The Ultimate Study Abroad Checklist for US Students

Erin Caswell | 6-7-2017

You’re embarking on the ultimate of adventures—an international course of study! Whether it’s for a semester or a whole four-year program, you’re getting ready to take off to study abroad.

But before you go, you need to dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s” to make sure you’re ready. Take a look at this study abroad checklist to make sure you’ve got everything in order.


Visas and Other Documents

When you’re studying abroad, some countries will require you to apply for a student visa or other documentation. These documents allow you to legally enter and reside in the country during your course of study. Without them, you could be detained, jailed, or deported.

Be sure to check with your study abroad program advisor about documentation requirements. Submit applications well in advance of your departure date. Also, be sure to always carry your student visa or other documentation during your stay.


Financial Options

You might be surprised to learn your credit cards or debit cards are not accepted in many places when you study abroad, or that cash is the only method of payment. Bring at least a couple of options for making transactions; apply for a major credit card if you don’t already have one, and bring some currency with you.

Your study abroad checklist should include contacting your bank to see what they charge for foreign cash withdrawals or if they will ding you on the exchange rates. You may also want to explore setting up an account with PayPal or another money transfer service in case you need to pay back friends and acquaintances quickly.


Health and Travel Insurance

Some study abroad programs will require you to have health insurance to protect yourself before you leave. Some even offer their own plans, while others leave the choice up to you. Either way, you should ensure you have adequate health and travel coverage before you take off on your trip in case you are in a car accident or contract a serious illness.

Many students (or their parents) make the mistake of assuming their current health insurance coverage will be adequate as a study abroad international student; however, more often than not, this is not the case. Domestic health care plans don’t go far enough or will not cover the costs for medical service outside the US, especially in the case of an emergency medical evacuation.

Take the time to research health care plans early so you can have great coverage before you depart. Premiums for study abroad health insurance can start from as little as $1 per day or more for the duration of your stay.


Medications and Prescriptions

A big study abroad checklist item is to make sure you have enough of your medications for the duration of your stay. Students who have studied abroad recommend you get your prescriptions filled before you depart. Even with medical insurance, refilling prescription drugs in other countries may be difficult, especially if you’re taking a brand-name drug.

In some countries, certain medications may not be available or the dosages may be incorrect, which can cause problems. Getting a supply of medication to last you for your duration of study is both cost-effective and smart.


Course Requirements and Restrictions

You might think you can simply pick whatever courses you want while you study abroad, but if you want to earn credits toward your degree, you’ll likely need to follow a few restrictions. This could require you to take particular courses, or to maintain a certain GPA to make the credits you earn abroad count toward your degree at home.


Country Information

Knowledge is power, so research your destination before you leave. Knowing about things such as the cost of living or political unrest in the area can help you make smarter decisions and stay safe while you’re abroad. Knowing background information about your country of choice will also help you achieve a deeper appreciation for what you learn while abroad, both inside the classroom and outside in the city streets.

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Author: Erin Caswell

Erin is Assistant Vice President of LewerMark Student Insurance division. Erin has a degree in Education and worked as an instructor before joining LewerMark more than six years ago.