Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Your Study Abroad Prep List

It seems like almost everyone talks about wanting to study abroad during their time in University, and who wouldn’t want to experience living in another country? Going to study abroad can be very daunting and at times requires months of advanced planning to ensure that every last item is taken care of. As I am jetting off soon to take my studies to Spain, I’ve made a cheat sheet to keep myself organized, and thought that I would share it with you (since it might help to make your dreams of studying abroad can come true too). 

Give yourself a head start

Image courtesy of ET Online

The very first thing you need to do is to set aside planning time; give yourself enough time to prepare. Being in university doesn’t allow much free time to run around planning a stay halfway across the world, so check for the program application and scholarship deadlines as soon as you start to consider a semester abroad. Ideally, you’ll do this months in advance.

To get started, check out the program and scholarship sites:

Go Abroad - Find a Program
Go Abroad - Funding

Having months to prepare means that you will have time to take care of all the requirements for staying abroad, and trust me, there are a lot more than meet the eye!  

Consult an Expert

Make sure you consult with the study abroad coordinator (usually a professor). The coordinator is experienced when it comes to sending students abroad and will be able to answer most of questions about the abroad program. 

Tell Your Faculty

Alert your faculty of your plans to study abroad because they need to know what courses you will be taking, for how long and where. This step will allow you to verify the transfer-ability of the course credits that you hope to pick up abroad. After all, it would suck to come home only to find out that your course work didn’t count towards your degree.  That being said, you should still triple check to make sure that your abroad courses will align with your graduation requirements before checking with your faculty. 

Find a Home Away from Home

Image courtesy of treehousemischief

Find your accommodation well ahead of your stay and research the cost of living. Doing so will allow you to put together a proper budget for your time abroad. To avoid financial surprises, verify the costs for your both your accommodations and flights. Look into the city and its surrounding area to see where you might like to travel during your stay - and then budget in those travel costs. (Think of things like bus tickets, taxis fares, bike rentals, etc. – they’ll all cost money, and you’ll want to have enough.)  Once you have all of your cost estimates, list them out and create your budget. Just remember to leave yourself a little wiggle room and a little pocket money. 


Before you leave, sign up with the U of A’s UGo registry.  Ugo (which is managed by University of Alberta International and Protective Services) helps to protect students studying abroad by monitoring the areas students are studying in for any potential dangers. 

If an emergency were to occur while you’re abroad, you’ll be able to contact Protective Services for assistance (since they’ll make sure you connect with the people who are best equipped to help you). You can call them collect at any time of the day (780-492-5050) or you can send them an email if that would be easier.

You should also check out (and sign up with) the Government of Canada’s Registration of Canadians Abroad program. The point of this service is to provide assistance to Canadian citizens abroad in any emergency situation (like an earthquake, civil unrest, or even an emergency back here in Canada). 

Currency Check

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Canada is the only place that really uses the Canadian dollar, so you’ll need to find out what the currency is in your study abroad home. Knowing that information in relation to the amount of money that you’ll need to take with you (refer back to your budget), will help you to determine how you want to deal with the currency exchange. Depending on the amount of time you will spend away from Canada, opening a bank account abroad might be the best option to save on exchange rates. Note –Most exchange counters have terrible exchange rates, so try to avoid them if you can! 

Prepaid travel Mastercards offer an easier alternative to opening an account as the money can be transferred directly from your debit account and will be accepted anywhere a credit card is. These generally only have a $10 annual fee so they should be budget friendly.

Be sure to look into your banks international alliance as some, like Scotiabank, have international counterparts, meaning that your account will be accessible though partner banks abroad.

Health Checks

Book an appointment with your doctor before your trip. Doing so will ensure that you have all of your prescriptions updated and filled for the time you are away. Visiting your doctor will also help you to determine your vaccine needs. Visiting your doctor will also ensure that you are 100% fit for travel. 


Medical insurance a huge must! Anything can happen, so make sure to check out your options for travel insurance plans during your stay and look into what emergency clinics are accessible ahead of time.  

Paper Work

Image courtesy of UTS Global Exchange

Renew your passport well in advance.  When you travel abroad, you want your passport to have at least 6 months left on it BEFORE you return to Canada. This is also very important for the visa application process (if required for your stay). 

Visa applications are generally only needed for stays over 3 months but be sure to check on the visa requirements for the country that you’ll be studying in AND check the visa requirements for any other nearby countries you might like to visit along the way. Once again, allow enough time for this application, as they require a lot of different documents that can take time to compile. 


Give yourself tons of time to plan what you need to pack! If you start to pack early, you’ll be less likely to forget the things that you need. You’ll also have more time edit your packing list (i.e. you’ll be able to take things out of your bag that you don’t really need). With the right packing hacks, you'll even be able to fit it all in.

Get Happy!

Image courtesy of Carlton Dance on Tumblr

Get super excited because you’re going to be studying in an amazing location where you’ll have the time of your life. And because you’ll have prepared for everything in advance, you’ll get to enjoy your time abroad stress free!

About the Author


Now entering the fifth year of her BA, Paige is an aspiring Conference Interpreter who has a passion for everything cultural.  A self described linguistic nerd, Paige can also be found training with the Rowing Team or taking naps wherever possible. She loves getting involved on campus and meeting new people so you can usually spot her in the crowd at campus events... you could almost say she's a little like "Where"s Waldo" but without the glasses... or the striped shirt. 


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