Tips Before Your Study Abroad Application

This read is for university students studying abroad. I want to provide some tips for students of things that they can prepare beforehand so that their study abroad journey will be as smooth as possible.

My name is Catherine and I attend UC San Diego as a Cognitive Science Major. I will be studying abroad for the fall semester in France at the University of Bordeaux through the UCEAP Program. I am definitely excited for this unique chapter in my life but I also find it very difficult understanding all of the requirements, paperwork, process, etc. I thought applying would be easy as filling an application and paying for the money. However, it is much more complex than expected.

So here are some of my top tips that I have learned so far! I hope these tips are broad enough to be applicable to most study abroad programs.

1. Renew your passport ASAP

Most likely, your passport is expired by now and having a passport is crucial to traveling abroad. Find out the nearest location that helps you with the passport process. If there is a passport office at your university campus, renew your passport there. Another tip: Ask for extra copies of your passport photographs (maybe 3–5) when you renew your passport. You may need them later on when you apply for a visa or for another requirement for your application. This is something I did not do and regret because I have to take more passport photos.

2. Have a personal printer that can scan, copy, and print

There are going to be many documents and identification pictures you will have to show to multiple organizations. If you are applying for a student visa when going abroad, most likely you will need to have originals and copies of your acceptance letter, passport, driver’s license, flight information, etc. Having a printer on hand that can scan, copy, and print will be life saver so you can print documents on your own and not depend on campus printers.

3. Research major airports

Your study abroad program may or may not book flight tickets for you. If they do not, you will need to do your research on finding the best tickets in advance. I have noticed that major airports have cheaper flights to countries abroad so know where the big airports are in your country. For me, I have found that Los Angeles and New York (JFK) are the major airports to France.

4. Have email addresses of contacts ready at hand

You are going to have a lot of questions and need to have clear communication with advisors and supervisors. Make a list of who to contact for what type of information and their email addresses to help you. Why not visit them in person or call them? I have tried both and the best responses are from email. If you visit in person, they will not be in the office or tell you they prefer an email. If you call, you may be redirected many times before you receive a direct person or be sent straight to a voicemail. So yes, email is best. As of right now I have five major contacts I have handy.

  • Major Advisor: My major advisor assists with advising for my cognitive science major courses that I may take abroad.
  • College Advisor: My college advisor assists with advising for my general education requirements that I may take abroad.
  • UC San Diego Study Abroad France Coordinator: The France Coordinator at my home university assists with the application process and scholarship information.
  • UCEAP France Program Coordinator: The Program Coordinator assists with visa requirements, flight information, and housing situation.

As you can see each level of contact is different and this list will grow as I continue my study abroad process so having email addresses to ask various questions will be important.

5. Get to know a professor or TA

Yes, this is probably the hardest task but some study abroad programs and study abroad scholarships require a letter of recommendation. If you already have a professor or TA in mind that would be able to write you a letter of recommendation, you will not have to worry later on about even considering taking opportunities just because you do not know a professor or TA.

This happened to me. I wanted to apply for a study abroad scholarship but I was not going to apply because it required an academic letter of recommendation. I did not solidly know a professor or TA because at a UC school, classes are too big and we as students don’t take the time to get to know them. However, I took 2 classes with a TA that I really appreciated. I hoped that she remembered my face because I went to some of her office hours and discussions. I decided to muster up my courage and reached out to a TA to write me a letter of recommendation. She agreed and I was able to apply for the scholarship. So, I challenge you to get to know a professor or TA beforehand so you do not worry when the time comes for a letter of recommendation.

These are some of my tips for those who are planning to study abroad. As you can see these are tips that no one tells you about when you apply and I definitely wish I knew these tips beforehand. I hope you found this useful and please feel free to comment to start a conversation, provide more tips, etc. Thanks for reading ❤