BY AMANDA ALLER
Imagine having brunch in Venice, venturing through the blue mountains in New South Wales, exploring the birthplace of democracy in Athens, or observing the rich cultural heritage throughout Southeast Asia.
You can do it all through study abroad programs like County College of Morris’ partnership with the College Consortium for International Students. But before you stick your head too far into the clouds, there are some things you’ll need to know before you go.
In order to have the best traveling experience possible, you’ll need to prepare far in advance. You may want to buy your plane ticket right away, but the best time to purchase plane tickets is 3 months before the excursion, for this is prime time to get a good deal. Make sure to get travel insurance before you go and know your host country’s language – if not fluently, at least it’s important to make an effort and know a few key phrases like “please,” “thank you” and “Where’s the bathroom?”
Tell your bank and credit card company before you go. Save yourself the headache of having to deal with claims of “fraudulent activity” while overseas. Make sure you have some paper or coin in the local currency so you can get a taxi or a sandwich right when you land without having to worry whether they accept credit cards.
Make sure you invest in an international plan on your phone before you go. But even still, remember that phone calls will be expensive so familiarize yourself with Skype or FaceTime and make sure the people you will be contacting know how to use those applications as well. If you’re going for an extended period of time, it may be worth purchasing a cheap local phone.
“I always had my smart phone and wherever I’d go I’d log into the wifi,” said Kelly Guapacho, CCM alumna. “So the form of communication I mostly used was social media, the WhatsApp and then definitely an Italian phone.”
No matter how prepared you may be physically, culture shock and homesickness can be overwhelming. You can see a local therapist for advice on how to mentally prepare more specifically for your needs. You can also take a self defense course in order to ease any anxiety you may have about things going awry in a foreign country. Lastly, make sure to bring any medication you need with enough supply for the entire duration of your trip, as it may not be available in your host country.
“What helped a lot was the help and support of my loved ones and honestly having faith and hope that everything will turn out okay, and that what’s meant to be will be,” said Guapacho.
Pack lightly and try to bring only two suitcases, if that. In your carry on you should have your passport or visa, plane tickets, any documents needed to register at your host university and any valuables you’re bringing. In your carry on you should also have your medication, money (in your host country’s currency), phone, laptop, and camera. You should bring a change of clothes in case your suitcase is misplaced, toiletries and last but not least, a journal to begin documenting your trip!
In your main suitcase you’ll need clothes that are appropriate for the weather in your host country, enough toiletries for a week, and comfortable footwear. Make sure to bring layering pieces with a specific coloring scheme so that you can mix and match outfits. A light jacket goes a long way when properly layered. It also helps to try and bring things that can go a few wears between washes.
If you’re staying in an apartment you should bring silverware (or plasticware to pack lightly). You will definitely need an adapter if you’re going to Europe because electrical standardization is vastly different in most countries outside of the western hemisphere.
There are multiple safety precautions you need to take before and after you arrive in your country of choice. Before you even step foot outside of the house, make sure to attach name tags with details to any suitcases and lock your suitcase. Avoid wearing flashy clothing or anything that draws attention to your economic status. Bring two copies of your passport or visa in case one gets lost. Using a fanny pack is great because you can carry your money and ID without having to worry about pickpockets. If you’re going to be abroad for a long time, find a travel doctor. Once you get to your host country, let your family know you’ve arrived safely and write down any emergency contacts.
“When traveling outside of the city that you’re staying in, also contact the school authorities to let them know where you’re going and with who, how to get in contact with you and where you’re staying,” Guapacho said.
Be sure to research your host country’s laws, their crime rate, what the crimes are and how you can avoid being a victim of them. Use the buddy system, always.
While it sounds overwhelming, taking these precautions allows you to have the best time you can have without worry.