You’ve just received your acceptance letter from your host and home university about studying abroad, now what? Upon returning to my institution, I immediately came into contact with my study abroad advisor. Of course, the first thing from the office was a congratulatory greeting and handshake. Next, came the, “Okay, let’s have a chat.”
Here we go, time for more paperwork
Look, I know it’s a pain, but you HAVE to finish and file the paperwork correctly to have a semi-smooth ride.
From here on out I had plenty of paperwork to fulfill. My first job was filling out paperwork for insurance, bank, and scholarship funding paper. Here I thought I had already filled out enough paperwork… For most of my friends, INSURANCE was the paperwork which students had some difficult problems. Personally speaking, I had no issues with international health insurance. Not sure I can speak for everyone, but my advice is clarifying with both your host and home institution about what is required and what is extra luggage. Make sure you receive ALL the information you may think you need before your departure.
Anyway, I paid about three-hundred dollars and was set on insurance for my session. When dealing with paperwork, my advice is making sure you finish things at least two weeks in advanced. This leaves plenty of room for error and you can quickly adjust things without having to lose all your hair due to stress. After making sure I was set in this department, I ventured out into the world of the interwebs for a plane ticket.
Where to fly cheap
First off, make sure you have a passport and make sure your passport will not expire while you are abroad. I promise you, waiting last minute and not knowing whether or not your passport will come in time for your flight is not a good idea. Listen to this meme:
You have sites such as Kayak, Travelocity, and Cheapoair, but which one really works to your advantage? At the time, I was looking for the cheapest ticket price. For me, quality was not an issue and I did not mind the long layovers, so long as I reached my final destination. Boy, did that serve as an obstacle for my future. A word advice to year-long study abroad students, do not purchase roundtrip tickets unless you know for sure you want to return home for a short visit. If you have any questions, I highly advice you to purchase a one way ticket. This option will turn out to be more convenient and cheaper.
What happened to me
I used the website, StudentUniverse to book my online flight purchase. The flight would fly from Nashville, Tennessee to Nagoya, Japan with stops in Dallas, Texas and Tokyo, Japan. At a price of $1370, this seemed like a nice deal; however, this was booked as a roundtrip which I though I needed to buy since I thought it would be cheaper. Also, I could not buy a roundtrip ticket with longer than a 7 month duration. I was told by StudentUniverse that I could change my return flight once I left the country. Folks, here is the truth, book your own flights directly from the air company. For students who are flying abroad for his or her first time, using third party websites puts you at risk of not acquiring mileage points, long phone calls to fix a problem, and making it more difficult to change a return date.
It may cost a couple hundred dollars extra or time but of your busy life, but at least a couple hundred is cheaper than another thousand dollars. Because I was told I could change my return date to another one once I used the departure ticket, I used it without any second thoughts. The trouble arrived with my past actions when it came time to call about changing the return date. Instead of returning in February, I wanted to call about returning in the month of July or August. Well, to my unfortunate turn of events, I was told by customer service that there were no available seats for those two months. In fact, there would be none available until mid-September… Needless to say, I bought a one-way ticket back home on a different day, after I had lived in Japan for 6 months.
So, let’s recap:
1. Check your insurance and make sure you understand the agreement between your home and host institution health policies.
2. Tell your bank your travel plans, insuring your account will not be frozen while you are abroad.
3. Ask your bank about your withdrawal limits.
5. Apply for a passport if you haven’t already and make sure you have plenty of pages left. Reapply for a passport if it looks like it will expire while you are abroad.
5. Give plenty of time for application forms and DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE.
6. Check all airline websites for most convenient and affordable tickets.
7. Buy directly from airline if you plan on flying with them again in the future.
8. Check your host country’s plan for cellphones and make prior plans to better ensure you have communication with friends and family back home.
9. Buy one-way tickets rather than round-way tickets for programs lasting longer than 6 months.
10. Check back next time for my next update.
Next up on the blog agenda is the one thing many folks have asked me about, packing. Depending on how long you stay, who you are as a person, and how much you’d like to carry, I’d say packing ranges from being a simple task to a a week long work in progress. Any who, my next update will be some things you may or may not need during your packing. Until next time~