1) Check you’re covered for whatever you're doing out there: some insurance policies give 'Study Abroad' options, which don't actually include those who choose to work, or volunteer, or do a bit of all three... make sure you're covered for what you're doing, and check if you can change this along your time out there. If you go off studying and find out that your spare time could be spent working in a café, it would be nice to know that if something goes wrong, you're covered. Many students think they’re covered by their parents’ policy, but it is not tailored to suit your individual needs and does not allow for independent travel. Check, as it’s better to be safe not sorry!
2) Make sure you either know where you're going to be all the time, or the insurers give you room to travel: if you're going to, say, study in Spain for the first semester and work in South America for the second, you need to make sure you've picked worldwide cover - that's something you should think about if you're planning on travelling on your year abroad, too.
3) How long can the cover last for: again, this is a tricky one - what if you're planning on spending more than just the year out there, on your year abroad? Some students like it so much they stay out over the summer before and after; you might even find that travelling through nearby countries will be on the agenda. Does your insurer cover this? Best check before changing your return flight details...
4) Do you really need loads of cover for personal equipment, and if so, how much does it all cost to add on a laptop, iPod, camera etc: your prize possessions should be covered effectively, but always make sure that the top quote for one item is the maximum cost of any one of your items - some people have been badly stung by this.
5) Trips back home: some insurance policies cover you for a couple, but what if it goes a little pear-shaped, or you need to come back for whatever reason - look at how many trips home you're entitled to.
6) The men in the white suits: Accidents or hospital trips are never fun, but they can happen so you should make sure that you're fully covered, whatever the weather or activity - from minor cuts to...well, we don't want to scare you, but y'know, better be safe than sorry kinda thing. Also, can (at least) one of your parents/next of kin come out to see you in case you're tied up in a hospital bed, as you're covered? Another thing to look out for...
7) Insurance numbers that work: hotlines, sometimes in the insurance land of things, are really that hot. Will the number cost you a bomb if you're abroad? Is there a person you'll speak to on the other end, in case you want to report a stolen bag, for example, or is it an automated machine? These are the kind of situations when you'll want to speak to someone, trust me.
8) What's Premium and what's Basic, and where do I fit in: ahhh, that's another sticky one; it all depends on how much you're willing to pay and how much you think it's all worth - cheaper isn't necessarily better, but more expensive sometimes is a bit of a waste of money - do shop around and find out the best policy vs price for you!
9) Fancy yourself as the next Tony Hawk or Ben Fogle? Hakuna matata is not really going to help you out, if you're stuck in hospital, trying to speak the lingo, under stress... Make sure your sport is covered, and better still, whatever sports available to you are included, just in case you fancy trying them.
Now, where to start...? Get a quote, of course!