Greetings! If you are reading this you are most likely in one of two boats: 1) You are considering studying abroad 2) You have already committed to a study abroad program and are wondering how to prepare for this undertaking. Kudos to you on taking the first step toward studying abroad! It truly is a fantastic experience that will change your life in good ways (including strengthening your resume)!
In this article, I will share important items that I learned while studying abroad in Vietnam and Thailand through IBS. Even if you are not traveling to either of these nations my insights are applicable to traveling anywhere in the world.
• Invest in a wrap around the neck passport holder: This allows your passport to remain handy while navigating through security/customs at the airport. Also, it makes leaving your passport on the plane after landing far less likely. Trust me, I have heard many stories of people who have done this. Don’t become one of them.
• Familiarize yourself with the currency you will be using in your destination. For example, Vietnamese Dongs utilize dots in place of commas (500,000 Dong is written as 500.000 Dong).
• Bring a neck pillow for the international plane ride. Rest is difficult without one. Also, they conveniently snap right onto your carry-on’s handle!
• Before going out on the town for the free time bring your map AND your hotel room key (explained in the next bullet point) with you. Your hotel and/or tour guide will have pocket-sized maps available for your use.
• If you get lost and don’t have a map, don’t panic. Simply find the nearest hotel and ask for directions. This is where the room key comes in handy: not only does it have the name of your hotel, but also the address! The hotel can then call a taxi for you and can easily direct the driver back to your hotel.
• If you do end up out on the town alone late at night, don’t try to walk back. Take a taxi. This is much safer! The added cost is well worth it!
• In some nations hotel room amenities (air conditioning and lights) will only work if you place your room key in the slot located on the wall.
• Some countries will require you to have a Travel Visa in addition to a Passport. Check with your IBS program leader before traveling to see if your destination countries require one. You can also check online for a listing of which countries require a Visa for those traveling from the United States. The Visa is obtained by mailing your passport and application documents to your destination country’s local consulate office.
• Make 2 copies of important documents before leaving. These documents include your passport (just the page with your picture on it), your driver’s license, visas, ISIC card, and your travel itinerary. You will give one copy to one of your family members and will need one copy for the hotel safe (which is located in your room).
• You will no doubt have a long plane ride. No need to worry! Many international planes have many free diversions to get your mind off the long flight. These items include music, movies, games, T.V. shows, even real-time flight maps!
• While flying try to sleep at the time when people in your destination country are sleeping. I suggest bringing sleeping pills to help you catch the necessary Zs.
• You may not have much of an appetite immediately after landing. I didn’t. But that’s okay, you’ll have other opportunities to try the local cuisine. Just allow your body some time to process the time change and your digestion will soon return to normal.
• Most importantly, DO NOT let that discouraging voice in your head ruin this incredible experience! When I first boarded the plane I started feeling homesick (a 15-hour flight does not help this feeling). I simply told myself that I was going to enjoy this trip. I had already gone through all the preparation and I said to myself, “When else will I get an opportunity like this?” Once I landed and I got into my daily routine I soon forgot about these feelings.