When I signed up to go to school abroad, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew it would be difficult to apply for an Italian VISA (I was warned) but, I never knew exactly what that meant until now. Hopefully, this post will help shed some light on the complexity about applying for a student visa and generally, preparing for studying abroad.
Side note: Every country will have their own set of requirements and mine is solely base off of applying for Milan, Italy as an American.
1. Find out your priorities (Do this 1 year in advance). When I thought about what I wanted out of my study abroad program, I made a decision base off of skills, budget and language. I started with 10 different schools that I was interested in and then, I started eliminating them and ended up with my top 5. Yours will be different. For me, it helped to create an excel sheet that listed its advantages and disadvantages for each country/institution.
2. Reach out to previous students (Do this 8 months in advance). Once you narrow down your top 3 or top 5 schools, find out everything you can about each university. The best information you can find are previous students who have gone to that school. They are your best insight in what to expect from that specific school and the city. They’ve been there and have done that.
The students I managed to get a hold of were the best. They answered most of my questions and have given me valuable information about my chosen program. I am very thankful for their help to this day (you know who you are) !
3. Time difference. I wish I had known ahead of time that I needed to mentally prepare about waking up at 3am. It was not fun. Some schedules you can negotiate but, others you can’t (i.e. group interviews).
Also, in addition to waking up early, let’s not forget about juggling between current work schedule and setting up all of the school administrative affairs. I truly learned the meaning of being ultra flexible & patient. Some were great at accommodating with the time difference and others were not.
What helped me focus was using my world clock app on my Iphone & alarm to gauge the time difference. It was a true savior!
4. Get accepted at your chosen university. This one is a no brainer. Make sure you get in to your school before the deadline and/or before you start applying for your visa.
5. Student VISA Checklist. Read everything in detail. For a student visa, you can only apply 90 days prior to the start date of your school. I failed to read this tiny detail (but, a huge deal) on their website and I was denied the visa. Basically, I was 2.5 weeks too early and I had re-send my documents via mail.
General Consulate in L.A. requirements are found on their website:
6. Money & Bank. Dealing with the bank is one of the top 5 frustrations about moving abroad. Help for funding schools abroad is non-existent unless your school falls under this list https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools/types/international. Mine, unfortunately, was not on that list. My 2 options were getting a personal loans through a bank & savings.
a.) Bank: I would ask your school first about funding to see if, they provide any sort of help. If not, ask what the previous students have done in terms of school support. Otherwise, get loans through a bank. I used Wells Fargo for my Personal Loans.
- Personal Loans Approval: base on credit history + bank relationship + current funds + plans of use + assets + amount requested. (It takes 2 days to get a response)
- Type of Bank to use abroad: use Charles Schwab. I wish I knew about this bank before I made my first 2 transactions in paying my tuition. It would’ve saved me hundreds of dollars. Read this http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/avoid-paying-bank-fees-traveling/
b. Savings. First, check what immigration requires. For Italy, it was suggested to have $1,000 a month. Do the math. You will definitely need a certain amount of money as a buffer. This is where loans come into play, savings and possibly, your parents help 😉
7. Find Your Apartment: This one is also at the top 5 frustrations about moving abroad. A separate post will be written soon but, I’ve listed a few notes to keep in mind below.
- Get yourself a currency converter app. I use eCurrency and it’s free.
- Ask your school for accommodation options. They’ll usually have an agency they’ve already been working with.
- Check out apartment websites.
- Use Social Media.
- Ask friends or relatives who may know people in Milan for recommendations and advice.
8. Health Insurance: Below are some health insurance options (first check what the visa requires).
9. Round-trip Flights: Anywhere you travel to Europe coming from L.A. will cost you at least $1,000 (blame it on $500+ taxed incurred; your flight is actually only around $200+). However, if you are a travel junkie and have air-miles accumulated, then use it. A few things to consider below:
- Fly from LAX to MXP (Malpensa, IT)
- Approx. 12 hours & 36 min. flight.
- There are no direct flights to Milan from L.A.
- Try to fly to a US territory for your layover to keep your luggage from getting lost.
- Use Skyscanner to compare monthly prices.
10. Haters. I debated about listing this one on here but, sadly it needs to be brought up. There has been countless times where, I’ve had people question my motives rather than supporting the idea of trying to better myself. I don’t want to spend time elaborating further on it but, I do want to thank every single person who helped me get to this point. You are my inspiration, my rock and my everything.
To keep the names private, I’m using nicknames or abbreviations instead. THANK YOU to mom, dad, family, new bff, Linda, Mikals, boss lady, boss man, BBD, Lobster, Marteen, Bravo, SG & Ceci.