The Chance to Study Abroad
The opportunity to study abroad is an exciting way to immerse yourself in a new culture. You’ll learn much more than you might in a classroom, and you’ll experience—up close and personal—those invisible cultural expectations you carry around from your background. You will either begin to learn a new language or further your existing study of it. You’ll become acquainted with new foods, styles of dress and rules of etiquette. The opportunity is one for tremendous personal, social and educational growth.
You’re Not in Kansas Anymore
Entering a foreign country is not the same as crossing a state line on the Interstate or entering a new state’s Visitors’ Welcome Center. If you’re rolling your eyes already at the obviousness of that statement, then you haven’t heard enough travel horror stories or encountered the prerequisite number of idiots traveling overseas to make you cynical. You see, it doesn’t really matter that you’re American or Canadian or a Martian. The only thing that matters is that you have the correct documents, in the proper order, with the right-colored ink and within the certain dates required by the country in which you find yourself in the opinion of the official or soldier examining your documents. Read that sentence again. Your opinion is moot and so is that of the Aussie behind you in line.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Obviously, under the above-noted circumstance, you’d like to have the correct documents, in the proper order, with the right-colored inks and within the certain dates required by the country in which you find yourself in the opinion of the official or soldier examining your documents. In order to have the correct documents, you need only do the following prior to the occasion:
- Read the requirements, tips and suggestions from your home university and the overseas one until you can quote them verbatim.
- Actually do what the instructions advise. Purchase a study abroad insurance policy for students. Make copies of all official documents. Keep cyber copies in the cloud, one paper group at home with your parents or a friend and a second paper copy in an easy-to-locate spot among your belongings.
- Obtain a new passport if your old one has expired or will expire during your planned stay.
- Visit the embassy or consulate of the country in which you’re planning to study to obtain a student visa. In some cases, this application must be made on one day and picked up a day or three later. Find out ahead of time if this is the embassy’s policy or you may find yourself sleeping in your car for two nights.
- Obtain a student visa while still in the United States even if someone on the telephone tells you it’s okay to arrive without one and a student visa can be obtained once you’re in the country. Do not accept this suggestion unless it’s written on thick, expensive embassy stationery and signed by someone with his or her own telephone extension and full title, preferably something like “Ambassador to the United States.”
- Ask two different people at the country’s embassy if your papers are correct and in order.
- Ascertain if you have to check in with the country’s authorities and in what way within a certain time of your initial arrival. You’ll be surprised to discover how many countries require this and then fine you for not doing so when you attempt to leave for home after your study abroad is over.
Finally, register with the U.S. State Department prior to your departure and at the closest U.S. consulate or embassy post once you arrive in the new country. You really, really don’t want to be considered an illegal alien in another country