How to Prepare for Your Study/Work Abroad Trip

Going abroad to study and/or intern can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. Careful planning can help avoid last-minute stress, and allow you to swiftly ease into the new environment. Below is a list of considerations for planning ahead for your journey.

  • Paperwork:
    • Immigration documents: visa, and other related forms.
      To obtain an internship visa, you may need to be sponsored by a third-party company or hiring institute; in which case, it is important to fill out the forms on your end as soon as possible, and work closely with the sponsor to prevent any delays in your visa application. There may be multiple steps in the application process which could involve an in-person interview at the consulate in the applicant’s home country. At every step, there is a wait time, so, it could take more than two months to acquire the visa stamp in your passport.
    • Hiring documents: employee number, criminal record check, etc.
      Aside from the immigration legal documents, the hiring process at many organizations don’t stop at sending out job offers. Some healthcare-related, tech companies, and national departments require criminal record checks from new employees. A criminal record check may take up to a month before the employer receives the result. Only then will they be able to give you an access badge and a work email address, and more importantly, get that payroll going.
  • Key takeaway: Initiate the process of acquiring all the paperwork as soon as possible, and make sure to have them ready at least a week before departure.


  • Funding and Budgeting:
    It goes without saying that you need to ensure that you have or will have enough money to live abroad. Expatistan, Numbeo, and Movehub give rough estimates of the living costs around the world. For more funding sources, have a look at Mitacs’ Global Link Research Award. Many Canadian universities also provide awards to support students who do research abroad, so check with your university.


  • Host country:
    • Risks and dangers: SOS International’s Travel Risk Map is a very useful tool to learn about medical, security, and road safety risks in many (if not all) cities globally.
    • Culture: To gain some understanding of the cultural etiquette in the destination country, you could reach out to friends and family members who have worked/lived there. Additionally, eDiplomat provides helpful advice. Cultural differences could play a huge role in your overall experience working abroad. In this regards, I recommend a short Nature article which offers insights wedged into anecdotes, for students who are currently or about to join a lab overseas.


  • Packing:
    • Clothing: Look up the weather pattern for the months that you’ll be in that foreign country, and pack accordingly. Bring enough to layer, and opt for versatile pieces that could be easily dressed up and down.
    • Food: Is there something from your hometown that you cannot live without? Something that you know you couldn’t find in the host country? If so, it may be a good idea to check their customs’ website to see what you can bring into the country.


  • Emergency:
    • Have a list of important contacts written on a card and stored somewhere that can be reached easily. Aside from the local emergency number, other important phone numbers are your travel insurance company, SOS International, and the Canadian consulate in the city where you’ll stay.
    • Also, if possible, do all of your research on cell phone plans, accommodations, public transit, and planning for the trip abroad while you’re still in your home country. You may not have access to the internet during the first couple of days post-arrival.
    • Lastly, if you are a Canadian, you can register for Canadians Abroad. It is free, and the Government would notify you in case of an emergency abroad.

Doing an internship abroad is an excellent opportunity to expand your network and see the world. Explore, discover, learn, take good care of yourself, and have fun! This incredible experience is yours to grab.

Have any other questions about preparing for an internship abroad? Feel free to reach out via the NSN’s NYL program. Bon voyage!

Photo Credit: PhotoPin

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