I am the kind of person that ALWAYS have the feeling that I have forgotten something. Before leaving the house, I re-check that I have indeed switched off the stove for the seventh time. Before leaving for the holiday, I re-check that my passport is indeed in my luggage for the seventeenth time. I’m not kidding. Hence, it’s not surprising that before I head off to Maryland to start my study abroad, I kept thinking… did I forgot to do something? What do I have to do now? Did I miss a step? Am I going to be stranded because I forgot to do something?
If you are like me, have no fear, because I went to Maryland happily, spent a beautiful semester and came back as a normal exchange student. I was not stranded, I was not going hungry and I was not deported. The feeling is normal.
So in this post, I want to outline the steps that I took and the things that I sort out before I went to Maryland. Of course, your situation will be different. Not everyone is a chemical engineering student going to the University of Maryland, College Park. So I am not telling you directly that these are the steps you definitely have to do. I’m going to outline the general steps and tell you the approximate timeline, but you have to personalise this timeline for your own situation. If at this point you are screaming “but I don’t know what needs to be changed!!” Fear not, friends, the lovely Study Abroad staff in the Atrium have not disappeared and always ready to help. After all, I am posting this in mid-December, so for students who are going in the first semester or for a full year, you have PLENTY of time to prepare. For students who are going in the second semester, you should have these prepared by now. Anyhow, let’s just continue and worry about the minutiae details later.
Checklist of Basic Things to Sort Out Before Going Abroad
- Accommodation (Temporary/Permanent)
- Class Registration
- Visa (and other documents you might need)
Yes, just four. Does that calm you down? Some lucky people can even cut the list down – some people don’t need a visa (but PLEASE CHECK properly!) Basically, once you got these 4, you can enter the country legally, you have a place to sleep and you can study at your host university. There are other important items too, like immunization, health insurance, but those would be specific to your situation/country/university – and let’s classify those as documents for now. Okay, let’s make a proper timeline.
(Please note that this is based on my experience and you would need to modify this to your own specific situation. Nevertheless, it contains useful information.)
Step 1: Application (June – March)
This includes both applications to the University of Manchester and University of Maryland. So I applied and finish all my Manchester paperwork in December. I was told that I am chosen to attend the University of Maryland, College Park in mid-March through MyPlacement system, and immediately had to pull myself together and finish another application to be sent to Maryland by April 1st. Yes. Thankfully the application to Maryland was almost identical to Manchester one, so it was not as time-consuming as the first one.
Step 2: Class Registration and Visa Application (and other Documents) (April – June)
Maryland officially admitted me on April 12th. Starting from April 14th, I started enrolling for classes. Note that when and how you enrol will be different for different courses/university or maybe even different students. My friends only needed to send an email to enrol in their classes and they got automatically enrolled. Did not happen to me. I could not finish enrolling for classes until I finally got to Maryland and met straight up with the Head of Undergraduate Admission for reasons that are still a mystery to me.
Visa application. Oh, the headache of visa applications. It’s just another thing to do. Thankfully both Manchester and Maryland are very helpful in giving advice on what to do and what not to do. I attended my US visa application mid-June, which you can read more on my blog here (yes, visit my blog! http://www.agondosari.com).
At this point, I also suggest that you start having immunizations if your university/country require one. Yes, the jab takes like 1 minute, but the waiting line can be quite long and to organise one last minute will just give you an unnecessary headache.
Step 3: Accommodation! (April – August?)
Congratulations! Well at this point my friends have completed their class registrations, unlike me, but I’d say that I had a special case and most students don’t have any complication regarding their class registration. So the last thing you need to do is to sort out where you are going to stay! Yippie! (Seriously, at this point you will feel the burden is finally lifted)
Depending on your university, you could probably start sorting out the accommodation straight after you got admitted. Honestly, I was being very late and completely forgotten that I have to apply for housing haha. Thankfully Maryland guarantees accommodation for exchange students, so I still got one haha.
You should also begin buying your flights, sorting health insurance and other things.
Congratulations! You made it! 😀