- Study abroad
From attempting to pack everything that you could possibly need for a year, to filling out the correct forms, to choosing classes, there are a number of things you need to remember to do before heading off on your year abroad.
Doing a study abroad stint is exciting, the opportunities and the skills that you can learn are endless. And now the options for where you can go are endless too.
However, there are so many things to remember that it can be overwhelming to know where to start.
This is why I’ve put together a list of things to sort out before you go for your year abroad.
1. Check visa requirements
Chances are if you are going through your university, you will probably be advised on which visa to apply for and whether you need to fill out any other forms that will make it easier to go to your country of choice.
Visas can often take several weeks to arrive and may take a while to fill out, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get one.
It’s also important to make sure that your passport is up to date and will not expire while you are away. Check this well in advance of your departure date as it usually takes a few weeks for a new passport to arrive.
2. Check the weather
This is pretty crucial to help inform your packing as you will need to know the most suitable clothes and footwear to pack.
Check a few different weather websites to make sure you have a fairly accurate view of what the weather will be like and plan accordingly. If you aren’t going for an entire year then check what the weather is usually like during the time period that you are there.
If it’s sunny and warm then don’t bother packing thick jumpers and scarves. In the same vein, you probably won’t need sandals or shorts if you're going somewhere with Baltic temperatures. Don’t pressure yourself to buy every single thing before you get to your destination, you can always buy things when you get there.
Keep in mind your luggage allowance too. Some airlines have very strict baggage allowances so make sure you check that as you pack.
3. Consider your lifestyle
Think about where you are headed and what kind of lifestyle you might be leading while there. If you are heading to a bustling city, then pack comfortable shoes for lots of walking. If you think you might be spending a lot of time at a beach then this should be taken into account too.
Additionally consider what the local community might be like while you are packing. If you are going to quite a conservative country then bear that in mind when packing up your things, and bring clothing that covers you and adheres to societal expectations.
4. Get insured
This is crucial when you are abroad in case anything happens to you or your belongings. Shop around to find the best deal and also see if anywhere does any student discounts.
This can come in handy if your bag goes missing or if something gets stolen or damaged.
It is also worth checking what kind of health insurance you might need while abroad. Check whether you need to take any vaccinations before heading out, ensure that you have a good supply of any regular prescriptions (and find out how you can access them while away) and ensure that you are covered in case you are ill or injured while studying abroad.
5. Remember to sort your accommodation
Again, your university may help you to sort this, but there is also the possibility that you will have to plan this on your own.
The first step is to have a look at what your new university offers. It will most likely have some form of university accommodation that you can live in, some that might even be dedicated to international students. Get in touch and apply for it early to avoid missing out.
If you choose to live in non-university accommodation, then start off by doing some research into the area that you might want to live in. Again contacting your destination university for help is usually a good start and see what your fellow students might be planning to do.
6. Open a bank account
The best way to handle your money while abroad is to open a bank account in your destination country. You could choose from either a traditional bank account (by opening one in branch) or an online bank account. An online bank account is usually a slightly better option as you can track your spending, will not be charged conversion rates, and you will be able to use it in many different locations.
It is also important to notify your home bank account that you will be away for a period of time, so that they are aware if you do make any transactions from that account while away.
And finally make sure you take some local currency with you in cash to get you started. That way you will have some money quickly to hand to buy things in the first few days of arriving.
7. Get a mobile phone
This tip is wholly dependent on how long you are going away for and what your current mobile provider can do for you.
There might be the option to either add on an international plan to your current phone or to buy a cheap international sim card that you can use with your current phone.
Also make sure that you have apps like Whatsapp or Skype on your phone that you can use anywhere on wifi for no extra charge.
8. Research your destination
One of the most exciting parts about going to study abroad is that you get to explore a whole new country. Look up the main things to see there, research the best local restaurants and see if there are any day trips or weekend trips you can take to really maximise your time.
Another little thing that could come in handy is learning a few phrases in the local language. Having a few commonly used phrases in your arsenal can help to make communicating with the locals much easier.