Alex Oetzell

When the ideal program has been chosen, take a look at all the requirements to attend this specific program. For instance, my program required me to have one semester of an Italian language course, which I took at San Diego State University. 

Studying abroad does not have to break the bank. I would also look into any scholarships to help cover the fees of studying abroad. Keep in mind many financial aid packages can be used for study abroad as well.

Here is a basic checklist for things to do before moving abroad:

  1. Notify your bank and tell them what countries you're going to and for how long. You can call or notify them online.
  2. Make an appointment to go to your local embassy to obtain your student visa.
  3. ​Get your passport, and extra passport photos. Often your passport must be good for 6 months after you plan on returning to the USA. ​
  4. Cancel your phone plan, or obtain an international plan.
  5. Obtain international travel insurance. 
  6. Make sure all class requirements are up to date

It's important to tell your bank where you are going, otherwise banks will assume fraud. Take a look at a map and make a list of any potential countries you might plan on visiting, and tell your bank all the places they might see your card being active. 

To get a student visa for your country, often you must go to the embassy directly. You will be interviewed, and sometimes this takes time and approval, so make scheduling any appointments at the embassy your priority. When I applied for the student visa, I needed letters from the University in English and Italian, which the CSU study abroad provided. I had to fill out the VISA application, extra passport photos, my passport and cash for the fee. Once I arrived in Italy, I had to go register myself with the police. 

​Print a lot of passport photos, maybe 30 or more. I used so many on paperwork I filled out in the US and on arrival in Italy there was still quite a bit of paperwork which required passport photos. It's always nice to have them on hand. If you a COSTCO member, they are really inexpensive. 

On arrival to my study abroad program, the first few days are a whirlwind, and can be overwhelming. You meet your new classmates, attend an orientation, and adjust to a new time zone. You explore your new city with your new friends, and in some cases meet your host family.

​If not living with a host family, and not provided with housing by your school, you will have to find your own housing. You can room with others from the program, or with locals. I found my apartment from a list of landlords that enjoyed renting to study abroad students. Some students went out dining, drinking and dancing every single waking hour their first week and met Italians looking for roommates. Others went on Craigslist and Facebook housing groups, or the local version

​For the duration of your time abroad, keep an eye on the exchange rate for the currency your country uses. If it drops to be in your favor, head to the nearest Bank ATM to grab your monthly rent money.

Traveling on holidays and breaks is common. It can also be affordable with budget airlines. Be on your toes with budget airlines, many of them will try to charge you extra on travel insurance, overpacked bags and forgetting to print your boarding pass before you arrive at the airport. Budget airlines are not the only option. Overnight busses can be incredibly affordable, especially if tickets are purchased in advance. Traveling to hostels is another great way to save money, but don't forget to lock up your personal items when you're out for the day though.

My favorite thing to do was to travel according to festivals and seasons. For example, in October, I flew to Germany for Octoberfest. During Christmas, I flew to Belgium for the famous Christmas markets. And when summer came I flew out to England for the Stonehenge solstice festival. 

​Reach out to locals and try to make friends, they can help you so much! Not only can locals help you with classes, but they can help you find great places to eat and recommend places to save money. 

Take lots of photos of your new school, new friends, and bookmark your favorite places to eat and enjoy. Studying abroad with your new classmates will be looked back on as such a memorable time in your life.

Study Abroad


Studying abroad is a very valuable time to travel, emerse yourself in a culture, and to push your boundaries and go outside your comfort zone. I spent my senior and final year of college studying Art in Florence, Italy.

Finding a program

While searching for a country to study, I looked at different programs and locations, and which one would suit me and my studies best. Florence was perfect. I was studying Studio Art, and where better than the birth of the Renaissance. 

​I was attending San Diego State University, and the program I was interested in was called CSU International, Firenze. Firenze translates to Florence in Italian. I spoke with some of my art teachers and counselor, and they all highly recommended the program. I also had a lot of help finding the program in our University's Study Abroad Center.

​There are third party study abroad programs available, but whether through your University or through a third party or as an student exchange, I would recommend making sure all your credits will transfer over from the foreign university. Take a look with your counselor to be sure you know which classes you need to graduate, and what you can complete overseas. The junior year is the most popular year to study abroad in a four year bachelors program, but I chose to go my final, senior year.  

Look into what is best to help you get classes to graduate, and consider all options with your budget as well. One year, one semester, summer course or even for 2 weeks.​ There are also internships abroad as well as classes.

On Arrival