“Congratulations! You’ve been invited to participate in the program of your choice.” You’ve been accepted by one of the programs you applied for, so now what’s the next step to studying abroad? Getting ready and doing your research, of course.
You should read as much as possible about the country where you will be studying abroad. Having at least a basic idea of the history, politics, food, culture, language and customs of your host country will assist you in adjusting to your new home. Your program will most likely recommend a basic reading list of books about your host country that deal with these topics.
If you can, you should also speak with/email a former participant of the program who can advise you more specifically on what to do, where to go, what to bring, etc. As an adviser of this sort, I often explained small things about the program that were not covered in the orientation but would prove invaluable for the newly-arrived student.
Begin purchasing any items that you may need for your time abroad, such as gifts for your home stay family, traveling supplies if you plan to do a lot of roughing it, or items specific to your region (e.g. indoor slippers for Japan). Not only will you be able to purchase these things when/if they go on sale, but by buying them in advance you will insure that you do not forget to purchase/pack them in the hectic last days before you leave.
Most importantly, make sure that all your documents are in order. You should have a passport already, but if not, apply for one IMMEDIATELY. This usually requires submitting a passport photo, form and check to your local branch of the Secretary of State. You will need your passport in order to apply for your visa which can take several weeks to a few months depending on where you are going and when you apply. Also, keep copies of all important documents that you send to your program in case they become misplaced or lost and be sure to submit these documents on time so that your program does not prevent you from going abroad simply because you forgot to turn them in. Some of these documents may need to be submitted early so that your visa can be approved.
Once this is all completed, you can breathe, relax and prepare to enjoy yourself.