Leaving the country to study or travel abroad is a daunting idea — goodbyes are tough, and adjusting to a new culture is seemingly even tougher.
But before any student jets off for a few days, weeks, or months of irreplaceable experiences, there are a few logistics that need sorting out.
Leaving the country to study or travel abroad is a daunting idea, but we’ve got you covered.
We talked to Vy Truong, online content and PR marketing specialist for Contiki — the leading travel company for 18- to 35-year-olds — and mapped out a list of travel logistics that will help you feel completely prepared and stress-free when you step onto the plane.
Despite the horrifically bad pictures they tend to contain, you can’t leave the country without a passport.
If you already have one, make sure that it is valid for the entirety of your trip. While it may sound like a Lizzie McGuire Movie kind of romanticism, being stuck in a foreign country with an expired passport is anything but ideal. Between language barriers and a mighty high fee, having your passport expire abroad could easily be the worst thing to happen to you.
If you don’t have a passport or need to renew, make that a top priority. Generally, it takes 4-6 weeks for your new passport to be created and completed. However, if you just realized you’re in need of a new passport and you’re leaving in less than a month, there are ways to speed up the process.
The US government offers an expedited service for an additional $60, plus overnight shipping costs. While it may seem a little steep, getting your passport within 24 hours of your departure is a lot cheaper than rescheduling your plane.
For absolutely everything there is to know about passports, check out this government guide.
The word visa gets tossed around a lot when it comes to traveling, but what exactly is a visa?
If you’re planning to study abroad, then a student visa will allow you to stay in the country for a specific amount of time as a student. However, visas are dependent on your destination, how long you will be stay and what you are doing.
“Contacting the local embassy for the country you are traveling to will provide the most up-to-date and accurate information,” recommends Truong.
Just like a passport, it’s best to get your visa completed and out of the way as soon as possible.
“Apply for your visa when the school or program tells you to. Don’t put it off because it does take a long time,” says Hannah Anderson, a rising junior at the University of St. Andrews, who is currently abroad in Scotland.
To get your hands on a visa, you can go to the country’s embassy, consulate, or a specified post office. But before you do anything, check what the country’s specific process is for obtaining your visa — every country has a slightly different process.
Additionally, each country requires you bring certain documents with you when applying for a visa.
“When I applied for my French visa they were very specific about which consulate I went to and what I brought,” says Michelle Lewis, senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Carmen Ray, a senior at Binghamton University, shared her visa story.
“I didn’t have to apply for a visa beforehand because I was in the country for less than six months. The UK in particular has a system where, so long as you’re in the country for less than six months, they’ll give you your visa at the gate when you get there. You fill out a landing card, have all of your paperwork with you (i.e. acceptance letter, housing list, proof of payment and that you have enough money that you won’t be working there) and you promise not to do any volunteer work or actual work while you’re there and they let you go ahead. So it’s a good idea to make sure you check what the visa laws are for the amount of time you’re staying, because knowing that we could get in as students for under six months without all of the application hassle was a great plus.”
A complete list of everything you need for every country can be found here.
Let me guess: you thought you were finished getting shots after your 16th birthday? Well, there’s a possibility that you’re in for a few more.
According to Truong, countries in Latin America and Asia tend to require vaccinations. It’s also very common throughout Africa.
But of course, there are other countries here and there that insist you get specific vaccinations before you cross their borders (usually it’s a simple hepatitis shot).
Before you do anything, call your doctor and ask their opinion on what vaccinations will keep you healthy (and happy) while you’re away. If you’re studying abroad through a school program, they’ll usually provide you with a list of the specific vaccinations you need, or you can call or e-mail with any questions.
Contacting the country’s embassy is also another option. For a complete list of the do’s and don’ts of vaccinations, check out The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Converters and adapters
No, we’re not talking about settling into a foreign country or immersing yourself in the culture — we’re talking about electronics.
There are two options when it comes to making sure your beloved electronic devices work: voltage converters and adapters. Adapters just take the shape of the plug. With an adapter, you simply plug it into the wall, and then plug your appliance into the adapter — just make sure your electronic device can handle the voltage that the country uses.
A converter changes the voltage, because countries abroad use different quantities of voltage. If your hair straightener says it uses 120V, then you need a converter to get that same amount.
“I ended up buying a world adapter set that included American to UK, and UK to [the rest of] Europe.You can find sets like this often in Target or Walmart; I got mine on Amazon,” said Emily Featherstone, a rising senior at Fordham University who studied abroad in London.
You can buy an adapter for almost every country here .
As far as hair appliances go, I waited until I was in Israel (where I studied abroad) to buy a blow dryer and a flat iron, rather than bringing my own and risking that they wouldn’t work (that was way too big of a chance for me to ever take).
Not only did it save space packing, but the blow dryer and flat iron I bought worked not only in the Middle East, but also in most of Europe, which is a great added bonus if you’re traveling all over.
However, if you do decide to bring your own hair appliances, make sure you get the correct converters for them. According to Hannah, “don’t plug hair equipment into your adapter; you will blow the fuse.”
For more about itineraries, food, medicine, and money, check out the full article at HerCampus.com.
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