College Life

Studying Abroad? Download These 8 Essential Apps ASAP.

published Sep 14, 2023
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Studying abroad is an enriching opportunity to experience a new part of the world by immersing yourself in the food, language, and activities of the city of your choice (um, and going to class, of course). But while packing up your whole life to live in a new country for a semester might sound thrilling, it can also be daunting — especially when you think about navigating unfamiliar streets and transit systems (and that’s not even taking into consideration any language barriers).

While I highly recommend actually looking up from your phone every now and then to fully immerse yourself in your study abroad experience, having a few key apps on your phone can make your new, worldly life a lot smoother — and safer.

Be sure to download these apps before you say “adieu” to your comfy life at home, and you’ll feel way more prepared for your new adventure. 

Credit: izusek/Getty Images

Apps for Packing


Available on iOS, Android

PackPoint, a free packing list generator, creates custom packing lists based on your trip details — simply input information like your destination, the length of your trip, and what activities you’re planning on doing, and it will provide weather-appropriate clothing suggestions and handy checklists for items you should bring. You can also add items to your list or remove ones that aren’t relevant to you.


Available on web, iOS, Android

This flexible app, commonly used by college students to organize their classes and assignments, allows you to keep all your trip details in one place. It’s great for collaboratively planning with travel-mates, so you and your study-abroad roomies can determine who’s bringing the travel steamer and who’s providing the semester’s supply of ranch dressing (which is notoriously tough to find outside the U.S.)! 

In addition to creating packing lists, Notion is also useful for drafting up itineraries, budgets, and more.

Apps for Navigating Your New City


Available on web, iOS, Android

This urban navigation app shows the best public transit options in over 80 cities worldwide, allowing you to compare commute times and rerouting you when there are delays — basically, it helps you get around more efficiently and makes you look less like a lost tourist.

Google Maps

Available on web, iOS, Android

I know you probably already have this app on your phone, but here’s why you need to use it abroad: Google Maps provides walking and transit directions in over 200 countries, and it allows you to download offline maps so you can still use them even when you’re not connected to WiFi. And when you’re not on the go, you can use it to plan your future outings by starring places you’re interested in visiting, check out what neighborhoods look like with Street View, and even read reviews of various restaurants, shops, and landmarks.

Apps for Safety

Smart Traveler 

Available on iOS, Android

This is the official app for U.S. travelers created by the U.S. State Department. It includes timely information about every country, including U.S. embassy locations, maps, and travel updates, advisories, and warnings.


Available on iOS, Android

Look, I know you probably hated this app in high school — having your parents be able to track your every move isn’t exactly the pinnacle of freedom. However, being able to share your location with loved ones could be a total game-changer if you ever end up in a sketchy or downright dangerous situation abroad. It’s not likely this will happen, but still, it’s a good tool to have — just in case.

If anything, it’ll at least provide you with the peace of mind of knowing that someone knows where you are — even if you’re halfway around the world from them.

Apps for Communicating in a Different Language


Available on web, iOS, Android

With short, gamified lessons that can be tailored to your level of expertise, Duolingo makes it engaging to learn new languages (or, you know, pick up enough words and phrases to get by for a few months). It offers courses in over 30 languages and has over 500 million users worldwide, so you probably won’t be the only one swiping past a cartoon owl in between classes.

Google Translate

Available on web, iOS, Android

When you’re in a pinch with a language barrier, Google Translate can save you. The app can instantly translate over 100 languages via text and voice, making it easy to order food, get directions, and hopefully even make friends.

Nabihah Ahmad

Computer Science

Amidst her studies at Columbia, Nabihah runs a fashion media publication that champions diversity and sustainability in the industry. As a stylist, she has a knack for translating fashion into interior design, creating spaces that reflect individual style and exude timeliness. As the founder of her own AI startup, she's a testament to the exciting possibilities that exist at the intersection of technology and creativity. As she brings her vision to Dorm Therapy, readers can look forward to stories that infuse fashion-forward, smart, and sustainable thinking into every corner of home living.

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SchoolColumbia University '25
MajorComputer Science
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