Studying abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in your undergraduate career. While it will open many doors for you, the months before you go are full of planning. This process, honestly, will teach you just as much as living abroad. One important key to preparing for life abroad is making a banking plan. As someone who did not know the tricks of the trade when I went, I want to impart them on you!
Purchase your host's country's currency prior to departure, or bring a sum of American cash to exchange upon entry.
No, your bank or local currency exchange may not have the best exchange rate. But, you never know what might happen in your first days abroad. It will give you so much more piece of mind to have some of the local currency when you step off the plane. You could need an emergency taxi, bus fare or even just want to grab a water bottle. You could also bring USD cash along with you. If you do this avoid airport currency exchange counters. They are designed to target tourists and will most likely have a ridiculous exchange rate! A quick Google search can show you the company with the most reasonable exchange rate.
Stay on top of your bank, credit card and ATM transaction fees.
Before I went abroad, I heard it was best to use a credit card as it will most likely have the best exchange rate. While my exchange rate was good, there were hidden transaction fees and I had to switch cards a few weeks into my program. Learn from my mistakes! Another way to avoid high fees is to set up a bank account in your host country as this will eliminate ATM fees. Finally, see if your bank has partnerships with global banks. For example, Deutsche Bank has a partnership with Bank of America and, in most countries, you can withdraw from Deutsche Bank ATM's without the ATM fee. Check out this website for more information.
Your transaction fee should be about 1-3%, a $2-$5 charge from your bank and, if you are not using an Alliance ATM, an ATM fee. Check to see these are all in range and that you are getting a reasonable ATM charge, if any.
Budget, budget, budget and put that ISIC card to use.
You will likely want to explore around your host country, neighboring countries and other cost-incurring experiences. Make a budget plan and make sure to check for student discounts. Many businesses (anything from hostels to aquariums) will charge less if you present an ISIC card. Many museums are free to students- take full advantage!
With this tips in mind, you are ready to tackle studying abroad!