Kate is a junior studying this semester in Linz, Austria. Check in each week for posts from Kate and other bloggers as they share their experiences abroad.
Preparing to study abroad doesn’t happen overnight, but rather, during the course of a few months. I am the kind of person that always has to have everything laid out step by step, to have everything organized. There is more to the preparation than just packing a suitcase. Most of the time, the “to-do” list is full of small but important items. Here is my list of some of the items you should have on your study abroad checklist.
- Notify your bank of your travel plans.
One of the most important steps to take before departing the country for your semester of traveling is to tell your bank and credit card companies that you will be in a strange place for an extended amount of time. If your credit card provider or bank notices transactions on your card from Vienna when you live in Missouri, they likely will freeze your account. You do not want to be far from home without access to money! One simple phone call could prevent a lot of headaches down the road.
- Organize important documents.
Before you leave make sure you have made copies of your passport, proof of health insurance and birth certificate. Leave one set with your parents and keep another with you while you travel. It might be helpful to create a binder with these documents and your flight reservations all in one place. Keep a paper copy of room reservations with you. If you like detailed plans as I do, create a travel schedule so you never will be late for a flight or reservation.
Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor to ask for six months worth of any prescriptions you take. This way, you will have all medications in the case of an emergency. Your host university should be aware of all medications you are taking in case something happens. It would be a hassle to try to get in touch with your doctor and get your medicine once you have left the country.
- Create a list of emergency contacts.
Keep a list handy of all the people you could contact if you need help — for example, your assigned mentors at your host university, the address and phone number for your emergency contact and the equivalent of 911 in your host city. It wouldn’t hurt to keep phone numbers of your roommate and friends abroad. These should be with you at all times. You never know when you could find yourself in a sticky situation.
Packing for my trip hasn’t been easy because I will be abroad for five months, so I have to be prepared for winter, spring and summer. I chose mostly transitional pieces that can be worn in all weather. The suitcase can only be 50 pounds, so I have to leave my heavy sweaters and boots at home. To save room in my luggage, my grandma bought me space bags that I simply can vacuum the air out of. I have the habit of over-packing, so I started planning what I would bring weeks ago. I don’t want to my bags to be overweight, because I either will have to throw away my belongings or pay a very large fee!
During winter break, I started daydreaming about all the places I would travel to throughout Europe. Small airlines like Ryanair offer inexpensive plane tickets to students, but only allow you to bring a carry-on of a certain size. So, for Christmas, my mom spoiled me and bought me a very nice Tortuga backpack. It’s the perfect size for packing the necessities for a short trip.
As soon as I was placed in Austria, I began researching the country and the city I would live in. I didn’t know much about beforehand. To give you a visual, Austria is the setting of the “Sound of Music.” Picture Julie Andrews running through the hills singing her lungs off — that is going to be me! I will be living in Linz, a city in the northern part of the country. The city is a short train ride from the Alps and only a couple of hours from Vienna and Prague. People speak German in Austria, so I will be taking an intensive German class for a month before classes start to learn the language. Luckily, all my classes will be in English.
- Say goodbye.
Last but not least, visit your friends and family from home before you leave! They no doubt will miss you very much while you are gone. If you live with roommates at home, give them enough money to cover your rent and expenses while you are away. Make sure friends and family members know how to contact you and how to read about your trip. Share the address of where you will stay so your friends and family can send you mail. If you plan on blogging, give them the web address of your blog.