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9 Essential Tips for Students Studying Abroad


Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Never take your eyes off your carry-on luggage.

By: Katie Borman

If you are a Loyola student planning on studying abroad, odds are that you have already heard the same, generic information every counselor offers. Get the real scoop on challenges you will face while abroad and more importantly, how to overcome them. Here is what you (actually) need to know now.

Go Abroad, Not Broke

You have been told time and time again how expensive studying abroad can be. But can anyone truly put on a price on the value of studying abroad?

According to the Institute of International Education, for the  nearly 274,000 American students who went abroad in the  2012-2013 academic year, it cost on average $17, 785 per semester.  Although this price varies depending on the program, academic institution and host country, studying abroad costs can be quite steep.

To limit expenses and be a smart spender, consider the following before going abroad:

  • Be aware of currency conversion rates and the likelihood of potential fluctuations. To keep track of rates while on the go, download the mobile app from XE, the web leader in currency conversions. Staying updated on currency rates is the one of the easiest ways to be proactive about your finances.
  • Visit your bank and discuss your international travel plans with an advisor. Make sure to inform your bank the dates you plan on being out of the country so they don’t suspend service or mistake your international spending as fraudulent behavior.  Investigate international credit card and ATM fees so you don’t get blindsided.
  • If you use online banking, make sure to give all of your log-in information to your parents or guardian back home so they can access your account on your behalf. Some banks will block your online access if they detect you are trying to log-on from an unrecognized or international server.

Insider knowledge: Download the mobile app from Mint. This free service helps you manage all of your expenses online by tracking and categorizing all of your purchases.  According to travel expert, Andy Steves, (son of travel book extraordinaire, Rick Steves) “Mint is the best budgeting app around. It lets you keep track of your balances on the fly so you don’t have to stress about your spending.”

Can You Hear Me Now?

Finding cheap, reliable, and readily accessible means of communication can be tricky for any traveler. For students studying abroad, finding communication methods outside the realm of Facebook can be a nightmare. Explore these great alternatives to social media sites and expensive international cell phone plans.

  • Although buying pay-as-you-go cell phones and international SIM cards are popular options for communicating internationally, try utilizing your smart phone’s Wi-Fi capabilities instead. To avoid the steep bills, turn off your data plan and roaming.
  • By downloading free apps such as Viber and textPlus, you can call or text anyone who has the app downloaded, regardless of your location. All you need is a decent Wi-Fi connection.
  • If you have access to a landline phone, international calling cards are the way to go.  With rates that are generally less than 2 cents per minute in most countries, you can purchase cards with five hours of talking time for under $10.00.

Insider Knowledge: Discover more apps to use while abroad from travel expert and TV host Samantha Brown. Check out her recommendations, here.

Always Remember, Safety First

Everyone knows to use the buddy system and practice responsible drinking while abroad.  But what if something serious happens and you need to take action? Know what to do now so you won’t lose your cool later. Take the following precautions:

  • Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website and register for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Enter all of your travel information so the Department of State can best assist you in an emergency. While on the website, learn about travel warnings and country-specific information to understand the current political, economic, and social climate within your host country.
  • Make a laminated emergency card to keep on you at all times.  Your card should include your name as listed on your passport, your cell phone number, emergency contact information, as well as the address of your residence while abroad.  Ask your program administrator for a list of phone numbers to call in case of an emergency.
  • Make multiple copies of all your paperwork and travel documents.  This includes your passport, visa, travel itineraries, health insurance forms, and proof of education forms.  Give copies to your parents or guardians at home, your hosts while abroad, your academic institution at home and abroad, and keep copies for your own records.

Insider Knowledge: For more safety tips, take a look at this video put together for students at Dartmouth planning on studying abroad.

Whether studying abroad or traveling internationally, the challenges you will face with finances, communication and safety can all be easily tackled.  By following these tips, you can bid travel stress goodbye and say hello to an exciting new adventure. Bon Voyage!

Photo Credit: Nicoloa/Flickr Creative Commons



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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.