Traveling overseas allows students the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures, experience faraway adventures, and meet new friends. However, international travel does create unique challenges. From perfecting a new language to converting money into local currency, any extended trip abroad requires advance preparation.
Seasoned travelers learn from their mistakes, but those new to traveling overseas don’t need to repeat others’ errors! Following the tips below will help you eliminate frustrations before your plane even leaves the ground, so you can make the most of your journey.
Get Your Paperwork in Order
U.S. and international law requires travelers who cross national boundaries to carry necessary documentation to identify themselves. Make sure to have the required paperwork gathered and updated at least a month prior to departure.
International travel requires a passport. Since new passport applications take approximately six to eight weeks to process, first-time international travelers should apply for their passports no later than two months before takeoff. Obtaining a passport means submitting an official birth certificate, so plan even further in advance if you need a replacement.
Additionally, some destinations abroad require travelers to provide health documents, such as immunization records. Carrying a copy of these records with you prevents potential headaches at international ports of entry.
Make a List, Check It Twice
Traveling overseas can result in rough living if you’ve forgotten important items. Make a checklist of all the things you need to bring. Don’t forget to include daily medications and supplements, traveler’s checks and credit cards, and toiletries on your list.
Travelers pursuing coursework in more developed nations must remember that hairdryers, cell phone chargers, and the like won’t always fit into foreign countries’ electrical outlets. Invest in an international energy converter to avoid having no way to charge your phone!
Hit the Books
Although you’ll learn about local culture once you arrive, consider reading up on acceptable regional customs beforehand. Online, research which behaviors natives consider polite and which are rude.
For example, in the U.S., a thumbs-up sign means that everything’s groovy, but in parts of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, this gesture equates to flipping someone the bird!
Also, show your respect by achieving moderate fluency in the region’s language prior to departure. While your language skills will indubitably improve with each interaction you share with locals, refreshing your speaking skills by investing in language-learning software or classes can make navigating the world of non-English speakers far easier.
Many international travel novices naively assume that people everywhere accept the American dollar. Prevent this unnecessary expense by converting your currency at a local bank prior to departure to obtain the lowest conversion rates.
In addition, consider applying for a traveler’s credit card, which doesn’t charge conversion fees. Unless you’re traveling to a truly remote village that doesn’t accept plastic, these cards provide travelers with backup emergency funds.
Finally, all travel, international or domestic, involves a degree of risk. Always carry travel insurance to protect against loss – misplaced luggage, theft or canceled flights.
Traveling abroad opens people’s minds and provides them with new ways of looking at the world we share. If you plan well in advance for your scholarly or missionary sojourns overseas, you can enjoy the exhilarating rush of eating, praying, and loving your way through your international adventure without ending up feeling like a stranger in a foreign land!