There are many benefits to spending a semester abroad. You will be exposed to a new culture and perhaps a new language. Getting an education abroad also has many academic advantages and can give you a new perspective on life. It can be intimidating to prepare for life in a new place, but there are a few things that you can do prior to leaving home to make the transition a bit easier.
Research Your Neighborhood
If you are studying in a large city with which you are unfamiliar, it is important to purchase a guide book. You can also do some web-based research to read what other travelers have to say about where you will be living and what to expect. Make sure to have a paper copy of a street map and any transportation maps that you may need in your carry-on luggage.
Consider Your Accommodations
If your school is helping you find accommodations, be sure to ask your advisors what you can expect from your living situation. Some schools recommend homestays. A homestay is when you are matched with a family that will host you throughout your term abroad. You may find this a helpful way to learn more about the culture and practice the language, but you will need to ensure that you are respectful of your host family’s home.
Other living options include apartments and dormitories. While these options offer more independence, they will also require you to ensure you are in a safe area. You may want to consider inquiring as to what type of home security system installation has been done to these properties have prior to finalizing your living arrangements. You will also want to consider the location’s proximity to your school, public transportation, and local markets as well.
Research Your Banking Options
It is also important to research how you will access your funds while abroad. While it is important to ensure you have multiple ways to access funds in case of an emergency, some banks actually charge less of an international fee on a credit card than a debit card. At other banks, it is cheaper to use your debit card. Make sure to do your research and be comfortable with your decision. Also consider getting a small amount of local currency prior to leaving home.
Spending a little time to complete research on your neighborhood, living situation, and banking options will help you travel with more finesse in your first semester abroad.
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.