Week 2: Preparing
Well I did it, it took me 6 tries but I did it, I packed 4 months in 2 suitcases…okay and my carry on (which is packed with clothes and shoes).
Packing is just one small part of preparing for my journey. This week I am going to go over ALL preparation, so if any of you readers plan on doing a study abroad program you can get an idea of the steps ahead.
First things first, make sure your passport is valid for your trip and up to 6 months after you plan on returning. Check online to find out if the country you are travelling to requires you to have a Visa. Luckily for me, mine didn’t but make sure to do this early on to give yourself lots of time because they can take up to 8 weeks. If you do not require a Visa, check the rules. You may require some other sort of documentation. You should have some sort of (acceptance) letter to present to immigration when you get off the plane. When I spoke with immigration upon arrival, I was told to sit to the side at first just so they could ask me some questions. This is normal since I was staying for 4 months and not the regular 10 days. If this happens to you, don’t worry. Once I presented my letter from the school and answered general questions I was good to go.
Another important task is getting your credits in order. Make sure your credits match up to credits at your school and that you can transfer them over when you return (if applicable). In the event that they aren’t already set up, faculty at the school can always help you with this (credit transfer, program coordinators etc). If it changes up your semester layout at all, there are multiple options for online/Ontario Learn if you’re worried about getting behind.
The next item on the list is to arrange for accommodations. This didn’t really apply to me in this case because I was attending on a special program and the arrangements were basically made for me. I didn’t end up getting my first choice but I think the place I ended up with will be better, seeing as it is right in the city and very close to shopping. Before I get to my ultimate residence – I will be staying in a house with 4 other people and sharing a room for two weeks. Then I will move into my “temporary permanent” housing. This is an apartment with my own room and a shared bathroom, kitchen and common area with one or two other people. Of course don’t forget to pay for that! You will most likely get an invoice via e-mail from the school. The cost of accommodations for me was about $4000 for my entire stay. This included Wi-Fi, cable, washer/dryer, dishwasher, toaster, kitchen supplies etc., PLUS (and this is my favourite part) people come in and clean all shared spaces every weekend. Can’t complain!
Next was….booking my flight!! This is an incredibly exciting part of preparing. Booking your flight definitely makes it feel more real. I had help from one of the most awesome ladies I know, Corinne Whitney who works in the International Centre AND as a travel agent! I personally preferred the option of booking round-trip because then it is all booked and paid for and I won’t have to worry about it at a later date. I also arranged with the school for a bus to take me to the bus station in Galway since I flew into Shannon and it is about an hour’s drive. Flight and airport transportation costs were about $900.
Then an INCREDIBLY important step, insurance!! You must have this to travel. I purchased student insurance through the school and it worked out to be about $220 Canadian which isn’t too bad. I am also covered under my parents’ travel insurance so you should check to see what additional coverage may be available to you.
There will also be a number of forms you will need to sign with the school. I do recommend Registering at a Canadian Government Abroad. You can do this online. It just notifies the Government that you are in another country and in the event of any emergencies they know you are there. Finally there are all the last minute things you will have to do. Many of them sound funny and you would never think of them but they are things you should consider, such as:
- Make any last appointments you need to before going away (dentist, orthodontist, doctors, eye doctor, vaccines, physiotherapy, chiropractor, massage therapist etc.
- Pick up prescriptions, enough for time away (if applicable)
- Exchange your money to the proper currency
- Buy an International phone plan (approx. $300 / 4 months for my plan)
- Buy any kind of cold/headache medication you might need (you can’t always get it in other countries)
- Remember seasons! If you are away for multiple seasons you want to pack clothes for the changing weather
- Budget for food/personal spending-research the cost of living in the country you are travelling to
- Make sure you have credit cards/debit cards you can use that will work abroad and maybe an extra one for emergencies.
- Buy a plug converter/adapter (different countries have different wall plugs so you will need to buy the correct one for the country you are travelling to
- Research the country you’re visiting and make a list of things you want to see during your time there. There will be lots to see and do and at some point your duration may not seem long enough for all the places you want to see
- Pack wise and don’t pack the things you don’t need. Things like blankets, towels etc can be purchased there and left behind at the end. Save the space for the things you do need to bring along. You will likely have to pay for every bag packed so make the most of your space/weight.
- Know your plan. Map out your route and know where you’re going when you get there and the things you’ll need to buy right away.
- SAVE!! Consider asking grandma or your favourite aunt for money at Christmas/Birthday instead of a gift.
There was lots to do and it may not all have been overly fun but I had LOTS of help from my amazing family and all the incredibly kind, hardworking people in the International Centre at Georgian College.
It’s hard to ever feel prepared for such a big journey and it can feel a little scary at times but I won’t ever let that hold me back I am ready for the incredible adventure that awaits me.
Ready or not Ireland… here I come.