Before You Go Abroad: Skills You can Learn

I bought my plane ticket the other day, and this experience became real to me. I will be in another country: sleeping, eating, exploring in another country! I know that this is the time that you might start thinking, as I am, about getting practically prepared for study abroad. While you are busy looking at packing lists and reading about life abroad, there are a few basics that you can do right now to get you excited and prepared! This list includes a few useful life skills and some specifics you can tailor to your country with a little research.

Useful Life Skills

-Learn the metric system(kilograms, meters, etc) : You might have looked at this before in a class, and it is a useful skill, especially for life in other countries! Fun Fact: The U.S. is one of very few countries to not use the metric system. This is simple to research online, and I know that you can learn this easily!

-Learn to convert from fahrenheit to celsius: Again, this is probably something that you have been taught before, but you can always use a refresher course in order to ensure that you remember how to do this.

-Get a small set of business cards made and actually carry them with you: There will be multiple networking opportunities abroad, and you want to be prepared to seize each one. I don’t think I will be ordering more than thirty because many people put contacts directly into their smartphones, however, nothing says professional like a business card.

-Look over your financial situation (again) and plan out a flexible monthly budget: This is the part that can make your dreams come true. If you know what money you have to spend and can plan when and how you will spend it (with flexibility of course), then you can lightly plan some weekend trips that you would like to take while you are abroad. Do not try to plan every detail though because anything might and probably will happen, but a flexible monthly budget will help put your mind at ease. There are also apps for this!

-Store important info in a google doc so you don’t lose it (contact info, addresses, copies of important docs, etc): This will help if your phone or other information holder gets lost, is dead, or something else tragic happens. I prefer google drive because I can keep it private and access it from anywhere, but there is probably something better that I have not discovered yet.

-Look over your bank account pros and cons: I put this on life skills because it is important to know who you are trusting with your finances in any situation. If you use a small local bank (as I do), there may be problems with ATM fees, and you will most likely need to alert them that you are going overseas so that they do not freeze your account when you charge something. I am looking into swapping to a new bank account that is more friendly to travelers, and I will let you know how it goes!

Specifics- remember to tailor these to your location as necessary!

-Get an international student ID card: check out to get your ID to use in the states and abroad for discounts and to serve as evidence of your student status.

-Learn the currency system: This is important because, unless you are not planning on buying anything, you will most likely have to have some form of local currency.  This is the research I have done: the basic currency in India is the rupee, and I have an app that tells me how much the average exchange rate. I also looked at pictures of the currency and asked my Indian friends how often American dollars and/or debit cards were accepted.

-Learn a few phrases in the local language or more if you can: A basic no-brainer because making a good impression and easing your transition should be in your top priorities.

-Get a nice medium (small-ish) backpack that you can carry around:  This will be different from the large one you might use for the flight. Think walking around daily in your location and try to get something you consider cute, so that you will not mind carrying it around. You might also want to look into a weekender bag that can help with those weekend trips if your backpack is not big enough.

-Get travel journal together and decide what you want to collect, if anything: coins for countries, stamps maybe, postcards, rocks, stickers of some sort, the list goes on. There are so many cute ideas for how to create a travel journal. I am thinking of buying a nice, sturdy journal from the store and sticking pictures and other souvenirs in it to organize weekly. I would recommend journaling in some way, blog or written journal, to keep up with how you feel in the moment.

I haven’t been abroad yet and would love to hear your ideas as to what you did or wish you did before you went abroad!

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5 thoughts on “Before You Go Abroad: Skills You can Learn

  1. Interesting article. Enjoyed reading it.
    Few quick points from my side-
    1) Know your Food- India is well known for its glorious cuisine range. There’s always something delicious for one’s taste buds. However you should be aware of what you are eating before trying out a new thing. Every Indian dish consists of a blend of spices and herbs that might not be explicitly mentioned over the food menu. If you are allergic to anything (like peanuts), let your friends know. (Had an incident with my foreign friend :P). Feel free to check with the Chef.

    2) Google Maps is your best friend. While traveling to a place use Google maps for navigation. 99% of times they are accurate and street smart.

    3) Always carry with you important contact numbers written over a piece of paper (rather than relying solely on your cellphone) while going out.

    Hope this helps. Wish you a great trip. 🙂
    Welcome to India!


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