How to Prepare for a Multi-Country Study Abroad Program

by Michael Tyler

There are many reasons for you to select a multi-country study abroad program, and this is especially true for the first time traveler. It is difficult to choose among so many great places to go, so with a multi-country study abroad program, you can visit several countries on your to-do list during just one program abroad. During a multi-country study abroad program, you can decide where you would like to visit again through a future study abroad trip or with family and friends. With a multi-country study abroad program, you get to see many more places and experience the diversity of the cities and countries you visit. However, without question, you will need to investigate, plan and prepare in advance, to make the most out of the multi-country experience.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte

Discovering the brilliant work of Picasso and Salvador Dalí at the museum

Here are some things you should consider before embarking on a multi-country study abroad program:

Traveling Between Countries

Some of your time abroad will be spent on planes, trains, buses, or private coaches. You are on a multi-country study abroad program and need to get from one country to another. Depending on the mode of transportation, this could mean very long and sometimes uncomfortable travel between countries. You need to investigate before you sign up for a multi-country study abroad program to find out how you will get from place to place and how much of your time will be spent on inter-country transportation.

If you choose a multi-country study abroad program that travels by slower modes of transportation (e.g. coaches or buses), you will lose some of your time in the countries you should be exploring, and you should know this. On the other hand, in some countries, the means of transportation is part of the experience. For example, if you are doing a multi-country study abroad program in Europe, taking a high-speed train or an overnight train with a sleeper is part of the European experience. If you will be traveling by coach or bus, make sure you have a good travel pillow, a good book, and some good music to listen to. Even better, try to get some sleep so you will be ready to go, when you arrive in the new country.

Tour guide explaining something to tourists

A walking tour is a great way to get to know all the secrets of a new city.

Packing Light

Moves between countries, especially with larger groups, is not easy. Some multi-country study abroad programs have a hub in one or more cities, where you can store larger or heavier bags. You will travel for a few days or a week, and then return to this hub city where you can re-stock. However, some multi-country study abroad programs do not have this luxury, and you will need to carry everything you bring with you from country to country. Once again, you'll want to know before you go!

Regardless, you should probably pack light. Remember, you will want to buy souvenirs and gifts, and if you do, you'll need to carry them. If you accumulate too much to carry, you should ship some of what you have back home; it will make your life easier and save you from very expensive airline overweight bag charges on your trip back home. If you don’t ship some home, remember that it is cheaper to have an extra rather than an overweight bag. If you are going to join a multi-country study abroad program (or study abroad in any way), you should make yourself familiar with airline policies.

Cooking class in Europe

Learning to cook local food is almost as good as eating it.

When traveling between countries, a general rule of thumb is that you should be able to carry what you take. You should bring sturdy luggage with good wheels, because you don’t want your bag to fall apart or your wheels to break; this is a nightmare and usually happens at the worst possible time and place. Finally, don’t forget to consider the local customs and cultural expectations when it comes to clothing in each country you plan to visit.

Staying in Touch

If you are going to study abroad in one country, you can usually get a sim card with an inexpensive phone for keeping in touch with other program participants. When traveling from country to country, this isn’t so easy. You can buy a new sim card and insert it in the inexpensive phone in each country, but this can be a pain. Texting or messaging may be cheaper, but investigate. Contact your cell phone provider before you embark on your study abroad trip and investigate their international plan to see what the cost per minute in each one of the countries you are visiting in is. Also, remember, if all else fails, you can use Skype and Wi-Fi to call friends and family back home.

Mountains in Montserrat

Enjoying striking views of the mountain's surreal rock formations of Montserrat

Keeping a Budget

If you’ve decided on a multi-country study abroad program, you should keep in mind that some countries may be much more or much less expensive than others. Always keep a budget when studying abroad! Also, different countries may have different currencies. Unless you plan on returning to a country in the near future, it is not a good idea to have too much of any particular currency. You can sell back your extra currency at a currency exchange, but there is a heavy cost to do so. It is normally not a good idea to carry a lot of cash with you in any country. ATM machines are readily available in almost every country and make the most sense. Remember, to contact your bank and credit card company and let them know you’ll be abroad; if you don’t, they may freeze your account.

Getting in Shape

You will do lots of walking in every country that you visit. You may even have a walking tour as an orientation to each new city and country you visit, and if not, you may want to take a walking tour on your own. Investigate these details before you go! You will want to see as much in each country as you can. With a multi-country study abroad program, you'll get to see more countries, but you won’t spend a lot of time in any of them.  Regardless of where you go and how you get there, you’ll still be doing lots of walking, so make sure you bring comfortable shoes.  

Fatima's carnival in Europe

We might be dancing or jumping out happiness, either way in Fatima’s carnival we couldn’t just stand still.

Don’t forget that you will be responsible for carrying your own bags when traveling between countries. If you plan to pack a lot or your program involves a lot of travel by foot, you might want get in shape before you go! You don’t want to miss out on any activity, because you are too worn out or too sore to participate.

Multi-country study abroad programs have a lot to offer, so follow these tips and you'll be sure you get the most out of it!

Investigate, plan, and prepare before you go, and you'll have a life-changing experience abroad.

This article was contributed by Voyager Europe, a multi-country study abroad program provider that immerses students in the art, history, and culture of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Germany. Their itinerary includes day trips, professional visits, and cultural activities.