How to Prepare for Study Abroad: 10 Things You Need to Know

Programs for this blog post

Open Campus Block

Authored By:

College Study Abroad

Prepping for the adventure of a lifetime can be exciting and overwhelming. All at the same time. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to consider as you prepare for your trip.  

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to prepare yourself for studying abroad, so you can feel confident and focus on all the amazing experiences that await you at your destination.  

Read on as we walk you through our list of things to know before you go!  

Tip #1: Apply for a passport. The sooner the better.  

Studying abroad guarantees you’ll expand your global perspective and gain invaluable knowledge while exploring a new and fantastic international city. However, to achieve this, you’ll need to apply for a passport (if you don’t already have one!) so you can travel overseas. And ensuring that your passport arrives on time is an absolute must.  

It can take a few months for your passport to arrive, so be sure to plan accordingly! If you’ve never traveled out of the United States before, giving yourself ample time to apply for your passport is the first step in how to prepare to study abroad.  

Feel free to peruse our additional tips when applying to your CIEE study abroad program, including additional passport details, and jumpstart your journey! 


Tip #2: Obtain travel insurance.  

Another must-do when preparing to study abroad is securing travel insurance. You’ll want to be prepared in case unforeseen events arise and you need to adjust your travel plans.  

All CIEE Study Abroad participants are required to carry iNext Travel/Medical protection for the duration of their time overseas, except for students on certain short-term or Custom/Faculty-led programs where iNext is not required assuming there is proof of adequate coverage elsewhere.

iNext is included in the CIEE fee structure and participants are automatically enrolled and provided with the details of the coverage a minimum of 2 weeks prior to their departure date. If you have any questions, feel free to email: or call 855-578-6398. 

Tip #3: Research your destination’s local customs.  

While we know you’ll be busy daydreaming about all that’s in store for you in your study abroad location, we want to remind you to consider some of the logistics of easing into life in a new location. Remember, it’s normal to experience feelings of disorientation as you adjust to less familiar surroundings. This experience is often referred to as culture shock, which is common, and eases up as you adapt to your new environment.  

To help keep culture shock at bay, and to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for your adventure abroad, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about your destination’s local customs and social expectations before you go and as you’re thinking about how to mentally prepare for study abroad.  

rabat historic site

Read More: What is Culture Shock? 4 Examples and Tips to Adjust 

Tip #4: Explore your destination’s local language. 

Part of adjusting to a new environment may include having a basic understanding of the language spoken in your study abroad destination. It’s extremely helpful to familiarize yourself with common words and phrases in the language that is widely spoken in your new international city ahead of your travels so you can better communicate with locals and navigate your new surroundings.  

Tip #5: Research your destination’s currency.  

As you’re thinking about how to prepare yourself for studying abroad, you’ll want to identify the currency that your destination uses and determine if other forms of currency are accepted, like American credit cards and the U.S. dollar. Fortunately, information about a country’s currency is relatively easy to find online.  

Tip #6: Prepare your budget and finances.   

As you begin looking into how to prepare yourself for study abroad, you’ll want to think about setting up a budget, so you can set aside some spending money for dinners out and special events, and make sure you have what you need for essentials. Don’t forget to save some room in your budget for souvenirs!  

madrid students

Tip #7: Get any required vaccines and discuss your upcoming travels with a healthcare provider.  

We know you’re excited to get to your dream destination, but before you go, it’s important to look into any specific medical requirements mandated by your study abroad country. Depending on where you’re headed, you may also want to review and schedule any required vaccines, so you can be sure you’re traveling safely and meeting all of your destination’s guidelines. 

Another important note: Be sure to pack any prescription medications (and enough to cover the length of your study abroad program).  

Tip #8: Develop the right mindset for your courses abroad.  

While your trip will certainly be an excellent adventure abroad, your studies take priority. Here are a few of our favorite tips for how to academically prepare for study abroad. 

  • Find a study buddy: Engaging in any activity is more motivating (and fun!) with a friend, so be sure to get to know those around you while you’re abroad. Your new best pal could be someone in your study abroad program, someone in your residence hall, or even someone you meet in one of your classes! 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions: It’s totally understandable that you might have questions about where your courses are held, how to get any school supplies or items you may need, or even which café has the best coffee! Asking questions will get you all the answers you need, so definitely give yourself permission to inquire about anything and everything! 
  • Dedicate time each day to your studies: Sometimes, it’s tricky to sit down and do your coursework; especially when you’ll be in an amazing new city with lots to explore. But if you carve out a specific time each day for your courses, you’ll be less likely to procrastinate on any of your work, and you’ll get it done faster, meaning you’ll actually have more time to get out afterward! Trust us on this one – you’ll thank yourself for it later!
  • Lean on us here at CIEE if you need some extra support: Adjusting to a new city and a different schedule isn’t easy. But we want you to know that we’re here to help you navigate your adventure abroad every step of the way, so reach out with any questions you may have ahead of (and all throughout) your trip! 

Tip #9: Research top attractions and sites you’d like to visit in your study abroad destination. 

This tip is a fun one! As you’re thinking about how to prepare for study abroad, you’ll want to consider the top attractions and sites you’re dying to see while you're on program. While you’ll get to go on plenty of guided cultural excursions with CIEE and see iconic landmarks, there are surely some things you’ll want to explore on your own.  

From delectable restaurants and museums to art exhibits and possible local events, the opportunities truly are endless. Hop on the internet to see what other visitors are most interested in doing or seeing when in your destination, and start marking up a list of your favorites.  

Having must-dos on your agenda while abroad will help you stay focused on your schoolwork and maximize your experience as a whole! 

eiffel tower students smiling

Tip #10: Download a few important apps before you go. 

We have a few app recommendations before you jet off – the first one: WhatsApp. It’s a smart way to feel grounded and stay connected to loved ones at home while diving into your studies abroad with full confidence! And besides, they’ll want updates on all your fascinating travels.  

We also suggest downloading a few helpful travel apps, like Hopper or Skyscanner so you can snag cheap plane tickets. Uber (if available in your study abroad destination) is also a great way to secure quick, reliable transportation (which is a MUST when you have so many amazing places to go and sights to see!). 

Having these apps easily accessible is a fantastic add-on as you’re thinking through all the steps in how to prepare for study abroad. Just make sure that any apps you choose will work in your destination! 

Read More: Don’t Leave Home Without These Travel Apps 

Make the World Your Classroom 

And there you have it! These tips are among our favorite considerations for how to prepare to study abroad. Keeping these things in mind will help you figure out how to mentally prepare for studying abroad, and once your head is in the game, we know you’ll be getting the most out of your entire experience! 

Get ready; adventure is calling!