How to Arrange Your Own Study...
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How to Arrange Your Own Study Abroad Program (5/5)
06 May, 2009 18:14
This is the last article of a series of 5, explaining how to arrange your own study abroad program.
First article: Decide Where to Go
Second article: Determine When to Go
Third article: Language Problems and Programs
Fourth article: How to Pay for It
After you've made the difficult decisions concerning where to
conduct your study abroad program, when you want to go and have
arranged to pay for it, it's time to get down to nuts and bolts of
making the final arrangements to go. It's a good idea to keep a
checklist and mark each task when it is completed.
If the program you have chosen provides accommodations for its
students, either on campus or in the area, it's wise to take advantage
of it. The accommodations will almost always be safe, clean and
accessible to campus or to transportation, even if they are not always
luxurious. If you are very familiar with the area (through prior visits
or friends and family in the region), you may be able to obtain cheaper
accommodations on your own, but again, allow sufficient lead time. If
the program does not provide accommodations and you don't have insider
information, ask about recommendations from the program staff or
administrators. This is one area where it is unwise to rely on Internet
searches alone. Never take a room or a flat sight unseen unless it is
issued or recommended by someone you know or your study abroad
program. If all else fails, make arrangements to arrive early and stay
at a hostel while you search for accommodations.
Shipping a car overseas is almost never advisable unless you are
relocating permanently, and sometimes not even then. The costs are
prohibitive, and in some instances, your vehicle may not be allowed in
the host country. Car rentals may also be very expensive as well, with
restrictions on who is eligible to rent. An International Driving Permit
is inexpensive and may make it easier to obtain a rental car overseas.
It also serves as a good form of identification to carry with you
instead of your passport, which should be kept in a safe place while
you are abroad.
In many urban areas especially, public transit is a safe,
inexpensive form of transportation, although possibly confusing to a
newcomer. In other areas, this is very risky, especially for women
travelling alone. This is a subject where asking the staff of your
institution (or friends in the area) for advice is a very good idea. .
Many public transit systems have their own websites which are at least
partially translated into English. Check them out, and obtain schedules
and maps ahead of time and study the routes you are most likely to take
during your study abroad program.
You should also ask the staff of your institution about practical
matters such as shopping, banking, and currency exchange. One easy way
to obtain local currency is through an ATM (automated teller machine),
even though there are usually fees involved. Nonetheless, the
currency exchange rates are usually good, and many bank debit cards, as
well as Visa or MasterCard debit cards, can be used worldwide. Check
with your home bank about the procedure involved before you leave. In
addition, you should study the official government and tourist websites
for the country, city or local region as well as the website for your
study abroad institution for transportation information, local laws and
customs, as well as other pertinent information. The more familiar you
are before you arrive, the better.
Be sure your passport is up to date and valid, and allow plenty of
time to obtain a visa and/or residence permit if you need one or both.
Some countries require that you have at least six months validity on
your passport after the end date of your planned stay. Whether you need
a visa will depend on your home country and/or how long you plan to
remain in your host country. Check with your institution and with the
embassy of the country you are visiting. If you do need a visa, ask
your institution (or volunteer organization) to provide you with a
letter of introduction to present along with your visa application.
This will almost always be provided without question, although you may
need to pay all applicable fees beforehand.
If you are travelling to or from the developing world, you may need
immunizations. Again, check with the official government information or
tourist website for your host country. It's also a good idea to check
out the health care facilities for your host country, especially if you
have health issues. You should also check whether your present
insurance coverage will be valid in your host country. It not, you
should purchase travel insurance, which may be required by the host
institution or the country you choose to visit, and is highly advisable
to have in any event.
You should also obtain an international calling card as well as an
inexpensive GSM phone with a prepaid SIM card for the country or
countries you are visiting. International roaming charges can be
outrageously expensive. Telestial
offers a variety of products and offers excellent service. In the
scramble to take care of all these details, be sure you don't forget to
put a temporary hold on your mail, newspaper and other deliveries,
especially if you will be overseas for more than two weeks. Having
someone look in on your house or flat is a good idea as well. If you
have food in your refrigerator, you should dispose of it or give it to
a friend. If you have pets, you should arrange for their care.
The main point (which cannot be stressed enough), is to allow
sufficient lead time to make all the necessary arrangements to ensure
that your study abroad program is a success. Although the process can
be somewhat complex, it is possible for nearly anyone to be able to
study abroad if the desire is strong enough, and the rewards are
definitely worth it. Once all the pieces are in place, all that's left
is to pack up and go!
The links below are for embassy offices worldwide, as well as
further information on international driving permits, travel insurance,
mobile phones and related resources.
Embassy Listings (For Visa and Residence Permit Information)
International Driving Permits
Other Practical Information
Freelance writer based in Chicago