This studying abroad thing can’t be that difficult, can it? You’ve got eager experts with answers, brochures and programme descriptions are plenty, and you’ve even read reviews from previous students and talked with study-abroad-alum friends and classmates.
And, while you may think to yourself, “I’ve got this,” there is a small voice in the back of your head asking, “But do you really?” But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know as a first-time international student.
You must have the proper documents for overseas travel.
Studying Abroad means visiting another country; wahoo! This will require the use of a new type of identification, namely a passport. Passports might take several weeks to process, so it is better to plan ahead of time.
You will be required to show your passport both while leaving the country and when entering the new nation. You may also need a visa to study abroad; this is dependent on the country you are visiting. We recommend consulting with your advisor to ensure you have everything you need, as well as creating digital and physical copies of your passport and visa.
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Bring a pen and your passport with you on the plane, as you’ll most likely need to fill out some paperwork before entering your study abroad destination.
Plane tickets should be ordered at least three months in advance.
If your mother or grandmother tries to get you to buy your ticket six months or more in advance, they are giving you the gift of security, but they are spending a lot more money than they should because of it. The best time to buy a plane ticket is three months before departure because the fares are usually the lowest.
The trip will get off to a terrific start with your airline flight. Choose between an aisle or window seat (according to your bladder strength! ), enjoy a movie marathon on your TV screen, and the food isn’t quite as horrible as it used to be. Enjoy!
Consciously safeguard your valuables.
You’ll most likely be travelling with a handful of your most precious items, such as your laptop, smartphone, iPod, passport, good jewellery, or money. You must make an active effort to keep track of your stuff.
While theft isn’t technically more dangerous overseas than at home, you’ll be more distracted (due to all of the fantastic fun you’re having!). Place your money in a money belt or other places on your person before leaving your hostel, apartment, or homestay. Lock up any belongings you leave behind!
According to seasoned travellers, wearing expensive clothes or accessories that draw immediate attention to your financial level is not a good idea.
Get your bank and online passwords in order.
A problem with your bank can be one of the most aggravating aspects of studying abroad. Be careful to let your family and friends know well in advance if you’re going to be away from home for an extended period. The less likely you are to have an “Oh-oh” moment when your credit card is refused unexpectedly, the better.
Debit cards, rather than cash, are commonly used by students travelling to new places during their time in school. Foreign ATMs deliver money in the local currency, so students take out small amounts as needed. This saves time at the bank by preventing long waits.
A word of advice from a seasoned traveller, remove secondary password protections from your online passwords, especially if you log in from a new IP address or computer each time.
Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes with you.
It’s a fact, you know. You’ll rarely see someone walking anywhere; instead, you’ll see people hopping in their cars for a five-minute trip to the store or driving across a large parking lot to get to their next destination faster.
Many other countries’ lives are not like this. You’ll be on your feet a lot more than usual as you continue to explore your study abroad location’s hidden gems. The cobblestone streets and long city blocks will be too much for your high heels, no matter how cute they are. Invest in an excellent pair of walking shoes to save your lower back, feet, and sanity.
No rule says you have to give up style to get more room to move. Shoes with thick bottoms and padding can help you go from day to night in a heartbeat.
You can restock your basic toiletries while abroad.
If you prefer certain cosmetic products, you may want to stock up on your treasured serums before going overseas to study. If your hair shines, whether it’s Pantene or not, and you don’t mind switching your Old Spice for a new aroma, you won’t have trouble finding soaps, shampoos, laundry detergent, make-up, contact solution, or other amenities abroad.
The benefit of the latter choice is that some of these things may be much cheaper in another country. The advantage of the former is that mom and dad may foot the bill if you casually place it in the shopping cart. It’s entirely up to you!
Unfortunately, this is not always the case for feminine products; it may be worthwhile for girls studying abroad to bring enough for the duration of their programme.
Where should I live?
Suppose you’re going on a study abroad programme. In that case, your accommodation options could range from a shared apartment to a residence hall on the campus of a foreign university to a homestay. When it comes to choosing your foreign living arrangement, there are no right or wrong choices.
For these reasons, we encourage students to intentionally step outside their comfort zone and look for accommodation that is less isolating than a private apartment to get the most out of their study abroad experience. Interacting with people from other countries, whether they are locals or not, maybe a life-changing experience.
Consult your advisor well in advance about your alternatives and pick the accommodation that’s right for YOU (not your friends, classmates, etc.). We also have a accommodation guide for students in Malaysia. Check it out HERE!
Medications and Health Insurance
If you’re already on prescription medicine, it’s a good idea to work with your doctor to get those filled while you’re away. Counting on your study abroad location to have your exact medications on hand is a bad idea.
Over-the-counter medications are readily available abroad, but their names may be different; a fast Google search will reveal what to seek in the local drugstore. The number of well-known pharmaceutical companies in your study abroad location may surprise you!
If you ever find yourself in need of medical attention while travelling, don’t freak out! It’s unlikely that you’ll be without access to quality medical care when travelling. Bring your passport and insurance card with you when you go to the doctor’s office or the hospital. Most likely, you’ll have to pay for your medical care out-of-pocket and then submit a claim to your insurance company.
Make sure you have a credit card on you at all times just in case of an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry, even though we hope you never have an experience that costs you hundreds of dollars or more!
Receptivity to other cultures
Students should be aware that studying abroad comes with some responsibilities. Because you’ll be interacting with people from a different culture, you must learn about their cultural norms. Dressing, speaking, and interacting with the natives may all change as a result of this experience.
Passengers must show sensitivity during their journeys to avoid offending people or bringing a poor name to all travellers.
Picking up a few basic phrases in the local language will go a long way toward demonstrating your interest in the local culture. With a Spanish or Italian greeting, you’ll get a much better response than if you just said “hi.”
Embassies, security and avoiding trouble spots
If something goes wrong while you’re studying abroad, your study abroad resident programme staff will likely be your first point of contact. It’s best to go straight to the embassy in the event of an emergency. Keep the location’s phone number and address in your wallet or purse to avoid confusion during these hectic times.
A word of caution: if you are found doing something illegal while studying abroad, you could be sent to jail, and no one can help you get out of it except for your programme personnel. Because you’ll be under a foreign court’s jurisdiction, you should avoid breaking any local laws if you don’t want to end yourself in jail.
Laws in other countries may differ from those in your own. Make sure you’re familiar with the region before you go, and stay clear from suspicious-looking people and places… remember to tame in your rebellious side.
Other Tips that Might be useful while studying abroad
Plugs. First-time students may be shocked by the appearance of plugs in other nations! That’s true; what you’re used to may not (and most likely will not) work in another country. You’ll need to buy an adaptor ahead of time (a fast online search should yield many alternatives) or while in the country (certainly cheaper, but slightly more inconvenient). You will also need to be aware of the voltage situation in your study abroad destination. Otherwise, you may end up with ruined hair dryers or cell phones (been there, it blows…literally).
Jetlag. It’s true! Jetlag is a catch-all phrase for feeling fatigued after a long-haul trip (Feeling tired? More like a zombie). As your body adjusts to your epic time trip, adjusting to a new time zone will be challenging. It might take up to two weeks for your body to adjust to a new time zone, so be patient as it does. Avoid naps and accept your unavoidable early bedtimes or early rises.
Photos. If you want to document your entire event with your camera, pack a couple of extra SD cards to change in, or get a big-daddy 16GB card right away.
Laundry. During your study abroad programme, you will spend a lot of money on laundry. To save money, you may start hand washing your clothes and hanging them to dry. Other students may transport them to the nearby laundromat, or your apartment may have a washer and dryer. Whatever you do, be sure you budget extra money to handle these looming expenses.