“If at some point you don’t ask yourself “What have I gotten myself into?” then you’re not doing it right.” – Roland Gau
When I first started preparing for my
study internship abroad program, I unfortunately realized there was a slight lack of information on how to complete all the necessary pre departure steps. While a few tips and guides existed, they were not as thorough as I personally would have liked. Hence, I decided to create a very long, but hopefully helpful and comprehensive, guide on how to successfully navigate the “Pre Departure Checklist” for the UCEAP UK-Scotland Scottish Parliament Internship. If you are a University of California student applying to this program, please read this and I sincerely hope it is of some assistance to you. In addition, please feel free to reach out to me: I will be happy to offer my advice and guidance in any way I can. If you are not a University of California student – read this anyway! It contains useful information on the complicated process of traveling to the UK.
Firstly, congratulations! You are becoming a travelsmith in your own right! (If you are a UC student, this is an exciting time for you. Take a moment to celebrate with your friends and family. Eat some food- Scottish of course…)
However, keep the festivities at a minimum. You must start organizing all the necessary documents in order to travel abroad.
You will of probably received an email from your university study abroad advisor stating your acceptance at your university level to the program. The application is now being forwarded to the UCEAP system wide office in Goleta for further program placement. While you still have several more steps before you are officially in the program, there are things you can and should begin now in order to prepare for departure. (Note: If you are accepted for this initial step, you will most likely be accepted at all the following steps. Do not tell the world yet, but do start preparing). At this stage, if your process is similar to mine, there are a few things you must do:
- Complete the “Acknowledgment of Responsibilities” form: This is very quick and painless. One you fill it out, submit it to your UC study abroad office in print. Do this right away before you forget. However, starting after the date you receive the email, you have two weeks to complete it.
- Complete the “UCEAP Online Tutorial:” This is a presentation that you must read through (when I did it, it was an online Prezi). It takes about an hour, but less if you are a fast reader. At the end, there is a short quiz that simply makes sure you actually read the material. It is easy and nothing to worry about. Do this right away as well before you forget! After receiving the email, you have four weeks to complete it.
- Save the date for the “Pre departure Orientation:” During this orientation, your study abroad advisor will give useful information about your program. It is also a great time to meet other people going to your same region. If you cannot attend the date specified, email the advisor immediately to figure out an alternative. Arrangements can be made if done far in advance.
- Check out your UC’s UCEAP Health Clearance Policy: While this will be due at a later date, I recommend doing this ASAP. It is an easy thing to forget about and leave to the last minute (I did…whoops…). How nice would it be to have one less thing to worry about later on in the process.
- Get in touch with returnees of the program: Whether it be me or someone else, reach out to people who have done the program in the past. They will be a great resource to you!
After the initial exciting email, mentally prepare yourself for a few weeks to even months (in my case it was months) of silence. The next level of acceptance and action will come at a snail speed. I recommend talking to returnees, stalking their blogs (hint, hint), reading all the material about Scotland that you can find, and watching British TV shows to get you in the mood.
The next email you will probably receive, will be from the UCEAP system wide office. Unfortunately it will not be the confirmation of the next level of acceptance, but rather a notification that the updated “Pre Departure Checklist” (PDC) for your program year had been posted. Go look at it! There are also a few things you could (and should do now):
- Read and complete items 1 through 3 on the PDC: These are all simple and painless steps that are best finished sooner rather than later.
- Complete items 5 through 7 on the PDC: This step simply involves completing the required electronic signatures on within your online UCEAP account. There is a specified due date (mine was June 5th). However, if you are able to, do this ASAP.
- Complete item 9 of the PDC: This is the Health Clearance mentioned earlier. Again, there is a due date (mine was July 10th), but do this ASAP. It is simply easier to get it out of the way. You will soon be busy enough, and having one less thing to do will make all the difference.
- Read items 11 through 13: This is useful information to know as you complete your pre departure preparations.
- Read through the remainder of the PDC: Note other dates, things to do, and whatever else you feel is important. Make sure to check the PDC at least once a week to see if anything has been updated or changed. I recommend printing anything you feel important, as well as sharing the PDC with your family or whoever would be of help to you.
The next email you will receive, will probably be a notification of the officially orientation date. Complete the online orientation ASAP and save the date for the in person orientation. If you cannot attend the date, email your advisor immediately.
In another few weeks, you will receive an email from the financial advisor from UCEAP that contains information about the financing of the program. This email is good! It means UCEAP has indeed accepted you. The email is long, but the most important thing to take away is that the first payment for your program will be due on May 1st and is $950 (if it is the same as mine, make sure to note what yours actually is). Make sure that you have or will have the proper finances to make this payment. Also know that the deadline stipulated is the VERY LAST DAY, to make the payment. I recommend doing it a few days to a week before to avoid any late fees. You should also make sure to read through the email entirely, and email your advisor if you have any questions at this stage.
Another important thing to do at this stage, is to make sure you have $2500 in a savings or checking account. This will be important for item 11 of the PDC; the BUNAC internship application. In order to complete the application, you must show that you have sufficient support funds of $2500.
The next email is an exciting one. It will be from the UCEAP program coordinator in Scotland, informing you of your acceptance to the UCEAP Scottish Parliament Internship program. Yay! Good for you! Call your mom, celebrate, and then sit down and get to work. There are a few things you now must do:
- Read your entire PDC: Even if you already did it, do it again. Make a list/cheat sheet about the PDC that you keep with you at all times. Sounds excessive? It is, but it helps. Trust me.
- Begin item 10 of the PDC: This is the Security Background Check & Questionnaire. It will be due later on, by a date specified in the email. However, there are several things to do now:
- Get a background check from your campus police department. This can take a few days to a week to obtain, so do it before you even receive the Security Questionnaire.
- Make a copy of your passport. You will have to send this in with your Security Questionnaire.
- Make or get a copy of the letter of recommendation you sent in with your original application to the program. This can serve as the character statement you must send in with your Security Questionnaire.
- Complete the remainder of the Security Questionnaire once you receive it. This may involve calling your parents and asking for help (it is a confusing document). Also, reach out to the program advisors in Scotland. They are very helpful during this process. Once you complete it, send it back to the address specified. You will need to go to the post office and make sure you get the correct stamps to send it.
- If you did not earlier complete items 5 through 7 on the PDC.
The next item of completion deserves its own section. It is item 11 of the PDC: the BUNAC internship application. Start this early! If you have questions, email the advisors. They are super helpful during this process. Here is some information on how to tackle it:
- Create an account and complete the application form and registration fee. This will require knowing your passport number (make sure you have your passport handy). For the registration fee, make sure to enter that UCEAP will pay for your registration (you do not have to pay for it).
- Complete the Employer Application and Agreement form: This will require emailing the UCEAP advisors in Scotland and asking for the employer email (unless they already gave it to you… in my case they did not…)
- Upload the support documents.
- CV/Resume: This can be an updated version of the one you submitted in your original application.
- Employer Application and Agreement: This will be completed for you after you do step 2.
- Insurance Benefits: UCEAP will do this for you.
- Official Transcript: Upload a pdf copy of your official UC Transcript. This may involve filling out an online form with your university and getting it emailed to you.
- Passport copy: Scan and upload a copy of your passport information page.
- Program reference: This can be the same recommendation letter used earlier.
- Proof of funds: This is what I discussed earlier. Here you will upload a pdf proving you have support funds of at least $2500 in a savings or checking account. The pdf you upload must be no older that 28 days, and show that the $2500 has been in your account for the full 28 days.
Once you complete the BUNAC application, wait to receive your Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). When you receive the COS, you will then be able to, and should, begin the visa process.
In the meantime, connect with the other people going on your program if you haven’t already. Create a Facebook group, get to know them, and also arrange your housing! You will need to already have your housing arranged in order to complete the visa application. If you have any questions about housing, feel free to reach out to me and check out my guide on finding housing in Edinburgh!
Also note: If at this point you have not completed your UCEAP Health Clearance (slacker…) do it now. Do not wait any longer to get this completed. You do not want to pay $50 to expedite the forms in order to get them turned in on time.
Soon you will receive your COS. Now, if you have survived this far, it is time to complete the visa *cue scary music* The visa is item 4 in the PDC.
Start the visa process as soon as you receive your COS. Do not delay this process.
- Create an online application for your visa and, within a week of creating your application and account, finish it: Note that completing the account will require information about you and your family. Also have your passports (yes plural! You need all your passports: past and present) handy.
- Make the visa payment: You will need your (or your parents) credit card.
- Schedule your biometrics appointment: This is just getting finger printed. Schedule the appointment for the soonest date at your closest facility. You will also have to pay for the biometrics appointment at this time: keep your credit card out. Note that when you actually attend the biometrics appointment, you will have to bring your passport and a copy of the proof of payment and your appointment confirmation.
- Print all the visa materials and keep them for your reference.
The next part of the visa process needs its own checklist. It is obtaining all the supporting documents you will need to send in to the British Consulate in New York after completing the biometrics appointment. Get these documents ASAP. Do not wait until after your biometrics to get them all: it takes a while. The items include:
- Your physical passport: You will have to mail it in. Don’t worry, they send it back to you…
- A hard copy of the visa application: Print out the application.
- Proof of visa payment: After you make the payment, you will receive an email saying you completed the payment. Print that email. You can also find proof within the online application.
- Your biometrics receipt: After you attend the biometrics appointment, they will stamp and date a paper for you. Turn that in.
- The COS from BUNAC.
- Passport style photos: These are UK style passport photos. They are different from regular passport photos due to their size. These photos have to be 35mm by 45mm. A good place to get them taken is Shutterbug, but check with your post office to see if they do them as well.
- Copies of all the documents: Make a copy of everything and include them in the envelope when you mail the supporting documents to the consulate.
- A return envelope and label: This is so that the consulate can return your passport and visa to you. You can get the label and envelope at a UPS store. I recommend doing that: they are super friendly and helpful.
Once you have attended your biometrics appointment all the supporting documents in order (note: it must be done no later than two weeks after attending your biometrics appointment) then you can send in everything to the British Consulate in New York. When I did this, I sent it in at a UPS store. The staff there helped meet all the proper envelopes, labels, and stamps.
If you have made it this far (either by reading or actual actions you have taken on your own journey) then you are officially caught up with me in my own preparations.
The next steps would be buying your plane ticket. I recommend doing this sooner rather than later. You could wait until after you receive your visa to buy it, but, you are probably safe to buy it now, as long as you aren’t planning on arriving super early. The visa, typically, can allow you to enter the UK up to two weeks before your program start date. For example, my program will officially start on September 7th. I applied for my visa with an entrance request date of August 28th. When I purchase my plane ticket, I will plan to fly in on September 1st (the date my housing lease begins).
Finally, remember to make the final payment for the program by the stipulated deadline (it will most likely be September 1st). You will want to do this before you leave. I recommend doing it a week before to make sure the payment goes through.
And thus, you have completed the UCEAP Scottish Parliament Internship Pre Departure Checklist. Congratulations to you! You should celebrate (and take a nap because you are probably exhausted).
I hope this information was of some use to you, dear reader. Should you have any questions, please reach out to me! I would love to hear from you and be of assistance. Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Do note however, that while I have tried to make this guide as helpful and comprehensive as possible, do not use it as the end all resource. Be responsible and read all the other information made available to you by UCEAP and other online resources.