For today’s post about how to prepare for study abroad in college, I have a special guest for you guys! Calum studied abroad at my university and can tell you guys more about how to apply and prepare!
Let’s get started.
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Hey everyone, here are my 15 steps on how to apply and prepare for study abroad in college. The main points that I will highlight are to really enjoy it, enjoy the process, and to be committed. Thank you to Zsuzsanna for letting me write to y’all.
A little about my experience: I am in my final year (4th year/senior year) at Stirling University in Scotland. I studied abroad at High Point University, USA for the spring semester 2020 and I started this process 3 semesters before this (Autumn/Fall semester 2018.)
Let’s get to the 15 steps of study abroad in college!
1. Attend information meetings
No matter how committed you are at this time, always attend the information meetings. These are really useful to learn how it works, how your grades transfer, and it also gives you an idea of the experience you can have.
The first information meeting I attended was in October 2018, so the process can start well before you actually study abroad, however, this gives you plenty of time to decide where to go and to save money for your trip.
PS: the information meetings got me really excited and I was ready to sign up then, so please attend!
2. Do your research
Start to think about where in the world you want to go, and what type of culture you want to experience. Don’t rush into any decisions, but perhaps make a shortlist, at least narrow down the options, and research each area.
It’s worth researching the cost of living in the area and what typical courses they offer at the universities.
For me, I always knew I wanted to study in the US, so I was researching different areas of the country, rather than the country.
I loved the location of North Carolina, it had the perfect climate for me, it was not too busy nor too isolated, but it is a great location for exploring the east coast.
3. Research the specific universities
My home university provided a list of options, your home university should also do this, it may be online so do some digging.
Make a list of the options in this area, research different factors, and even score them if this helps you. The most important thing to research is the classes the school offers. Make sure you can go there.
For example, you can’t go to a university without a business school if you study business. Other key factors are academic reputation, location, cost, campus, and clubs/sports.
One of the key reasons I choose High Point University was actually the campus, but just make sure ALL factors suit you.
4. Narrow down your options and apply
When I applied, I had to submit an application for 5 universities, however, I ranked them in order.
Even if you only need to apply to 1 school, it’s worth making a top 5 list. Things can always change, so always have a backup.
It’s always hard to decide where you want to apply. Just go with your gut, don’t let your parents tell you what to do and don’t be influenced by anyone. It is your experience.
I had to interview at the study abroad office at my home university. This is really to make sure you’re committed to study abroad in college and to make sure you are the right fight for your chosen schools.
Treat it seriously and prepare. Research your chosen schools, make sure you know what you’re talking about and you will be fine.
Related: 10 Tips for a Successful Interview
6. Email students who have studied at your exchange university in the past.
Ask the global student office at your home university for a list of people have studied at your exchange university in the past.
Email a couple, ask some basic questions, and ask for advice.
Most exchange students are happy to help and will be more valuable than any online source for gathering information on where you are going.
If anyone reading this is going to either High Point University or Stirling University, feel free to get in touch and I can give info!
Note: for that, just email zsuzsanna(at)myclickjournal(dot)com and I’ll forward them to Calum!
7. Research and decide on classes
For me, this required meetings with professors and my advisor of studies at my home university.
First of all, research the classes that are offered, and try and find the best fit for what you would be studying at your home university.
This is very important, as you need to replace what you would miss at home.
After you have researched, meet with professors/academic advisors, and agree what classes are best suited to what you are studying, be quick with this, the sooner you register for classes, the more likely there is space.
It is not impossible that classes are full, and exchange students don’t always have priority, so make sure you have some backup classes in case you can’t take the classes you want.
If a class is full and you really want to do it, email the professor, play the foreign student card and see if they will help you out.
8. Research and choose housing
This is way more exciting than choosing classes, right?!
Have fun with this, look at the different options, and decide where you are best suited.
It’s worth noting that there can be different price levels or different tiers. Make sure you are comfortable with the tier level first, don’t pay more than you are comfortable with, even with the cheapest option you will still have an amazing experience.
Do you want to live on campus or off campus?
Like to party on a Saturday night, or do you prefer more quiet locations? Do you need to be closer to sports facilities?
Do you want to experience having a roommate or would you rather have a private room in an apartment?
There are many factors to consider. Remember, when you arrive at your exchange university, if you hate your accommodation, it is usually still possible to change, so try not to overthink it, and be willing to experience a different living situation than you have experienced before.
9. Apply for a visa
This isn’t relevant for everyone, but double-check to make sure you don’t need it if you don’t think you do.
Honestly, applying for a visa was the most annoying part of the process for me.
Just make sure you do this early, give plenty of time for this.
This required me to fill out many forms, pay fees, and interview at the USA embassy in London (this is annoying as London is not cheap to either fly to or stay at.)
This is the most time-consuming part of the process if you need to travel far to interview for a visa, but it is worth it!
What I’ve done is I made my trip into a mini-vacation. This post has some great tips for a short stay in London!
10. Be organised
Read everything that is sent your way and write down deadlines for any forms you must submit.
For example, I stressed myself out as I left it way too late to provide medical forms, I didn’t know when the due date was because I didn’t write it down…
If you’re like me and forget dates, always write them down. The best way to do this is with an academic calendar, Zsuzsanna’s 2020/2021 academic calendar is great!
11. Book Flights
Yes, it is time to get excited, you’re going soon!!
Find out when you need to be at your exchange university, they should tell you this in advance, and remember the start day can be before classes start, there are often orientations for example.
Find suitable flights, and book them in advance so the price doesn’t go up! I always use skyscanner to book mine.
12. Get in touch with other students
Zsuzsanna actually has done that with me lol and here we are;). But it is really useful to send a few messages to other incoming exchange students, get to know each other, and remember you’re not alone.
It’s natural to feel nervous before you study abroad, but it can be made easier by knowing a few people before you leave, remember you are not doing it alone!
13. Leaving Party with friends and/or family
Yep. You are leaving home for a semester or 2, it can be scary not being with your friends or family, so have a farewell party and enjoy the time before you go!
14. Record all the details you need to know
You can do this in either a planner/something physical or in the notes on your phone, whatever works for you.
Details you should record are:
- your student number/ID
- your dorm room
- emergency contact details of someone at your host university
- your health insurance.
It’s always good to be prepared, and you will need some of those details for sure.
15. Pack your stuff
You will need a checked bag and you should start to pack in advance, always give time just in case you need to do laundry or need to replace any clothing!
I’ve never been good at packing but fortunately, this packing list makes it super easy!
That was my 15 steps to studying abroad in college, I would always recommend you just to go for it and you will have a great experience!
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out Zsuzsanna’s other posts as they’re great and she’s really talented.
Thanks to Calum for writing this great post about applying and preparing for study abroad!
I hope it helped you guys and let us know if you’d like more posts from Calum!