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Studying abroad: paperwork, packing and planning

Student blogger Anees Malik reminds fellow students to make a packing checklist, print out documents and plan your trip before heading off on your year abroad 

  • Study abroad
Anees Malik's avatar

Anees Malik

September 19 2019
Studying abroad in Hamburg, Germany


This is for all of those students who are deciding and preparing to go on a year abroad. 

It’s the kind of gap year in your degree that isn’t really a gap year. Universities will handle study abroad in different ways, but my university (University of Leeds) offers you three options: find an internship of your own choice, find a university and study, or work in a German school as a foreign language assistant in English. I chose the last one. 

Preparation for such a big decision is never easy. Knowing what to pack and knowing when enough was enough was tricky.

Before I started packing, I made a checklist of all of the things I needed and marked the things that I felt were most important. My checklist included things such as: work clothing, an extra pair of shoes, my toiletries, my teddy bear, my emergency medicines and much more.

I then decided that work clothes were more important than a teddy bear and that I would probably be able to buy shoes in Germany. In this way, I slowly worked through my list and packed my suitcase in a Tetris method, with items perfectly placed in to fit together. This meant it would be easier for me to unpack my bag at the induction training event and repack it to get to my final destination, Hamburg.

I also made sure to buy my train ticket from Cologne to Hamburg while I was in England. I printed out every single important document I might need, just in case, and made myself an itinerary so that I could check my timings.

The best ways to prepare for studying abroad

It is important to note, there will be a lot of paperwork. You will have to fill out multiple forms and agreements to do this year abroad.

And preparation does not only include packing, it involves emotional preparation too. I made sure to meet all of my friends in England a week or two before I left, to say goodbye. Each meeting helped me feel a little bit more ready to leave Leeds.

I had all of my accommodation and school transport sorted before I went to Germany, and I think it is important to try to get that done before you go into your destination country. Otherwise you end up in a little bit of an uncertain situation and you want to be as prepared and ready as you can be.

I made sure that I arrived in Germany by my induction. The induction was a compulsory training period that lasted four days and was for students from all over the world that were becoming language assistants. Rooms were split by gender and then by region.

So all those who would work in Hamburg would be rooming together, all those working in Frankfurt would be rooming together and so on. Initially I was a bit bummed that I wouldn’t be able to stay the few days in the same room as my friends, but later I realised this was actually a pretty good set-up as I now know a girl living in the same city I am working in.

This was my first time ever leaving home to do something on my own, so the induction period really shaped my view of what my year abroad would be like. I really enjoyed the training and made loads of new friends. But if I am being honest, I found the training really exhausting. They made us get up at 8:15am every day for breakfast. As a university student our timings are really relaxed, and I mostly had to be at university from anywhere between 12 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the afternoon. 

So this waking up early business was difficult for me. But I guess it is something I will have to get used to when I start working in the school, as lessons begin as early as 8 o’clock here in Germany. But I am excited to get started on my year abroad and discover local life in Germany. 

Read more: Best universities in Germany

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