1. Apply to all programs you are interested in.
If you aren't sure where you'd like to go, apply for a couple different programs. When I applied for programs this year, I applied for two. The second trip ended up getting cancelled by the school, so I was glad I had a second option. Apply early to get the program you really want. When you are applying for programs, also apply for scholarships. Studying abroad can be expensive, so apply to as many scholarship as you can.
2. Get your passport and visa.
If you don't already have a passport, get it now. It takes several weeks to receive a passport. If you don't get it in time, you're going to have a difficult time going on a study abroad trip. It never hurts to have one, even if you don't plan on going anywhere. Also, if your trip requires a visa, get that done right away, because it can take weeks to go through.
3. Buy your plane tickets.
As soon as you're accepted to a program, buy your tickets. Plane tickets are cheaper the earlier you buy. If you wait closer to your departure date, you could be paying double or triple what you would if you purchased earlier.Make sure to ask the travel guides about what airlines and times other students or program directors are flying. It makes it easier and safer to travel with people you know. Don't buy your ticket until you know you are going for sure! Most airlines don't refund tickets, so make sure your know your plans before purchasing. I think it is important to get the extra insurance and it's usually not that much. It would be terrible to be stuck in a foreign county with lost luggage. The airline would at least pay to buy you new clothes.
4. Do your research.
It is important to study before traveling abroad. Learn about the history, culture, and social norms of the country you are going to be visiting. It is respectful to understand their country and lifestyle. Also, knowing these things will make you seem less like tourist, so you don't be a target for crime. Learning the basics of the language is also important. Knowing even just a little bit of the native tongue can show locals you're trying. I've learned that the locals appreciate people who try to engage in their culture and are more willing to help if you get lost. Remember to research the type of crimes that are popular in the area you'll be visiting. I learned that pickpocketing and gypsies are common ways tourist have money stolen. I made sure I had an over the shoulder bag and to walk pass people on the corner with clipboards. Learn the good and the bad, so you can have a safe and cultural experience on your time abroad.
5. Extend your insurance, if needed.
Most policies won't include accidents abroad. It is important to have insurance in case of an injury or evacuation. Studying abroad can be really fun, but it is important to stay safe and be prepared. My school includes travel insurance for myself and family member (if a family member needed to come to me). Find out if your school offers insurance or if you need to get coverage with abroad.
6. Visit the doctor.
Depending on where you are going, you might need extra medical attention before hopping on the plane. Make sure you are up-to-date on all your vaccinations and get the ones that your doctor recommends. For example, this summer I am going to Trinidad and Tobago. They have lots of mosquitoes, so I was told I should get shots for mosquito related diseases (such as Yellow Fever). Remember to get large amounts of prescriptions of your medications you need. You don't want to run out in a country that doesn't supply your medication. Ask about certain medications, for things like motion sickness, if you think that might be an issue.
7. Stay connected to your program directors.
My last piece of advice when first planning your study abroad trip is to stay in touch with your program directors and study abroad office. They have the most information on your trip and about where you will be going. They are great resources. They often have their own documents you need to fill out before leaving. Make sure you work with them to have everything you need completed.