Moving abroad can be nerve-racking. You are starting a new adventure in a country far from your own, Here’s a checklist to help you on your journey.
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This checklist (Czechlist haha) is primarily geared for people coming from the United States, but it can easily be applicable for most countries.
1. Apply for or renew your passport.
Wherever your destination is, it’s important to have a valid passport before you fly. Check your documents prior to your departure, be sure everything is in order, and then check them again. There is nothing more fulfilling than a smooth experience at the airport, let alone an international one. Getting your first passport can take some time, so make sure to give yourself at least a few months for the application process.
2. Purchase an unlocked cell phone.
When traveling long term, it is cheaper to buy a local SIM card in the country you are traveling to. This will save you time, hefty roaming fees from U.S. phone companies, and any unnecessary stress. If you already have a smartphone, ask your current carrier if it’s possible to unlock your phone. Trust me on this one. During my first international trip to Austria, I accrued fees of over $200 by simply hitting a button on accident.
Since a majority of social accounts are connected to our devices for security reasons, set your two-step verification codes to your new phone number, disable them or, if possible, your email. Yet again, something I learned the hard way.
3. Contact your bank.
Many expats I have talked to also agree it’s smart to keep your current bank account to maintain a credit score. It’s also great to make direct payments for any ongoing bills, outstanding loans, or if you’re in need of emergency funds. Check with your bank, inform them you are moving abroad, and see if they have an international credit card option to avoid foreign transaction fees. Setting up a Czech bank account is simple. We have plenty of recommendations for you to choose from once you arrive in Prague, so even though it seems overwhelming, we have your back!
4. Make copies of any important documents.
As an extra precaution, photocopy all of your documents for a “just in case” scenario; One for you and one you can leave stateside with friends or family. Unfortunate happenstances occur more than you think. Documents can include things like your passport, driver’s license, immunization records, and birth certificate.
5. Establish a mailing address in the States.
Along with your Czech residence, I would personally recommend asking a family member or trusted friend to offer up their mailbox while you are away. This can be the same person holding your important documents close by. Mail in the Czech Republic can be dependable, however, having an American address can serve as a helpful backup.
5. Bring products you love.
Living abroad is all about new experiences, making memories, and stepping out of your comfort zone. But there are some things that we can’t live without, and that is okay. Pack a framed photo of you and your best friend, a teddy bear that reminds you of home, or a few bags of Flaming Hot Cheetos. A few things to note, U.S. electronics, athletic wear, good shoes, and cosmetics are often more expensive in other countries, so get them while you can.
7. Start learning the language.
Czech is quite a difficult language to learn, but you can start small. Download a few language learning apps on your phone. Try practicing a few minutes a day. When you’re ready, up your practice time to 15 minutes and then up it again. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can take a class with a professional tutor or utilize italki’s one-to-one online classes. Even minimal effort can make a big difference upon arrival.
8. Downsize your life.
This is something I prioritized in preparation to my move to Prague. I minimized my wardrobe, donated things that I hadn’t used in 60 days, and attempted to fit everything I needed into a suitcase and a backpack. It worked… for the most part.
Sorting things can be exhausting, so I recommend saving enough time to sell your items months before your departure date. Post your items to pages like Facebook Marketplace, tell your friends, give your hand-me-downs to your siblings, or donate to your local thrift store.
9. Have an essentials bag ready.
When you hop off the plane, lost luggage is the last thing you want to hear. To prevent any anxiety, pack a carry-on bag with enough items to get you through a few days. In addition to your important documents, have on hand chargers, a change of clothes, toiletries, prescriptions (if applicable), and a book.
10. Say goodbye to family and friends.
This one is a must. Host a COVID-19 safe going-away party or list out the people you want to see to say goodbye to separately. Write notes to loved ones, create a pen pal relationship with your grandmother over email (something I do), and tell the people you love how much they mean to you.
Now I’m not saying this checklist has everything you need, but it’s a good start. Give yourself the space to ask questions and seek advice from other expats. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that not every day will be a page in a European romantic novel, but it will be worth it.
The Language House