Hey everyone. I’m again writing to you from still at home in the US.
As I have been scrambling to get things together, I figured I would share with you things that I am having to get done “pre-pre-departure”; that is, things needed to be situated well before the departure date in order to ensure an easy trip.
–PASSPORT: This is the first, first, FIRST thing that needs to get handled if you plan on leaving the country. And I don’t mean like 6-weeks ahead of time. I mean months. You never know what may happen while you’re trying to renew your passport. For instance, when I renewed mine in 2015, the first one they sent back to me got lost in the mail, so I didn’t even get my passport until well past the time period it was estimated to arrive (even though I paid for expedited shipping :\) That being said, you definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute to take care of this only to be faced with a train wreck when something goes amiss. Get this done ASAP.
–VISAS: There are different rules for obtaining visas for different countries, and they mainly differ depending on the nation where you have citizenship. Make sure you check up on the rules regarding visas well before you leave. Often, if you are staying less than a certain time in a country (e.g. 30 days, 60 days), they won’t require a visa. But make sure to quadruple-check this. Getting a visa definitely takes less time than getting a passport; I received my Korean visa within two weeks of submitting all of the necessary document to the Consulate (p.s. make sure you find out where the Consulate/Embassy for your state is located). You also need to take into consideration that they often want you to include more than just the application in the package you send them. For Korea, they wanted bank statements, Certification of Business Registration and some other documents (the latter two provided by the university I’ll be studying at). But on top of that, they wanted a TB skin test–which they only told me after I had sent in my package containing all the documents detailed on their website. So as you can see, again, there are many unforeseen ways that the process can very easily become more lengthy than initially thought to be. I am guilty of not being quick enough to start this particular process, so I will emphasize (again), get this done. ASAP.
–MEDICATIONS: This won’t apply to everyone, but I am mentioning it because it is SUPER important. If you have a medical condition that requires you to take prescribed medications, start addressing this as soon as possible. First, find out if it is even legal where you’re going. For instance, amphetamines are EXTREMELY PROHIBITED in East Asian countries (which happens to be what I take for my narcolepsy). So I have had to do extensive research to find a substitute that is permitted where I’m going. On top of that, you need to find out how you will get access to these meds while you are abroad. Can you import it to your destination? Will you have to go to a specific doctor? Are there any of those doctors in the vicinity where you’ll be staying? Will the doctor speak English? Can you buy it without insurance (without breaking the bank)? If you have coverage from your insurance company back home, can you get them to cover the costs? Get in touch with your point of contact(s) in the nation(s) you’re going to (as well as your physician(s) and insurance company) for help with these questions. I am still trying to sort things out, and I will admit, it is tedious and frustrating. So get started on this one ASAPASAPASAP.
–TECHNOLOGY: This is less important than the prior ones (as far as possibly making-or-breaking your ability to travel), but come on; in this day and age, who is gonna be traveling without some form of technology? The most important one that you want to check up on is your cell phone. If you will be using an overseas plan from your cellular provider in your come country, this becomes less important. [Note: This doesn’t seem to be the ideal route; even the rep at AT&T advised me against going for their international plan.] Whether you’ll do this or opt for a SIM card from your destination, you still want to spend a bit of time finding out whether your cell phone will work where you’re going. For instance, it turns out that my iPhone 5 (yes, I know, its “soooo old”) isn’t entirely compatible with the frequencies that they use in East Asia. So I will likely be getting a new phone before going. Also, if you are going to choose to buy a SIM card in the country you’re traveling to, MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS UNLOCKED. If you are under contract or still paying off your phone, it’s probably not unlocked, and you won’t be able to use it with another SIM card or mobile carrier. I was informed that to get an unlocked iPhone now, I have to buy it straight from the Apple retailer. So I’ll likely be doing that soon.
Another aspect to keep in mind are outlets. Your intended destination may not have the same outlet shape or voltage as your home country, so your appliances may not work either. Plugging in an incompatible device could be dangerous, so you really want to stay on the safe side with this issue. For me, that meant investing in an outlet strip that doubles as a travel adaptor and voltage converter. Some quick online searches will give you the answers for questions concerning this, so make sure to do them so you don’t end up *shocked* upon arrival.
OTHER IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS: In a foreign land, you are always better off safe than sorry. This being said, you need to gather documentation of all the things we take for granted while at home. And not only will you need the documents, but COPIES of them. I want you to become best friends with copiers and scanners before you leave. Copies of passports, visas, insurance documents, admissions documents, identification cards, ALL OF IT. And having a PDF version saved on your computer or a thumb drive puts you in an even better position (**gold stars for those who do this**). Keep these documents in a nice designated folder in a safe place (but keep some of these things on your person as well, like copies of passports and the like). We don’t want to think of unfortunate scenarios, but if you’re in a rut things will be undoubtably better when you have easy access to these kinds of documents.
Once my take-off date comes a little closer, I’ll come back to you guys to share my pre-departure routine.