5 Ways to Prepare for Your Semester Abroad

Congrats! If you are reading this, I am assuming you are signed up or about to sign up for a USAC study abroad program. Studying abroad is an experience of a lifetime. Make sure you are ready to make the most out of time abroad by doing these five things to prepare.

1.      Learn the language. This doesn’t mean you need to be fluent in the language, but you should start practicing. Duolingo is a great (and free) app that has 23 languages to choose from. It literally takes five minutes to complete a lesson. Trust me, the locals will appreciate your attempts of using the local language. Download Duolingo and be well on your way to fitting in as a local in your new city.

2.       Figure out what your bank’s foreign transaction fees are. This is vital. I will be studying abroad in a small, Italian town called Reggio Emilia. I found that this town, as well as most of Italy, prefers payment in cash. If they do accept card, it most likely will be Visa. In my case, I won’t need to get a specific travel credit card since I won’t be using a card daily. My bank has small foreign transaction fees, but since I won’t be using my card daily I figured it would be easier than applying for a brand new card. Of course, this is a decision that is best fit for you. Make sure you carve out time to look into your options and what fits best for you.

3.      Create a bucket list. I can almost guarantee that when you get to your destination that you are going to want to do EVERYTHING! I mean, why wouldn’t you. You are in an amazing new place, of course you want to explore! However, we cannot do it all. Make a list of the top places you want to see and do. That way you can have some sort of idea of weekend trips.

4.      Use USAC’s interactive budget for your specific program and outline your costs. Include all the loans, grants, scholarships, funds from other sources and your own funds in the spreadsheet. This will give you an idea on how you can spend when you are abroad. This interactive budget feature will make your budget planning process a piece of cake. It is located in your program’s fees and deadlines section.

5.      Lastly, look into what the locals wear in the place you are staying. Some places frown upon people wearing shorts. Other places frown upon wearing active wear as daily wear. You might find yourself surprised on some of the local norms, so take some time to get an idea of what the local people wear. Plus, this will make packing easier!


Katie Agey is a University of Iowa student and will be studying abroad in Reggio-Emilia, Italy in Fall 2017.