Elizabeth JacksonHeading Overseas
Some tips I would like to share before heading overseas to study abroad, which for me was to Australia, are plentiful as I feel the way in which I traveled was the best way to start my study abroad experience. Before I left the country I did extensive research on all areas of the country, the surrounding countries, the culture, the people, and the economy. For me personally this contributed to my experience tenfold because it allowed me to feel mentally prepared for my trip. In addition I researched the best way to sort out my finances which was a huge factor in allowing me to get around as soon as I landed in the country. I opened an international bank account with my local bank branch that you could very easily collect information about prior to your departure. This allowed me to transfer money with minimal fees and helped me to feel as though I was prepared while in a foreign country.
In addition, getting a SIM card was also a very important factor in helping me to feel prepared while I was out of the country which I did while arriving at the airport. Most airports will have fairly cheap SIM cards for purchase that you can load at any time. However, some prior planning is involved when doing this because you must unlock your phone with your US phone carrier in order to activate the SIM which must be done in the country. Having a phone was important for me because it allowed me to access maps, communicate with family, and organize my activities for the day. It’s nice to have access to the internet as well if you ever quickly need information and I would highly recommend getting a SIM as soon as arriving in your country of study.
Another big thing to have sorted when arriving in your exchange country is to get some currency converted, which can be done either at the airport as there are always currency conversion stations or at your local bank before you leave the country. I personally felt better having cash on hand before I arrived at the airport just to be safe but either option works and is definitely a significant part of travel as sometimes credit cards can be canceled. With that being said it is also important to put in a travel notification to your local bank so that they know you are traveling outside of the country and don’t cancel your card.
Overall I would say one of the most simple but helpful things I did before leaving the US was making sure to pack extremely light; I only brought one backpack with me that had everything I needed in it. Traveling light is a huge advantage and simplifies moving from place to place when you don’t have so much to carry with you. Before I went to Australia I traveled around New Zealand and it was the best month of my life. I would highly reccommend doing something like this before or after your study abroad experience as it is good to take advantage of the area you are in and learn more about the environment you will be or have lived in.