Pre-departure preparations are probably the worst part of traveling for me; there are so many tasks to complete and so many ends to tie! I for one am not a fan of packing, but it unfortunately is not something that can be skipped or avoided before going abroad for any lengthy period of time. At least I don’t pack as much as many people do! This isn’t just so I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it, but also because I don’t want to worry about surcharges and what not from the airlines for having too much luggage. Honestly, they’ll do anything for the extra money these days…
On another note, it’s so exciting to thing think that in just a week I will be in Istanbul! I wish that I could just be there now and skip everything in between; alas I must wait and finish tying off loose ends—not to mention practice my Turkish! That makes me think of an important point to keep in mind: Some of you may need to apply independently for a visa to study in your program. I don’t know how things are done in other countries such as those in the E.U., but I know that you must apply for a Turkish education visa BEFORE arriving in Turkey. This is important to remember, because if you don’t you will get to Turkey and have to go back to the States and apply for your education visa (I’m sure you’d rather not have to pay for an extra flight, and don’t forget about the environment. Poor atmosphere has enough plane fumes in it already).
Another essential document for international travel is, of course, your passport. Lucky for me, I have had a passport for a few years and don’t have to worry about getting a new one. Yay! For those who don’t have one or whose will expire before they return to America: APPLY FOR YOUR PASSPORT EARLY! It would suck to not be able to study abroad simply because you couldn’t get a passport in time.
If you applied for any scholarships such as I did, you will have to make sure you have everything finalized and set before leaving. If you receive the Gilman scholarship like me and also have like $3 in your bank account (barely enough to buy lunch, let alone a plane ticket!), then try to get your documents in ASAP so that you can get your funds and buy that ticket. A great thing about studying in Turkey is that the Turkish Language is viewed as a critical language by the U.S. government and Turkey is also an untraditional place to study abroad. This basically means that there are many scholarships that you are eligible for when applying. I highly encourage applying for the Gilman scholarship, the Hutton International Experience Scholarship, and as many CIEE scholarships as you can! It just takes some time to complete the applications, and it will definitely pay off if you get even one scholarship.
Previous knowledge of Turkish is not required for the program I’m doing, but I suggest learning a bit of the language, even if only some basic phrases, before going abroad. I may be biased since I am a nerd who is completely obsessed with foreign languages, but I believe that knowing some of the language can enrich your experience so much and open so many doors while abroad! I can’t wait to be standing in the streets of Istanbul, eating some cheap and delicious simit (Turkish bagel) and chatting with strangers using my newfound language skills.
Bon Appétit! Or as they say in Turkish, Afiyet Olsun!