest countries in the world, like Japan or South Korea, it's wise to invest in travel insurance. This insurance covers your expenses if your trip is canceled, but it can also help with medical issues. For example, Medjet Assist arranges medical transfers regardless of whether it's a medical necessity. It allows the patient to determine the facility and covers their medical costs.
No one wants to think about what could happen during a trip, but travel insurance can make sure you're prepared for whatever happens.
Learn Some Basic Phrases
If you're going to be spending time in a country that speaks a language you aren't familiar with, you should try to learn some basic phrases before getting there. Simple things like knowing how to say "how much does this cost?", or "where is the restroom?", are going to be life savers in some situations.
To take it one step further, consider downloading some translation apps to your phone. Translation technology has really advanced over the last few years and there are plenty of apps to fit your needs. Being able to communicate with those around you will really help you make the most out of your trip and you certainly won't regret being able to speak a little bit of another language when you get home.
Prepare For Culture Shock
Culture shock is real and it may take you awhile to adjust to your new environment. Don't panic, just embrace it. Do as much research about the culture of the country ahead of time, so you have a better idea of what to expect once you arrive. Every experience and interaction is going to be new and exciting for the first few weeks. But, you will eventually settle in.
You might also benefit from checking up on cultural norms in advance. What are the rules about tipping at restaurants? How do people greet each other? Are there any things that are acceptable in your home country that might be offensive there? It's best to be prepared.
A student's time spent abroad can provide amazing memories that last a lifetime. You're going to make new friends, make mistakes, and learn a lot along the way. Be grateful for this opportunity and try to enjoy every second, because it will be over before you know it! If you want to avoid as much stress and confusion as possible, take the tips in this article into consideration. By planning ahead, you can ensure your time spent abroad is focused on the culture and people, not on paying your bills or trying to figure out how your phone works.