Back-to-School: But in a different country! 3 Tips to preparing to study abroad!

Summer is coming to an end and if you are like me you aren’t going back to your normal college setting. Study abroad is almost a short month away and preparing for leaving for such a long time can be tough if you have never done it before!

I totally get it that packing for longer than a month is different than packing for a two week long vacation and to help ease the stress of traveling abroad I have come up with these 3 helpful tips for preparing to study abroad!

Disclaimer: I know this is a fairly longer post but each section holds valuable information on how to get prepared in each section! 

1) Phone

The beauty of having Wi-fi everywhere is something America is so blessed with but most places around the world aren’t that into having wi-fi everywhere quiet yet. Not only that, if they have wi-fi their wi-fi signals can be pretty weak and are not reliant depending what you want to do on the network. Therefore you solely can’t base your phone communication on wi-fi.

Phone companies in America have crazy and wild prices for international rates and plans. Frankly, I have found they try to rip you off, especially if you are going to be away for longer than 30 days. I found the cheapest way to communicate abroad is getting a sim card from the host country you are staying in. It is far cheaper and though you get a new number you can still use iMessage (if it is connected to your email, which it usually is if you use iMessage on your macbook) and whats app. The sim cards range like data plans, for example in Germany for you can get 3 to 5 GB of data, for 15 Euros to 25 Euros per month depending on what you choose)…way cheaper than an international American plan!

Though, the key is using an unlocked cellphone that has the ability to hold a sim card. This usually can be done with an old phone you have and be done by contacting the network that was connected to the phone (such as At&t) when it was still in use. Just ask them to unlock the phone and they will go through the steps with you to do so! It will take less than an hour to do but if you don’t have an unlocked phone the international sim card won’t work in it because our phones are programed specifically for the states only and that has to be changed. Also make sure to not buy your sim card in the States, buy it in your host country! It will guarantee to work that way and will be cheaper!

2) Money

If you are like me, you have been working all summer to save up money for study abroad and you don’t want your money to go to waste through international transaction fee’s or ATM fees. I have done a plethora of research on this and I have found the best option is to open up a Charles Schwab High Yield Checking Account. It doesn’t cost a thing and is super easy to navigate. The amazing thing about Charles Schwab is that they reimburse every ATM fee at the end of each month, and they don’t charge an international transaction fee when pulling out money from an ATM. It’s a perfect way to avoid all those extra fees that everyone else will try to get you with.

The bonus with Schwab is that they are so extremely nice and always willing to help. You can easily deposit checks through the app on your phone, and you can also easily transfer money from one bank acocunt to another through Schwabs moneylink option with little to no problems.

In addition, credit cards are also another good option to use abroad, especially for bigger transaction like hotel fees for traveling or flights. Credit cards ultimately get the best exchange rate but the key is to make sure you have a card that doesn’t pay international transaction fee’s, which is usually an extra 3%. That’s where they will get you. My credit card is through Bank of America and it’s for travel, but I also heard chase provides a good one too to avoid the international transaction fee.

Lastly, other tips I found useful are don’t get exchange money from the airport. The exchange rate is horrible and you won’t get the best exchange rate for you buck. Also, never get the money from your host country in the States, again they will charge you potentially extra fee’s and you won’t receive the best exchange rate. Overall, to get the most minimal amount of fee’s pull from an ATM machine or use a credit card! And DO NOT forget to notify your bank before you leave!

3) Packing

The dreaded packing, my least favorite part about going abroad. I tend to over pack, always because I can never judge what the right amount of clothes are. My suggestion, start a few weeks early and don’t leave it for last minute. A few weeks before I lay out all the clothes I would like to bring and then a week later with a fresher eye go through and eliminate the stuff I really don’t need and always make sure to weight your bags before hand so you don’t have to go through the stress at the airport if you are overweight!

Next, I would suggest checking with the airline you are flying to see how many bags you get and if you only get one how much it cost to have a second. I always recommend checking in two bags. One big one and one smaller one, because 50 pounds is very easy to go over especially if you are traveling in the winter with all the boots and heavy sweaters.

The best travel abroad suitcase I have found to be a huge duffel bag that has wheels. It’s light but has a ton of room to store stuff. You can get these anywhere! I always suggest like TJ MAXX or Marshals the have really good deal on suitcases! In addition, I always suggest getting vacuum seal packs.  They save my life and will yours too! They compact everything and give you more room to pack and are really easy to use.

Also on the way there, I suggest bringing toiletries such as tampons and shampoo. It takes up room in your suitcase on the way there but on the way home you won’t have to bring them back and you will then have extra room for the stuff you accumulated in the time you study abroad! It’s a perfect way to fill up your suitcase and guarantee you extra room when flying back!

I hope this helped you a lot in preparing for study abroad and as always, you are always free to ask me any questions! These tips have helped me immensely especially when traveling abroad!

Now to enjoy the rest of the time home before I fly off to my next adventure!

Much love,

Becca

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