You just were accepted to the programme and got an offer, all documents are ready and bookings are done! Congratulations! Now it's just a matter of preparing yourself for the big trip, so let us share with you some valuable tips to get this process stress-free for you as much as possible. Get prepared for what’s ahead with this quick guide to studying abroad. From battling culture shock to compiling the perfect study abroad packing list, here’s everything you need to know…
1.) Learn about new country, people and culture before you go
Take some time to better familiarize yourself with your study abroad country. By knowing even briefly your soon-to-be home's culture, history, geography, economy, government -- everything! Your study abroad experience will be enriched and your time spent more meaningful.
Talk to others who have been there and seek opportunities to watch movies and read more about the country and its culture. Additionally, it would help to avoid those offensive foreigner-follies (such as pointing with your thumb or not slurping your noodles at dinner!)
Even knowing the most basic of phrases in the local language can make a world of difference in overcoming those first few days of adjustment.
2.) Connect with your school/university in social network
This is essential. Joining your course group on Facebook is a really great way to get to chat with other students about things that worry or excite you, like Freshers’ Week, or even how to deal with practical stuff like finding a flatshare or the stress of moving away from home for the first time. You’ll realize that everyone’s pretty much in the same boat and that you’re not really diving into the deep end solo.
3.) Get your online banking and finance in order
One of the greatest frustrations you might encounter while studying abroad is a snafu with your bank. Make sure you alert them in advance and give them specific dates about when and where you are studying abroad. In this way, you will significantly decrease the chances of having an "uh oh" moment when your ATM card or credit card is declined suddenly.
Many study abroad students choose to travel with a debit card in lieu of cash. Students take out sums of money from the ATM as needed, as foreign ATMs distribute money in the local currency. This helps avoid long lines at the bank.
4.) Bring your own medicine
If you are taking prescription medications already, you would be wise to coordinate with your doctor to fill these for the duration of your study abroad program. It would be unreliable to expect your study abroad destination to have your specific drugs at the ready, therefore just to make it stress-free for you bring your own, which you can you use for the first month or so. Meantime, you will need to register with local Hospital and speak to your local doctor to get a prescpirtion for the drugs you need, so you can buy them at local pharmacy. However, there are pleanty of drugs which do not require prescription, though sometimes they have different names; all it takes is a quick Google search to figure out what to look for in the local pharmacy. You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of familiar pharmaceutical brands in your study abroad destination.
5.) Find your Embassy
If you get into a pickle while studying abroad, your first point of contact will likely be your study abroad resident programming staff. However, if an emergency occurs, you would be wise to book it straight to your country’s embassy. Have the number and address of its location on your person to avoid potential mix ups in these hectic circumstances.
Caution: if you are caught doing an illegal act while studying abroad, you may end up in jail, and there's not much your country, your family, your friends, or your program staff can do about it. That's right, you'll be under a foreign jurisdiction, so if you'd rather spend your days abroad having fun and not behind bars, don't flirt with violating any local laws!
5.) Figure out the cheapest way to call your family
Studying abroad, you’ll probably be prone to the occasional bout of homesickness, but unlike many of your friends, you won’t be able to catch a quick train or a ride home for the weekend. But while you may not be able to recover from freshers’ flu at home or spend reading week with your family, there are many ways to catch up with your family and friends while at university.
Taking into account any time differences, agree with your family on optimum times and days of the week to catch up. Just make sure you use a free service such as WhatsApp or Skype, or shop around for the best mobile network for international calls, because being a student isn’t cheap!
6.) Refresh your language skills
Even knowing the most basic of phrases in the local language can make a world of difference in overcoming those first few days of adjustment. Enroll in classes, ask fluent friends for help, or download apps, like Duolingo, and podcasts to use on your daily commute to school -- every little bit helps!
7.) Prepare yourself mentally
While goodbye's can be tough, they're a necessary part of this journey. And just think of all the excitement you have yet to come! Expect the unexpected! While studying abroad you will definitely encounter people with different concepts of time and personal space. Be ready to learn and observe these differences without being judgmental. It will be these very same differences that will undoubtedly enrich your understanding of your own culture.
The locals you meet while abroad will often be very curious about life in your home country. Typically, you will be asked about your country's foreign policies of which you are sometimes expected to be very knowledgeable. Get in the habit of reading newspapers and news magazines long before you leave so you'll be informed on current affairs in your home country as well as abroad. You may also want to educate your friends and family about where you'll be going and what it is you'll be doing. Having a strong support system will help you get through the challenges of living in an unfamiliar environment far from home.
Even though you can never expect to be fully prepared upon arrival, we hope these tips will help you hit the ground running!