Studying abroad will be a rewarding experience, but more goes into pre-departure planning than just what goes in your suitcase. Once abroad, you’ll want to focus on relaxing (and studying of course!), so it’s worth making careful preparations in advance to avoid being caught off-guard. Here are three “before you go” tasks you can’t afford to forget.
Communicating while abroad is key, but your cellphone plan provider may not be so lenient toward your travel needs. Most plans rack up huge roaming and international fees if you simply take your U.S. phone abroad.
I recommend purchasing a phone from a local vendor on arrival and loading it up with prepaid minutes. If you're at a location with Wi-Fi, take advantage of free calling programs and apps such as Skype to make the most of your minutes.
Other alternatives include amending your plan to include international calling, or taking your current phone but switching to a local sim card. If you would rather try one of these options, the latter isn’t too bad on costs, but, either way, Skype is your best friend to save bank while still keeping in touch.
Bank and credit card:
A huge problem hasty travelers run into is trying to withdraw money or use credit cards abroad. Using cards internationally will freeze your accounts and leave you in a tight spot if you don’t notify your bank beforehand. Visit your bank, or even their website, before you leave to set up a "travel notice" and you'll be fine!
Also, similar to cellphone policies, credit card companies often have additional international fees. Avoid overpaying by asking vendors to charge your card in the local currency instead of USD. This will save you money on every purchase by avoiding a currency conversion fee (upwards of 3%)! ATMs often have similar fees, so double-check with your bank early on to find ways to minimize these fees and avoid wasteful spending.
One of the most important things you’ll carry while traveling is your passport. This is the big one—proof of identity, U.S. citizenship, and your ticket back home. If possible, I do NOT recommend carrying your passport on you at all times. In the unfortunate event of a theft or loss, you will be forced to sidetrack your peaceful vacation with accommodations to replace your passport and verify yourself for the return trip.
A simple solution is to store your original passport, along with other critical documents, in a secure location, such as a hotel safe or a trusted friend’s home. Make copies before you go and travel with these instead while you are doing casual “out and about” activities. This way you have peace of mind and your copies can cover most little things that may come up.
Ultimately, your time abroad will be an unforgettable experience! Enjoy your host culture and save yourself some heartache by preparing ahead of time. Have fun!
Jordan Siccardi is a Fall 2016 student with CEA Study Abroad, he is currently a student at University of California, Davis and will study abroad in Florence, Italy.