You may think your study abroad experience is going to be all fun and games but in its early stages, I’ve found that it’s anything but. While I know it’ll be more than worth it in the end, it’s a lot to handle: Not only is there paperwork for your home university but sometimes there’s also the added benefit (note the sarcasm) of applying for a visa. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process so far:
Don’t expect to understand what the website tells you right off the bat. (It IS the government, after all.) Figuring out what they want is a task that needs a translator so be thorough in your research, ask your study abroad adviser and call/email the country’s council or consulate. I know I did!
Efficiency is expected. For the United Kingdom, incomplete online applications will only be saved for a week. After your appointment at an application center for them to collect your “biometric data” – this scary term just means fingerprints and a photo – your entire application must be sent within two weeks. Make sure you have what you need before applying, if at all possible.
If you need to send a confirmation of acceptance for studies (aka CAS) to prove you’re legitimately studying in that country, get on that ASAP. I didn’t realize that even though I’ve been accepted to the study abroad program, I still have to apply for a CAS and I’m freaking out about missing my deadline. Save yourself the extra stress and check with someone at your university abroad to see if you need this before applying.
Getting a visa is clearly no picnic, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. See if your parents can send you bank statements and other documents you may not have on hand. Your study abroad advisers and the country’s council know more about this than you do so pick their brains and ask questions.
Most importantly, though, remember the stress will pay off. In a few months, you’ll be abroad and having the time of your life! [...]