Preparing to study abroad
Studying abroad is an exciting adventure, but like all new experiences, you may be a little anxious before you go. Preparation to study abroad is the key to reducing stress and making sure you have the best possible time while you are away.
Prepare any necessary documents like passport and visas as soon as possible. Visas can usually be applied for as soon as you have received a letter of acceptance from your chosen language school. Keep in mind that issuing visas can take a long time and may involve you going to an embassy or consulate, so start right away.
Research the place that you’re going to visit
Find out as much as you can about the country and region that you’re going to visit. A good place to start is the embassy in your own country. Are there any area you shouldn’t visit? Ask your friends if they know somebody who has already visited that country and ask them to tell you about their experience. You can also read student reviews on CourseFinders to see what other students are saying about that school or city.
Book your accommodation
You may not want to book accommodation for your whole stay but make sure you at least have the first few nights arranged so that you have time to settle in before having to search for a place to stay. Your school or agent should be able to help you arrange accommodation in advance.
Plan your first 24 hours
The first 24 hours are going to be the most overwhelming so be prepared. Make sure you know how to get from the airport to where you are staying. Learn at least a few basic phrases so that you can ask locals for help if you need to. How will you get from where you are staying to your school? If using public transport, do you know where to get on and off and how you will pay for it? Have all this information written down on paper, as batteries tend to die at the worst possible time!
Get travel insurance
There are plenty of companies offering student travel insurance; don’t travel without it. This may even be a requirement of your visa so check before you go and make sure you take a policy that offers enough cover for what you intend to do. For example, if you are going skiing then you may need to inform your insurer in advance and pay a little extra.
Visit your doctor
Tell your doctor where you are travelling. You may require vaccinations and/or the doctor may want to do some basic tests to make sure you are healthy and ready for a trip. If you take certain medicines then make sure it is available in the country you are visiting (it may have a different brand name there) or take enough with you to last your whole trip.
Buy your plane ticket
Generally speaking, the sooner you buy your ticket the cheaper it will be. If you have been checking prices online and they seem to keep going up then clear the cache of your internet browser or check again in private browsing mode as some travel sites can be sneaky and put prices up when they see you are a returning visitor.
Research living costs thoroughly and make sure you have enough money, plus a little extra in case of emergencies. A credit card or pre-pay card is useful for this. Your visa may also require that you can prove you have access to a certain amount of money when you arrive. Be sure to check this before you leave. You should also have a little of the local money on you when you arrive in case you need something and can only pay with cash.
What to pack
Make a list and then cross off everything that you can live without. By all means bring a few things that will make you feel at home, but remember that you will want to bring things back with you, so don’t use up all your space. Check the weather and pack for it, keeping in mind what time of year you will be there. You should also be aware of local customs and make sure you are able to dress appropriately for the culture.
Although you’ll meet a lot of new people and make friendships for life, you will still want to keep in touch with family and friends at home. International phone calls are expensive, so set up a Skype or Whatsapp account so that you can stay in touch for free over Wi-Fi. You may also want to set up accounts for older family members and teach them how to use them.
It can also be a good idea to buy a local SIM card for your cell phone. This means you’ll have a number where your school and family can reach you in emergencies, and makes it easy to stay in touch with the new friends you meet.
The right mind-set
This is one of the most important things to take with you when you travel. Before you leave, prepare yourself mentally. Remember why you’re doing this. Once you arrive: be open, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help, be nice to strangers, expect things to not go according to plan, and if in doubt, smile!
It can be difficult to visit a new place and not have any friends to support you. Join CourseFinders – a community of like minded people, who have, are or will be going through the same process as you and can have some useful tips for you or can answer your questions. You can even get to know people who will be studying abroad in the same country/city as you!
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