9 Things To Know Before Studying Abroad For Your Entire Degree

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Figuring out how to prepare for getting your degree abroad can sound a tad overwhelming. Now that you are set on getting an international education—hooray!—it’s essential to get out your checklist and get organized to move across the world. Your mind is buzzing with advice right and left on how to properly prep to move abroad. “What do I need to study abroad for my entire degree?!” Making a set plan of things to do before studying abroad for your entire degree will make it all smooth sailing. Before you know it, you’ll be lounging on your new campus while sipping espresso and making new friends. You will also learn a new language, become a part of a whole new culture, and get unique life experiences in an international setting.

Here are all the things to know before studying abroad for your entire degree—whether that’s your bachelors, masters, or postdoc.

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STUDY UP. These are things to know before getting a degree abroad.

9 tips on how to prepare for getting your degree abroad

Get all of your important documents together 

Passport. This is the most crucial on your list of things to do before studying abroad for your entire degree. Time to get your pretty mugshot photos that will stick with you for the next ten years. The sooner you get your passport, the better, as it can usually take between six and eight weeks. If you do currently have a passport, double check the expiration date. Don’t worry if it will expire while you are away as there are embassies around the world to apply for renewals. But lean towards the safe side and renew it if it’s cutting it close. Most likely, your university will sponsor your visa. But make sure to reach out to your advisor to clarify the visa process.

School documents. There is also a wide array of documents you may want to consider bringing with you—or at least have them saved in an electronic file that you can easily access. Some important documents to save would be a copy of your high school degree or any college credit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Although you have your acceptance letter, it’s good to have copies of these forms since you will be away long term.

Health forms. If you have any health issues, prescriptions, or health history paperwork, have it saved somewhere safe. In case of an emergency, it’s good to have documentation while abroad, along with a list of emergency information.   


Set doctor appointments and check on health insurance 

Another of the important things to do before studying abroad for your entire degree is to set any last minute dental, vision, and health check up appointments. Best to be your shiniest, healthiest self before jetting off. If you’re planning to come home for summer or winter breaks, try to schedule additional appointments in advance for when those holidays take place.

You likely will need to get some shots and/or vaccinations before heading abroad to get your degree. The school administration should have a checklist of what needs to get done prior to arriving at your new school. Double check that the university provides health insurance, as many do. Otherwise, you will need a backup plan on finding insurance while abroad. 

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Plan out what you will pack 

Take a deep breath and relax. It is not as bad as it may seem when planning things to bring when studying abroad for your entire degree. You do NOT need to pack four years worth of living abroad. Seriously. It’s impossible. Good news! Whatever country you plan to go to will actually have all of your necessities. With that said, load up the suitcases with essential clothing and consider the seasons that you will be encountering. Some essentials that you may want to grab would be electronic chargers, prescription meds, a rain jacket, and good walking shoes. Other than that, the amount that you bring will be dependent on the capacity that you are able to carry for that big move abroad.

You can find almost all of your basic necessities once you are in your new home overseas. Most likely, you are going to be moving into a furnished apartment or dorm and will have easy access to towels, sheets, and other home supplies. That will be a better time to decide what else you may need to stock up on. Figure out the rest of what you may need later.  

Get rid of what you don’t need or store things with your parents

Moving abroad to get your degree is an excellent time to purge of the non-necessities. Your bedroom at home is a mix between, “I’m a cool teenageer but also still love my little teddy bear.” Time to prioritize. No, maybe you don’t need to get rid of Mr. Bear, but start storing things properly and take all of those old clothes and 90’s CDs that you won’t be taking abroad to Goodwill.

Do you have a car? Are your parents going to hold onto it or can you sell it for extra cash before you head overseas? This could be a chunk of change for you to get life started abroad or pay off a bit of school up front.

Remember, that you are going to be gone for four years and do not actually NEED anything that you are not taking with you. Mom and dad will surely appreciate that you do a big clean out of your room and donate or dispose of all that you can. Doing a big sweep through will be great practice for minimizing your life and knowing what is and isn’t important for a globe-trotting lifestyle.  

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Stay organized. Get all your forms filled out. Double check the spelling of your own name.

Speak with your bank

Make sure your bank is fully aware of where you are studying abroad and when. They need to keep tabs on where your credit or debit cards are being used so that your account doesn’t get locked up or hacked. Additionally, you can see if your bank offers mileage credit cards so that you can load up on some good flight deals. Only do that if you are diligent at paying off your card and if the airlines you fly through will be transferable. Ask your parents if this would be a good idea for you. 

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Give your parents access to your bank account. If your card gets stolen or you get locked out of your account, it will be easier for them to deal with any bank issues at home. The likelihood that something like this will happen is slim, but you don’t want to be abroad and have to deal with international phone calls and hold lines while worrying something that can be done easily with your parents back home.

Consider getting a bank account abroad. Since you are planning to get your degree over the course of a few years, it may be smart for you to consider opening an overseas account. Speak with your current bank and university to see what would be the best recommendation. 

Plan your finances

You likely have made a plan on how you will fund your degree abroad. Hopefully you are on track with scholarships, grants, student loans, and birthday money. But living abroad, as I’m sure mom and dad will remind you, will need to come with a budget plan. It’s going to be exciting living somewhere totally new, and it will be easy to throw the colorful “monopoly” money around as if it’s all pretend. But sit down with your parents and make a plan on what you can use for “fun money” while abroad. Keep in mind that there are usually ATM fees, bank transfer fees, and the currency will always be changing in value over the course of four years abroad.

If money is tight, see if you can you get a part time job while you are getting your degree abroad. You might be able to nanny, work in a coffee shop, or clean campus dorms. If you can work a few hours a week, it will add to your funds and give you extra skills while working on your degree. 

[Download this checklist to keep you on track to getting prepared for your degree abroad]

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Brush up on your language skills

Yes! This is your chance to learn a brand new language. Even if you are going to an English speaking country, you will be surrounded by other international students from around the world. Take advantage of learning a new language over the course of your studies. Being bilingual—or more—will make you much more marketable in your future career.

If you plan to go abroad to a country where English is not the first language, sign up for some language classes through your university or a language tutoring program. Make local friends and have a language and cultural exchange. In a few years you will easily become fluent in another language! 

[Bookmark your favorite articles and tips for later with MyGoAbroad]

Read up on your new city and cultural norms

You are moving abroad and diving into the unknown! There are so many cultural things to know when studying abroad for your entire degree. What are you going to do? What will you learn beyond class? Who will you meet? What will you eat? What will be your first #instastory? Along with all of the anticipation and excitement, you should learn a bit where you are going before you arrive at the airport.

  • Read books! Grab a nonfiction book life in that part of the world. 
  • Google. Hello Wikipedia history of your new city. 
  • Watch a documentary your city. 
  • Read up on cultural norms. Do you bow to your elders? Do you take your shoes off in a home? Are certain gestures rude or obnoxious? Is it ok to talk on the bus? Do you cross the street at the intersection or is jaywalking fine? Don’t get overwhelmed as you will learn as you go. But it’s good to have an idea of some cultural norms that can easily be overlooked. 
  • Practice saying “hello” and “thank you” in their native language. One of the most important things to know when studying abroad for your entire degree are common greetings in your host country. As you will be practicing the language anyway, it’s always impressive to locals if you can say a few words. Get a head start and start practicing now!
smiling graduates in robes

Before you know if you’ll be blasting Vitamin C and crying in a graduation robe.

Be flexible—you cannot make a multi-year plan 

Relax, put your feet up, and stop planning. Yes, plan out your classes and departure date. Plan your dorm or apartment. But go abroad with a completely open mind and know that you cannot actually plan every detail of what will happen in the next four years. Stay flexible with what is going on around you.

Maybe you change your major part way through; maybe you decide that you want to move to a different part of the city. Maybe you don’t want to spend your summer back home but want to travel to nearby countries. Learn a brand new hobby that you didn’t know existed. Go with the flow and relax. There are a million things on your mind and it’s ok for plans to change. That is the best part of going on this adventure to get your degree abroad! 

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A few things you probably forgot—but should do—before studying abroad for your entire degree

  • Eat everything now! It’s your last chance to binge on your favorite home cookin’. The food abroad will be delicioso, but different from what you are familiar with. So plan out your last fave meals at home. 
  • Throw a goodbye party! Ciao amigos! Your friends and family at home will miss you. But they are all secretly jealous and want to send you off with a bang before you head off for this international adventure. 
  • Download Skype. Or whatever video call app that you use. This will help you keep in touch with your loved ones while away. That way you can be sitting at the table eating with them or be watching your little sibs’ soccer games while abroad.
  • Figure out the time zone math between you and your besties. You better believe you’ll be Facetiming them on the reg! Avoid pissing them off by not dialing them at 2am their time.
  • Get an emergency credit card line. Mom and Dad are usually willing to help out with this, but this extra-layer of financial security to handle an emergency abroad can be incredibly helpful when you’re in a pinch.
  • Make an international banking P.O.A. You’ll probably want to get your own bank account and debit card in your host university’s country. Do some research in advance to make sure you’ll be able to tick off all the boxes when you apply.

Got any other last-minute things you want to remember to do? Add them in the comments!

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Now you know how to prepare for getting your degree abroad

Now that you’re aware of the things to know before studying abroad for your entire degree, you’re practically ready to scoot out the door! Sure, they may be tedious little things that aren’t so much fun, but remember: they are essential steps that you need to get done. And besides, there’s always a lot of preparation before going overseas long term—but you’re not alone. With support from your new university international student advisors, friends, and family, it’ll be easy peasy to zip up your backpack and start your degree program abroad.

On top of all of this, be ready to change. You will learn more in this period of time than you ever have before. And it’s going to make you a much more global minded person with a brand new perspective on life—that’s something worth turning the tassel for!

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Topic:  Before You Go