Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Tips for the Graduate Student Studying Abroad

Studying abroad as a graduate student might seem impossible or impractical, but studying abroad is just as beneficial as studying in the United States. Depending on your field of study and the school you attend, you could actually spend less time in school abroad than in the states. Plus, you’ll gain global experience by studying outside the U.S., which gives you an edge in future job searches.
Here’s how to get started on an enriching and worry-free study abroad journey:
Save, save, save
The more money you save beforehand, the more relaxed you’ll feel when you leave for your trip. Figure out how much money you’ll need by creating a budget — include expenses like tuition, textbooks, room and board, food, transportation and entertainment. To help with expenses, take advantage of study abroad scholarships for graduate students from your university and from outside organizations.
Learn about the culture
Knowing a little about where you’ll be studying can make the transition to a foreign country a little smoother. If it’s your first time in a particular country, you should research the country’s social norms, transportation system and city layout. Learning the language should be a top priority, too — especially important phrases like, “Do you speak English?” or “Where is the American Embassy?”
Get the proper documentation
Obviously, if you’re leaving the country, you’re going to need a passport. Start the application process at least two months before you leave, as processing usually takes four to six weeks. If you’re staying in the country for an extended amount of time, you’ll need a student visa in addition to a passport. The U.S. Department of State has information on each country’s requirements for visa applications.
Protect yourself
Safety is a concern for those traveling abroad, especially with so much political unrest in some countries, so take these suggestions into consideration before you depart:

  • Sign up for the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP will send you updates on travel warnings and alerts for the country where you’ll be living.
  • Obtain a health insurance plan for graduate students. An international health insurance policy will cover you in case you need emergency hospitalization or evacuation.
  • Take a self-defense class before you leave. Nobody wants to think that they’ll be mugged while traveling abroad, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared just in case.
  • Wearing flashy clothing and jewelry makes you an easy target for robbers, so leave the bling at home.
  • Guard your money by keeping it in an easily concealed bag. Don’t carry it all at once — if you are robbed, you’ll be glad you have some stashed away in your room.

The most important thing to have when traveling is common sense. Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation because you ignored your instincts.
Preparing months in advance of your trip is the key to a stress-free study abroad experience. Even if you studied abroad as an undergrad, you’ll have a much different experience as a graduate student — not to mention, you’ll likely be more than willing to travel abroad again. Take grad school to the next level by earning your degree abroad.