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May 12, 2024

How To Prepare For Studying Abroad (From Someone Who’s Done It)

How To Prepare For Studying Abroad (From Someone Who’s Done It)

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Studying in another country is a thrilling, rewarding experience. But a lot goes into making it happen: figuring out visa requirements, phone plans, banking abroad, what to pack, and more. 

Makes your head spin just thinking about it, right? 

I studied abroad in the UK for over a year, so I know the ins and outs of a successful, stress-free preparation

To help you prepare for your own study abroad journey, I’ve compiled all my tips, tricks, and favorite resources into this article. 

Let’s dig in!

Study abroad checklist: 10 tips to prepare

Below are my top tips for preparing to study abroad.

Secure your passport and visa

First, ensure your travel documents are in order. This may mean applying for or renewing your passport. You’ll likely need a visa, too.


Below is a list of items you’ll need to gather to renew or apply for your passport, but check the specific documents you need from your country’s passport application website.

A birth certificate or another form of proof of citizenship. If you’re renewing your passport, your old one can serve as this proof, even if it’s expired.

An additional form of ID, like your driver’s license.

Recent passport photos — i.e., taken within the last six months.

The completed passport application form.

The application fee, which varies by country and situation.


Once your passport is sorted, it’s time to tackle the visa process.

The type of visa you’ll apply for depends on your nationality and your destination country’s specific visa offerings and requirements. That said, the standard student visa is the norm for most countries. 

The visa application process involves its own set of requirements. To understand these, visit the official government website of your destination country or contact its embassy or consulate in your own country.

Pro tip: Take photos of your passport, visa, and other important documents and store them on your computer, mobile phone, and in the cloud (e.g., through Google Drive, iCloud, or Dropbox). This way, you’ll have all your key information handy wherever you go.

Sort out your healthcare

You should also schedule a doctor’s appointment to ensure you’re healthy and prepared to adapt to a new environment.

Discuss your travel plans with your healthcare provider and ensure you’re up to date with all vaccinations your destination country requires. Some places might have specific health risks you aren’t exposed to at home.

Next, arrange your healthcare coverage abroad. Check if your current health insurance covers you internationally; if it doesn’t, consider buying additional coverage.

Pro tip: Your destination country may have a social security scheme with healthcare coverage that includes international students. Check the country’s government website to see if this applies to you.

Finally, if you take medication, ensure you’ll have access to it overseas

This could mean bringing enough medication for your time abroad — especially if it’s unavailable or differs in dosage in your destination country — or asking your healthcare provider about approved alternatives in your study destination.

Remember to carry your medication in original containers with a prescription and a doctor’s note to avoid any hiccups at customs.

Pro tip: Doctors who speak English typically advertise this fact online, so a quick Google search can help you find an English-speaking doctor if you’re studying in a country where you don’t speak the language yet. Your school will likely have a list of such doctors, too.

Purchase plane tickets and travel insurance

With your travel documents sorted, it’s time to buy your plane tickets and travel insurance (which can cover you in the event of medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, or lost luggage). 

Visit websites like Skyscanner, Going, and Expedia to find the best flight deals, and consider booking early (at least three months before your program starts) to save extra money.

Pro tip: Depending on your situation, you might need a return ticket (i.e., you’ll have to book round-trip rather than one-way). Check your destination country’s visa regulations before you book.

You can often buy travel insurance at checkout when you purchase your flights. Some debit and credit cards even offer travel insurance, so check with your provider to see if you’re already covered. Alternatively, you can purchase it through sites like InsureMyTrip

Either way, carefully compare your options, pick the one that best fits your needs and budget, and read all the details so you know exactly what’s covered.

Figure out your finances

You have three options for banking abroad: 

  1. See if your home bank operates in your destination country. If so, setting up there should be relatively simple with help from an advisor.

  2. Open a local bank account in your destination country. You’ll need proof of address, which can be tricky depending on your initial living situation. Fortunately, banks in many countries will accept a signed statement from a local explaining that you’re staying with them. Otherwise, your destination university or organization may be able to do something similar.

  3. Open an account with an online bank. There are many to choose from, including Monzo (which I used and loved when studying in the UK) and Wise (which allows you to open local bank accounts in multiple currencies). Setting up an account can be as easy as uploading a selfie and a photo of your passport.

Pro tip: See how much your bank charges for using your card overseas. Fees can add up fast, so pick a bank with low or no fees.

No matter how you set up your overseas bank account, you’ll want to have cash on hand when you arrive abroad — enough for the first few weeks until you receive your bank card.

Additionally, let your bank (and credit card company) at home know you’re traveling abroad. This way, if you need to use your home bank card, the transaction is less likely to be blocked or declined. 

Finally, if you have credit card payments or other debts to pay off, leave enough money in your home bank account to cover your monthly payments. Most card companies require you to pay your bill with an account based in the same country. 

Decide on your phone plan

You can pick from various options to stay connected while abroad.

Keep your home phone plan

If your current plan has reasonable international data and low or no roaming charges, you can stick with it. Just remember, your friends and family might get charged extra when they call or text you.

Get set up with Google Voice

This service provides a phone number for calls, texts, and voicemails you can access from any device. You can also port your existing number to Google Voice or forward your Google Voice number to a local SIM card number.

Check out this guide on Google Voice for expats and Google’s guide on Voice to learn more (including the countries the service is available in).

Use an international SIM card

You can buy a SIM card at the airport or ask a friend in your destination country to pick one up for you. Companies like GiffGaff can even mail SIM cards to you before you leave. 

You’ll have a new number and will also need an overseas phone plan. You can purchase one as a prepaid option or a monthly plan, depending on your needs and length of stay.

Pro tip: Update any two-factor authentication (2FA) details before your trip. You don’t want verification codes sent to a phone number you’re not currently using. Instead, have 2FA codes sent to your email address.

Learn some of the language and customs

Even if you’re heading to an English-friendly destination, knowing some of the local language and customs can make a big difference. 

For language learning, dive into apps such as Duolingo and Babbel to pick up some basics such as how to say “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me.”

AI tip: Use Wordtune’s AI-powered Editor tool to translate text from various languages — Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Russian — into English!

Additionally, familiarize yourself with your destination country’s history, traditions, and etiquette to navigate social interactions respectfully. Be aware of cultural nuances, too — e.g., using only your right hand for eating in India and avoiding showing up on time to social events in Brazil. 

Also, read up on the country’s cuisine, festivals, and holidays. Trying local dishes and participating in traditional celebrations can be a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and connect with locals.

Pro tip: Culture Trip and Lonely Planet offer excellent guides on various countries’ cultures, so they’re worth exploring before you move.

Know where you’re staying and research the area

Next, figure out your accommodation abroad. Depending on your financial situation and other circumstances, you might stay in student accommodation or rent a room (or an apartment) near campus.

Also, get clear on the details: When and where do you pick up your keys, how do you pay for rent and utilities, what are the move-in/move-out dates, and what’s the policy on guests?

Once that’s settled, research the area you’ll be living in. Check out its proximity to public transportation, shops, and restaurants. You might also look up nearby places that remind you of home, like your favorite fast-food joints or cafes, to help ease homesickness.

Additionally, find out where you can continue your hobbies. For example, search for the closest gym or park if you’re a fitness enthusiast, where to take painting classes if you love art, where the nearest cinema is if you’re a movie buff, etc. Meetup is a great resource for finding local hobby groups and events you can sign up for, too.

Pro tip: Search where your home country embassy is in your study-abroad country and what services it offers. Emergencies can happen, and knowing when and where to go if you need help is incredibly reassuring.

Pack up

Your study abroad destination, the duration of your stay, and your personal must-haves will all influence what ends up in your luggage.

That said, though, here’s what I recommend all study abroad students pack:

  • Outlet and voltage converters. These allow you to safely use your electronic devices in countries with different outlet shapes and voltage standards. Read Skyscanner’s guide to find the right ones to buy.
  • Physical copies of your important documents — including a scan of your passport, birth certificate, and study abroad offer letter. Store them in a plastic expanding file folder to prevent creasing, and keep the folder in your carry-on for easy access.

Join student groups and connect with peers

Before heading to your study abroad destination, join student groups related to your program or interests. Doing so can help ease the transition and make you feel more relaxed when you arrive.

Start by contacting your study abroad program coordinator or checking your school’s website and social media pages for student organizations — particularly those for international students studying abroad.

You can also explore platforms like Expat Exchange to connect with fellow study-abroad students.

Pro tip: In smaller programs, try reaching out to your classmates directly. For example, when I studied abroad in the UK, my Creative Writing MA group introduced ourselves via email — and organized a pre-term meetup!


Studying abroad is exciting, but you must properly prepare for the adventure.  

First, arrange your passport, visa, plane tickets, travel insurance, and healthcare. Then, organize your finances and how you’ll bank abroad, decide on a phone plan, and brush up on the local language and customs. Be sure to research the area you’re staying in, too. 

Lastly, pack your belongings and connect with classmates (and fellow students studying abroad) before your big move. 

For more information on succeeding as a student, read our guides on productivity hacks, time management tips, and the best study apps of 2024 — including Wordtune, which can help you become a better, more confident writer.


What time is best to study abroad?

The best time to study abroad varies based on personal and academic preferences. For example, you might want to study abroad for a semester during your second or third year of university. Or perhaps you’re interested in doing a full year — or an entire degree program — abroad. 

What are the hardest parts of studying abroad?

The hardest parts of studying abroad can be adjusting to a new culture, missing your family and friends back home, and navigating schoolwork in a foreign language or academic system.