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Ten Things To Do Before Studying Abroad

June 30, 2014

Ten Things To Do to Prepare for Study Abroad

It is officially summer! Some students are staying in the city, soaking in the sun while taking classes or doing research. Some are headed home for a much-needed vacation. But some are leaving the States to study abroad and experience something new. Are you one of those headed off on a worldly adventure? Will you be in the future? Here are the ten things to do to prepare yourself before you’re off to your thrilling journey:

1. Learn the Basics.

[Image by Baylor University]

Via Baylor University

Familiarizing yourself with your host country’s etiquette, customs, and manners will mean less awkward situations for you. Remember that cultures are not the same; always be conscious of and patient with the things that are different. Learning simple words in the native language can really help your experience. Being able to say “hello,” “goodbye,” and “thank you” will go a long way! The locals appreciate the effort that you’re putting in.

2. Google Docs will be your best friend.


Photo c/o Edudemic

Via Edudemic

Having a go-to source for all your important information will be a lifesaver. Create a folder in your Google Drive titled “Study Abroad- Location, Year.” In it, include the following:

  1. A document with all of your important information (e.g. passport information, ID, addresses, credit card info, etc.). If you ever lose any of this information, you’ll have quick access to it with Internet access. Scanning makes things easier and more efficient in the event of a lost or stolen passport.
  2. Your itineraries and plans for places you hope to visit while abroad. Making a list of “Must see,” “Would like to see,” and “If there is time” will ensure that you prioritize certain sites and you don’t feel overwhelmed by worrying about missing out on certain experiences. This document is to guide you, not tell you what to do. Leave room for spontaneity.

3. Pack lightly!

Photo c/o Amanda Mull

Via Purse Blog


If you’re like me, it’s inevitable that you’ll end up shopping while abroad, so pack lightly. Bring shoes and clothes that you won’t miss if they get lost or stolen. When walking around your host area, bring only the essentials. In certain countries, you’ll need to be extra cautious of pick pocketing. Be wary of backpacks as it’s easy access to your valuables. Try a sturdy satchel or bag with strong handles. Position it at the front of your body for the majority of the time. Personally, I’ll be rocking a fanny pack.

4. Be cognizant.

Image c/o National Geographic Gifs

Via Giphy


Become knowledgeable and do your research about the history and culture of your host country. Be proud to be from the country you are from and be thoughtful of the country you are in. You are a guest. Be aware of your own privileges and exercise conscious and mindful actions. Different countries view Americans in a different light; respect these perspectives.

5. Get lost and ride out the imminent adventure!

Via travelmorgantravel.wordpress

Via travelmorgantravel.wordpress


Grab a buddy from your program and try to get lost. Find your way back using various forms of transportation. You will be sure to have stories to tell and peculiar observations from this!

6. Start a Travel Blog.

Image c/o Adam Rifkin

Via Adam Rifkin


While going on your wild adventures, be sure to document them. Updates and photos will enable your family and friends to be part of the experience. However, don’t spend so much time on this that you miss out on other experiences. It’s great to stay connected, but be sure to be in the moment. Eyes should not be glued to your laptop! And don’t dwell on what you might be missing back in the States that you see on friends’ Facebook posts. Appreciate the fantastic opportunity of being in the foreign country you are in.

7. Go beyond the tourist experience. That’s right; immersion is key.

Image c/o York University

Via York University


Be outgoing! Interact, talk, hang out with locals and other travelers. Meeting others and sharing experiences will only enhance your time abroad. Discover restaurants or areas that locals frequent, not just the tourist hot spots!

8. Bring a signature item.

Image c/o UW Bookstore

Via UW Bookstore


Bring a cute trinket or stuffed animal from home and take pictures of it in various areas. Continue this on future travels. You’ll end up with a photo album full of beautiful landscapes with your traveling companion. I highly suggest a UW Husky!

9. It’s the little things. . .


Image c/o Walmart

Via Walmart

  1. When buying an outlet adapter, I suggest one with a USB port.
  2. A wristwatch will come in handy as you become less dependent on your cell phone for the time.
  3. Sunscreen to protect your skin.
  4. Pepto-bismol chewables for possible intestinal issues.
  5. Hand sanitizer for convenient clean up.
  6. Gum/peppermint candy to keep yourself minty fresh.
  7. A water bottle when your thirst needs to be quenched.
  8. A microfiber travel towel is a huge space saver.
  9. Downloading a currency converter app on your smartphone can save time and money.

10. Push yourself. Just do it!

Image c/o tumblrsavvy

Via tumblrsavvy


Be open to doing things you wouldn’t normally do. Step out of your comfort zone. Say yes as much as possible. Explore and create great memories!

Studying abroad has provided students with a wide range of experiences: broadening their perspectives, immersing them in a foreign environment, improving moral and character development, adding skills to becoming a lifelong learner, educating them and so much more! It’s no wonder many college graduates say their most memorable experience was their study abroad.

Want to create your own adventure? Check out the UW study abroad website here. Have advice from the lessons you learned from your experience? Share them in the comments below.


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