Your Study Abroad Checklist: What to Think About Before Departing to the US to Study for Your Master's Degree

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Your Study Abroad Checklist: What to Think About Before Departing to the US to Study for Your Master's Degree

Preparing for the school year is hard work no matter where in the world you decide to attend university. However, preparing to study for your Master’s Degree abroad – a degree that is bound to require much more of your time and attention than your undergraduate degree did – can be overwhelming. You want everything to be in place so that when the school year starts, you can focus on your studies and not all the small details of living in a new country. While there is nothing we can do to ease the culture shock you might experience or to overcome the language barrier, we can provide you with a helpful checklist to which you can refer as you prepare in the months leading up to your adventure.

  • Start Shopping for Insurance

    We bet you didn’t expect this to be on the list. However, you never know what bumps you may encounter during your stay abroad. For instance, what if you get sick or break your leg? What happens if your flight is cancelled or you miss your connection? What will you do if you need a vehicle but cannot rent one because of your lack of car insurance? What if you need to fly home because of an emergency? There is no telling what might happen while you’re away from home, so it’s best to be prepared. There are dozens of insurance options available for study abroad students, but there are three which you should concern yourself with: Trip cancellation protection Medical emergencies and evacuation coverageTuition reimbursement Work with an agency that specializes in study abroad policies, as their agents likely know exactly what you need ensure a comfortable, safe and affordable stay. Additionally, consider your own risks when shopping around for a policy. If you’re prone to illness, increase your limits on your healthcare policy. If you’re notoriously late for events, you may want to back your flight ticket just to be safe. If you’re a homebody and not sure if this whole study abroad thing is right for you, protect your tuition payment with tuition reimbursement coverage. Insurance is an investment, but it’s one that can save you thousands in the long run.

  • Get the Documentation You Need

    There are two forms of documentation you need to study for your Master’s Degree in the US: a passport and a student visa. Your passport serves as your identity and is necessary to actually get to the US. Once there, you will need your passport for a number of reasons, including but not limited to buying books, using your credit or debit card and applying to internships and jobs. You should apply for your passport as soon as you start applying to schools. It typically takes six to eight weeks to get a passport in the mail. While you can expedite it to arrive within a week of ordering it, doing so costs hundreds of dollars that you could spend on something else, like books or your flight ticket. A passport is not sufficient documentation for an international student. In addition to your passport, you must have a student vsia. There are two types of student visas: F and M. Because you plan to study at a university, you will need to obtain an F visa. There are steps you need to take when applying for your visa, which you can find here. In brief, those steps include: Apply to an SEVP-approved school and get accepted. Once enrolled, you will be added to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The school will send you a Form I-20, which you must fill out and bring to your US Embassy or Consulate in order to apply for your visa. Hang onto this form as you will need it again for your interview. Complete Form DS-16, or the Online Nonimmigrant Visa application. Print it out after submitting and bring it along to your interview. Schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. Pay the non-refundable visa application fee. You can obtain your visa up to 120 days before the first day of the semester. However, you will not be able to enter the US more than 30 days before the start date.

  • Purchase Your Flight Ticket

    Once you’ve purchased the necessary insurance, obtained a passport and been approved for a student visa, you are safe to buy your plane ticket. You may be tempted to purchase your ticket six months before your departure date but doing so may cost you more than necessary…much more. The ideal time to buy an international flight is three months ahead of time. It is right around that time that tickets are generally the lowest. Sites like Expedia are beginning to offer price match guarantees, so even if you do find a cheaper price later on, you can call them up and get a refund. However, they may not do this for all flight tickets, and some airlines may not participate, so do not count on that.

  • Get Your Banking in Order

    Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China and Bank of Communications are all top banks in China. BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole are three of the top eight retail banks in France. Commonwealth Bank, New Zealand Banking Group, National Australia Bank and Wespac are Australia’s Big Four. As you can see, every country has its own set of high-powered banks that citizens use, in addition to several hundred different credit unions and private banks. Though you may be able to access your bank account easily now, when you get to the US, you’ll have a hard time finding a Commonwealth Bank or an Agricultural Bank of China. America’s top banks include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase and CitiGroup. Each bank is more popular throughout different regions, and there are some regions in which the main banks are few and far between. Before leaving for your host country, do your research to locate a bank where you can keep small sums of money, just in case. While your debit card will still work in the US, you shouldn’t rely only on that card. Split it up just in case a retailer or utility company requires a check or a domestic card. Additionally, call your own bank ahead of time and let it know that you will be studying abroad. There’s nothing worse than going to the grocery store, filling up your cart and having the cashier tell you that your card has been declined. Finally, take off any secondary password protections for your online accounts. Many banks send an alert when they detect logins from unfamiliar IP addresses and devices. If you don’t want a notification every time you check your account balance, change the settings.

  • Get a Doctor Lined Up

    This is a necessary step if you have ongoing health concerns such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or any other condition that requires frequent and constant medical care. It can take a while to find a physician who accepts new patients, and one who is willing to take on an international student. The chore becomes even more difficult if you do not have the right insurance, or any insurance for that matter. By researching doctors in advance of your departure, you can save time, hassle and a possible health emergency when you get to your final destination.

  • Get Your Prescriptions Lined Up

    Just like it is important for you to have a physician lined up before your arrival, it is also essential that you set something up for your prescriptions. Some prescriptions may not be available in the US, or some may cost much more in your host country than they do in your home country. The best thing you can do for your ongoing prescriptions is to coordinate with your doctor and have him or her fill the prescription for the duration of your program. If you jet off without ensuring that your new country has the specific drug you need, you may unwittingly create serious health problems for yourself. Additionally, perform a quick Google search on the names of over-the-counter medications that you may possibly need. Every country is likely to have a different name for each different drug, and it would be good to know the common terminology for things like Ibuprofen, cough syrup and other common OTC meds. Preparing to study abroad can be both exciting and overwhelming all at once. From ensuring that you have the right insurance to gathering all of the necessary documentation, and from purchasing a plane ticket to covering your healthcare needs, there are a lot of minor details you need to deal with before you get on the plane. Hopefully, with this checklist as your guide, the process can be a little more fun and a lot less daunting. For more information on what you need to do to prepare for your adventures abroad, reach out to the team at SchoolApply, or sift through their resources for more information on what you can expect from life as an international MS student.

Levels Explained

  • Bachelor's

    A bachelor's degree (also called a first degree or undergraduate degree) is attained after receiving a post-secondary (high school) education and generally spans four years. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as bachelor or undergraduate students. A bachelor's degree is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university.

  • Master's

    A master’s degree (or postgraduate or graduate education) involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees. This degree is preceded by a bachelor’s degree and generally takes two years to complete. Students pursuing these types of degrees are commonly referred to as master's, or grad students.

  • Pathway

    Bachelor’s and master’s pathway programs are designed for international students who need additional English language and academic preparation before continuing to a degree program at a university. The purpose of these programs are to give students the confidence and skills needed to succeed in college.