Preparing for studying abroad


Photo Courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar/Flickr Creative Commons Going abroad is the one of the most unique opportunities available to USD students.

Photo Courtesy of Jose Maria Cuellar/Flickr Creative Commons
Going abroad is the one of the most unique opportunities available to USD students.

Studying abroad is one of the many great opportunities you have as a student at the University of San Diego. It is arguably one of the best decisions a student can make, especially considering that USD is ranked second in the nation for undergraduate study abroad programs.

A lot of planning must go into going abroad to make sure you have the best experience possible. This being said, there are a lot of resources available to you as a student abroad that can help make your travels smoother and more enjoyable.

First of all, it’s important to remember to notify your bank when you’re planning to go abroad. It’s a good idea to bring your debit or credit card with you while studying abroad so that you are able to withdraw cash. The average fee you may be charged for withdrawing cash from an ATM abroad is about $10 throughout the European Union, although fees will vary.

ATM fees can add up quickly, so it’s a good idea to figure out an alternative method to get cash.

Some banks such as Bank of America allow you to access sister banks in the country you are staying in to withdraw cash free of charge. You can research online if your bank has a sister bank in the country you’re travelling to. Some banks also offer an international plan to waive fees at the ATM.

It’s always a smart idea to always have some cash on you in case of an emergency, particularly in countries where cash is the most common form of payment, such as in England, France, or Italy. You’ll want to have cash on hand for whenever you need to quickly grab a taxi or top-up on your metro card.

It may even be worth your time to open up an account with an international bank if your own bank doesn’t have international sister banks.

This will be especially useful if you plan on studying abroad for an entire semester or longer.

If you are planning to take any side trips to countries other than the one you’ll be staying in, plan ahead as much as possible to cut costs. Remember that the earlier you purchase your plane tickets, the cheaper they will be.  You can also use some websites to search for and book cheaper flights.

The company Ryanair, for example, offers the cheapest available flights around countries in Europe.

If you’re taking a trip to a country that uses a different form of currency, make sure to exchange some money before you leave your host country so that you have some cash on hand for where you’ll be travelling to.

Of course, be sure to keep a sharp eye on your budget. Try and set a spending limit each week to save some spending room for spontaneous adventures; you’ll never know when you need that extra 10 or 20 when that delicious-looking local food is calling your name.

You can use apps such as Pocket Expense, Spending Tracker, and Mint to help you  keep track of all of your spending abroad and to make sure that you stick to your budget plan. The best part of these budgeting apps is that they’re also all free.

If you have an iPhone or other smartphone, with the apps such as Forever Map 2, city maps and GPS services can be used anywhere internationally without an internet connection. This particular app only costs $2.99 and makes it convenient to not have to carry around a physical map or cause you to stress about using up all of your cell phone’s data plan.

Junior Kaylan Rothrock is currently studying abroad in Spain for the the semester, and recommends a particular app to those planning on studying in Madrid.

“The app I use the most is Moovit, which is a transportation app for Madrid,” Rothrock said. “It shows where all the metro stops are, when the next buses are coming, which metro lines connect to which, and the best way to get to certain locations using the bus or metro and how long it will take.”

Moovit is just one example of the various free apps that provide maps of public transportation services. This app in particular also does not require your phone to be connected to Wi-Fi or internet.

Rothrock also had advice for students going abroad about getting updated credit cards with microchips, which is the standard form of payment card for most European countries.

“Another tip for people studying abroad is to get a credit card with a chip in it.” Rothrock said. “I know a lot of people had trouble with certain cards like American Express, which are not accepted in many stores, especially small Spanish shops. I have a Chase Visa credit card and I’ve never had a problem with it and I don’t have to enter in a pin number every time I make a transaction, which I know some people have to with their credit cards and it makes you more at risk.”

As for communicating with friends and family back in the U.S., apps such as Whatsapp and Viber allow you to call and text internationally for free.

With websites such as Timeout, you can find out all of the fun and often free events and festivals going on in they city you’re staying in.  This website especially is a great resource to find events that will allow you to mix with locals and avoid  places that are heavily populated by tourists.

Resources such as this allow you to easily find fun, local events to partake in that are budget-friendly. You can even do research to find out if there are free tours offered by local organizations and companies in the city you’re visiting.

Many students do not take advantage of the fact that studying abroad can even boost your resumé.

Going abroad shows employers that you’re not only worldly and have personal experience with interacting with different cultures, but it also demonstrates your ability to adapt to new experiences and situations. Not only will you be able to make friends from around the world, but this experience will also enhance your overall educational experience as a student of USD. By allowing you to be completely immersed in a new and different culture, this will provide you with experiences and opportunities that you may not otherwise have in the US.

Make sure to plan well ahead so that you can have a safe, organized, and overall amazing experience.

Using apps and resources such as these will guarantee that you have an amazing time abroad and that you won’t have to sweat the small stuff.

These are just some of the important tips and resources that you should take advantage of to ensure that you stay on top of your study abroad planning.