How to prepare for studying abroad in 5 months or less

(photo by: gotimetraining.com)

I know that right now all you can think about is finals and the sleep that you’ll finally be able to catch up on once the semester’s over. But before you get ready for a summer fun & snooze fest, you need to make sure that you’re fully prepared for your study abroad this fall. Let’s take a look at how to prepare for studying abroad in 5 months or less:


5 Months to Go

Foreign Language –Language skills can slip away during the summer. Sign up for a foreign language class during the summer at a local cultural center (for French this would be Alliance Française) or at your university. A bonus for taking a class at your college is it can count towards a general elective requirement or foreign language major/minor. It’s a little more out of pocket now could save on tuition money when you return (1 less class to take) and will help keep your language skills up to speed.

Culture- Start following the news of the host country for a few minutes per day. The Yahoo! News App covers the news for practically every country and the articles are in the host language- an excellent way to practice. Want to be hard-core? Download the news app for a popular newspaper of the host country.

Living abroad – It’s never too late to start saving money. Save your summer job money for your time abroad. Wanna travel while abroad? Write down your travel / sight-seeing goals to help determine how much money needs to be in your account to make it happen. Don’t forget to start applying for your student visa!

University Life – Before the end of the semester go to your university’s study abroad office and ask about the host college (How are classes organized? How many hours is each class? How will your grades be earned?). Also ask for a previous student’s contact info for your host country to see if you can reach out to them for additional info.

4 Months to Go

 Foreign Language – Keep up the hard work in the language class. Not able to take a class at your university? Try a private tutor and/or weekly language exchanges via Skype. You can find students looking to practice foreign languages on mylanguageexchange.com. Do this at least 1x/week for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Culture- Keep following the news daily and start to watch news clips online. This will not only help you to improve linguistic skills but will also help you to see which issues are important to the host culture and how they handle them which creates and understanding and awareness of the host culture.

Living abroad: Create a monthly expenses budget and travel budget- they must be separate! Make sure you’re saving enough money to cover these things. If not, try these 6 creative ways to fund studying abroad (link to SU article). You also need to start preparing for life alone by doing things alone –eating, going to the movies, and dealing with a bad day.

University Life – Contact that former study abroad student if you can and read up on study abroad blogs for your country. Research the host university atmosphere and familiarize yourself with its website.

3 Months to Go

Foreign Language – Increase weekly language exchanges with native student speakers from mylanguageexchange.com or tutoring sessions. If taking a class, participate to the maximum.

Culture- Continue to read/watch host country news daily. For fun, watch host country films and ask about current culture from language exchanges, tutor and/or classes.

Living abroad – Continue with student visa process and getting used to life on your own. You should also start practicing for living on a budget by creating and following one.

University Life – Continue to read up on study abroad blogs for your host country. Do you have your host country’s program director’s email? If so, contact them to find out what college is like overseas. Don’t have it? Ask your American university program for this info.

2 Months to Go

Foreign Language- Maintain the increased weekly language exchanges with native speakers, tutoring and/or classes interaction. You need to be living and breathing the foreign language.

Culture –Same as previous month. Also start to research host country customs, mannerisms and public appearance. Start to look and act the part so that it is 2nd nature when you arrive abroad.

Living abroad –– Finish student visa process, continue getting used to life on your own, continue living on monthly budget, do one new thing a day to push yourself out of your comfort zone.

University Life – Take advantage of back to school sales and buy 1 packet of pens/pencils and a few notebooks. They are much easier and cheaper to get at home.

1 Month to Go

Foreign Language – Keep up the pace! You’ll need those skills starting your first day abroad.

Culture – Continue to keep up on current news and asking culture questions as well as practicing the mannerisms/dress of the host culture.

Living abroad – Set up banking arrangement so that you have debit and credit for overseas use; upgrade cell phone plan for international use; buy adapter for electronic devices; set up communication plan with family.

University Life- Re-familiarize yourself with the host college website and campus via maps, photos, and videos if possible.


Have you gone to all your university study abroad meetings but still have questions? Answer all of your questions about what the experience of living and going to college abroad to avoid any surprises with book The Paris Diaries: The Study Abroad Experience Uncensored. Looking for something more technical like exactly how many and which documents do you need to get your French visa this summer? Check out Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris. Don’t have a Kindle? Download the free Kindle App to your iPad, your phone or any other e-reader device.