Study Abroad Checklist

Study Abroad Checklist

Laura Tucker

Updated February 22, 2023 Updated February 22

So, you’ve been accepted onto a program at a foreign university of your choice, and are preparing to set off into the distance via plane/boat/train/parental vehicle to start your new international student life. While you’re waiting for the summer to pass and for term-time to roll on up, however, you may want to follow our study abroad checklist to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be for your trip.

Whether you’re planning to study abroad for a month, a semester, an entire academic year or a full degree, it’s vital that you think about the important, bureaucratic things like travel insurance that will help make your time abroad run as smoothly as possible. 

Read on for our study abroad checklist essentials…

1. Passport

You’re not stupid, we know that. Of course you’re not going to forget your passport. But what you may need to ensure in the run-up to your study abroad program is whether your passport will remain valid for the duration of your travels.

Many countries, in visa applications and such, will require you to have at least six months extra on your passport beyond the end of your studies, so make sure you allow for your study time, any additional travelling time, plus an additional six months.

If you do need to renew your passport, make sure you apply as soon as possible to avoid being without a passport come start of term. Processing times vary from country to country but can often take six weeks or more.

If you wait until you’re abroad before renewing your passport, you’ll have to face embassy visits, queuing and even more form-filling than usual – the last things you want when in an exciting new country!

2. Student visa

Depending on your chosen country of study you will likely have to procure a student visa in order to be allowed in the country for the full length of study. Often, if applying for an undergraduate degree at an accredited university, the school will assist with the student visa process. This is not always the case however, so make sure to ask. If no help is offered, get straight onto the job of securing your student visa yourself.

To do this you will need to contact the embassy or consulate of your country of study and may need to attend an appointment as part of your student visa application. Here you’ll be asked to bring documentation such as a university letter of approval, the aforementioned valid passport, proof of funds, and, occasionally, a return ticket for your journey home at the end your studies.

3. Finances

When considering your finances, you should make sure you have money that is safe and accessible for the duration of your travels.

Carrying the local currency is a must, but make sure you don’t rely solely on cash or withdraw large amounts of cash at a time. When converting your money make sure to do it before getting to the airport, where exchange rates are not the best. This can often be done through your local bank, travel agents, bureau de change, post office, some supermarkets or even a specialist online provider. To get the best rates, price comparison websites such as Moneysupermarket can help.

As well as cash, you should also have a bank account which you can access abroad with a cash card or credit card, through local ATMs or an international bank branch. Most major banks are internationally recognized, but you will often be charged a small fee every time you withdraw money or pay with your card. Make sure your card is valid for the duration of your trip and that you let your bank know about your travels before leaving to make sure your card isn’t blocked.

Once you know how you’re going to access your money while away, you’re going to have to spend it wisely. Whether you’re funding yourself through personal savings, a student loan, a scholarship or income from a part-time job, keeping a budget is one of the best, and hardest, things you can do to avoid being penniless at the end of each term.

Before you depart, make a list of expenses, including everything from accommodation costs to daily food and entertainment. Figure out how much money you’ll have to live on per week and, if this isn’t enough, consider cutting down on non-essentials or researching further funding options.

For more information about handling your student finances, visit our site section >

4. International student scholarships

If this talk of your finances has got you worrying, you may want to consider looking at international student scholarships to find out whether you are eligible to receive additional funding for your studies.

Your first call should be to your new university’s website, where information on all of their available student scholarships, grants and bursaries can be found. Many of these awards are subject-specific and/or needs-based, and sometimes exclusive to high-achieving or minority students. If your school doesn’t offer anything you are eligible for, outside funding is also an option. Companies such as International Scholarships provide comprehensive lists of externally funded student scholarships around the world.

All student scholarships are heavily subscribed to, however, so make sure to research scholarships well in advance of leaving for university. You’ll need to work hard on your application, and pay close attention to application deadlines.

Here at QS we also offer a number of student scholarships for postgraduate international students; for more information see the full list here.

5. International Student Identity Card (ISIC)

The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) should be on every international student’s study abroad checklist, as it offers discounts on products and services around the world. Check online to see whether the International Student Identity Card would be useful to you, and discover discounts for public transport, travel insurance, international calling cards and a number of other useful things, from phone repairs to Segway tours!

The International Student Travel Confederation, the organization behind the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), has offices in 106 countries worldwide and can offer help with many travel-related issues you may face as an international student.

6. Travel insurance

It might just look like an unnecessary cost, but, in reality, travel insurance is essential. For a small, one-off payment, travel insurance will cover you if anything happens to you during your studies – be this illness, injury or theft – and will make sure you don’t spend your entire life savings on a trip to the doctor’s! In many countries, health insurance is also a requirement for international students, and you may be asked to prove you have sufficient cover.

7. Medical

To make sure you’re fighting fit before leaving home, it’s wise to visit your doctor for a full medical check-up and to make sure you’ve had all the vaccinations you may need for your chosen study destination. For far-off countries, these vaccinations will come at a price, but rest assured your doctor will tell you if they are completely necessary.

If you need ongoing care while you’re away, make sure your doctor sends a copy of your medical records abroad. Foreign prescriptions are not always honored so it is advised that you allow yourself extra time to collect your prescription before your medication runs out.

8. Language

If you have chosen to study abroad in a country in which you do not speak the local language, fear not! Often, in many European countries as well as much of Asia, you’ll find that the locals speak at least a little bit of English. Regardless of this, you should consider taking some lessons in the local language before you depart, in order to fully interact with and immerse yourself in the culture of your study abroad country.

While learning a language used to mean taking an evening course or reading/listening to a number of ‘teach yourself’ products, nowadays smartphone apps such as Duolingo offer comprehensive language learning methods for you to pick up in your own time, with a mixture of listening, speaking and writing to help you develop a more rounded knowledge before you leave.

Should you leave your smartphone behind however, make sure to pack a phrasebook. Being able to converse with locals politely will no doubt be extremely useful, especially if lost in a new town or city!

9. Travel

First and foremost on every student’s study abroad checklist should be the means and knowledge to be able to get around and explore your new country and its culture. In order to be able to travel on a budget, not only will you have to book your initial tickets (including your return!) before you travel, but also you should consider researching means of travel for you to use once in the country.

The internet is a great tool for this, allowing you to compare prices of transport all over the world. You may also find that buying a railcard will come in handy if you plan on doing a lot of travelling by train, the same with bus or coach cards. Purchasing deals such as this before leaving home will ensure you don’t have to dig into your travel money once out there. Make sure, however, that you only buy what you’ll definitely need!

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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