To those of you who don’t know me: HEY! I’m Zsuzsanna, Swiss, and I studied abroad in the US (Georgia) in my junior year of High School. Today, I will share this ultimate Study Abroad Guide with you, with everything you need for your adventure.
Table of Contents
If you’re still unsure about whether you want to study abroad or not, I suggest you read this article about 10 reasons to study abroad, so you know what benefits a study abroad/ exchange year has for you.
Yes, everyone should do it! But it’s possible that it just isn’t something for every person, which is completely normal. But you never know if you don’t try!
Ask yourself these questions:
- Where do I want to go?
- Why do I want to go there?
- Which are my Top 3-5 countries?
- How long do I want to be abroad?
- What do I want to achieve?
Knowing answers to these questions will help you figure out what you want from your study abroad experience and where you will end up going.
You will also have to check with your parents what your budget is because there are more and less expensive countries to travel to. Yes, there are scholarships but do consider the “worst-case”, since you do want to go abroad even if you end up not getting any scholarships. (DO think positively though and DO apply for scholarships!)
ORGANIZATION OR NOT?
Do you want to organize your exchange year by yourself or get help from an organization? I picked my organization (HicoEducation/PAX) based on their program offers and their organization size, so how they would care for me if something was wrong or I needed help.
I would suggest going with an organization, especially if you are studying abroad in High School and aren’t 18 yet. It just feels safer not being completely on your own and having people that look out for you, just in case.
Depending on your program, you can either live in a host family (my experience), in school dorms or even have your own apartment if you visit a summer college program or internship.
If you feel like you are better off on your own and got it all figured out, go for it! (I will attend a university in the US without any organization, so it is definitely possible, but do whatever you are more comfortable with).
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The next step in our study abroad guide will be the application process. After deciding on your host country, organization, budget, and length of your program, it’s time to apply!
The application process varies from program to school to country, and so on.
For going to High School abroad, you will need to fill out:
- school grade reports
- family information
- school subjects
- what you want to experience abroad
- what you expect
- health reports
- and more.
You also need recommendation letters, an English test (or other language tests), school reports from teachers, vaccinations and forms filled out by a doctor.
For going to College, you will need:
- to complete the regular College application
- counselor reports
- recommendation letters
- official transcripts
- your diploma
- and more.
Going to college abroad? Read my post about how to apply to university as an international student here!
If you are going for only a study abroad program and not a full degree program, as well as internships or other summer programs, research about the application process since I haven’t done that myself.
Yes, studying abroad is expensive. But it is so worth it!
There are many ways of financing your exchange year, including scholarships, financial aid programs, making money beforehand, saving for studying abroad and getting sponsored.
If you decide to go abroad with an organization, as I did, there will be a program fee you have to pay before your study abroad program starts, which you won’t have to pay if you will be doing it on your own.
Usually, the program fee includes insurance and the flight as well, so keep that in mind when deciding it.
For a regular High School year, the program fee can range between $6,000-$14,000, depending on the organization, the country, the rules (whether you have to pay the family or school), and much more.
In addition, you will need to pay the visa fees and have spending-money each month to buy school supplies, clothes, or go out with friends.
college or university
For College, you will have to pay the tuition, room, and usually a meal plan as well. If you chose an organization, these costs are usually not included in the program fee, since you choose your school yourself (unless they offer a deal with a specific school).
Just like for studying abroad in High School, you will need to pay visa costs, your flight, insurance, etc. What is different here are the additional tuition costs and application fees.
Since every country is different, I encourage you to research organizations that offer the countries of your interest, because I can only speak about my own experience and what I’ve heard from my foreign friends as well.
Well, now is the time to wait. Without pursuing further, you need to wait for your schools to accept you, for your organization to find a host family or school for you, and so on. In the meantime, make sure to keep up with your schoolwork to make it easier to come back after studying abroad.
Yassss!! I’m super happy for you! If you have several acceptance letters, go through the schools carefully and choose your favorite/ the one with your top major choice/ your sport/ whatever it is you’re looking for.
If you’re a high school student and finally got matched to a host family, make sure to research a bit about your area and school and contact your hosts as soon as possible! You can email them or call them, and schedule a skype date to get to know each other better.
Make sure to ask any questions you might have, such as school dress code, subjects, weather, what to bring, what not to bring, what they would like from your country, etc.
Depending on your country, you will need to apply for a student visa for that country. Your organization or school will walk you through that though, so you’re all set. You usually need to visit the embassy in your country for an interview, fingerprints, and a picture before they send your visa to you.
Since you now know where you’ll be going, it’s time to organize your closet and figure out what to pack.
Need packing tips? I’ve got a post about 10 study abroad essentials you absolutely can’t forget, so check that out before you start packing!
All I can say is: DO NOT PACK YOUR WHOLE WARDROBE!!
You will NOT need many clothes, your style will adjust, even if just minimally, to the local style, you will get so many school shirts, buy things, etc. So really just take your favorite things you wear every week, and maybe one set of chic clothes for going out, to save money from not buying another set.
Guys, you NEED a bucket list! I love having goals and things I want to do abroad and having it written down as a checklist helps me so much in getting them checked off.
Here is the ultimate Study Abroad bucket list with 66 things to do on your exchange year/study abroad program.
Include seeing things in your area and country, getting involved, and trying out new things.
Next, in this study abroad guide are things you need to do before departing. Here are a few ideas you might wanna consider doing before leaving for your big adventure!
- Make sure you have everything
- Create a Farewell Book (or just a book for your friends to leave you notes for the flight)
- Have a goodbye party
- Print your flight tickets
- Don’t forget your chargers and adapter
- Talk to your host family or school about last organizational things, whether your hosts pick you up, when you get there, etc.
- Enjoy the excitement!
THE FIRST WEEKS
You made it there! You can be proud already!
I know the first weeks are the hardest, but try your best to get involved, talk to people, ask a lot of questions, and really try everything you can already.
Yes, you have time, but if you start off your time like I just described, it will be soooooo much easier to stay involved, active, get your list checked off, and have the best time, later on.
Another pretty obvious tip from this study abroad guide is to make sure to check-in with your family and friends back home regularly! They miss you and can’t wait to hear about your adventures. But your parents do like when you check on them if they’re good as well.
If you’re homesick. there are different practices that can help you feel better. Here are the most common:
- Call your family for a bit. It will help you to know that they are safe and sound.
- Stay active and involved abroad!
- Meet up with friends and have some fun!
- Study for school
- Talk to your host family. They will understand and maybe it can end in some really nice talks and a good connection with them.
In the end, being homesick is totally normal, especially if you’re away from home the first time for this long. Just make sure to get out there and fight it, so you can enjoy your exchange! It only lasts this long, and you won’t get it back.
YOUR LAST WEEKS
Time has flown by!! At least that’s what I’d felt. The only thing to do now is to really enjoy every moment. Take pictures, meet with your friends, go out, talk to your favorite teachers, cook for your friends and hosts, and check off those last points on your study abroad bucket list.
Revisiting all your favorite places and restaurants can help to make most of your last weeks as well.
Make sure to collect your friends’ contact info if you haven’t already, and make some plans for meeting again!
Coming home is super exciting but scary as well! Especially if quite some time has passed since you left, it can feel strange being home again. Try your best to get involved at home, even if you don’t feel like it.
Your family missed you, and try their best to make you feel welcome again. I know it can be hard, but it’s gonna get easier, I promise you. (Even if you think your homesickness to your host country won’t ever go away)
Meet with friends, visit your favorite places, and share your experiences with others.
It can also help to get involved in your organization and help other students go abroad too!
Here is a video I made about my feelings being back:
Now, this was my ultimate study abroad guide! I hope it helped you picture the process or help with a few Infos, whether you’re abroad already or just interested in studying abroad.
Make sure to check out the resources I provided throughout the post! Everything is linked below again, as well as my YouTube channel where I post lots of study abroad videos, some in English, some in German.
Comment below what country you’re from! #ImfromSwitzerland