Studying abroad has never been as popular as it is now. According to The Guardian, 30,000 UK students went abroad in the 2013-14 academic year – an increase of 60% compared to the previous year!
The reasons why people want to study abroad are clear. Tuition fees might be lower elsewhere in Europe, a degree abroad will increase your chances on the job market and, of course, living in a different country will without a doubt broaden your horizons. But when it finally gets to the point when you’re about to move, what are the key things that you should keep in mind?
Here are some tips to help you prepare for the big move:
What you need to do before Studying Abroad
Make sure your paperwork is in place
Moving abroad will require you to jump various bureaucratic hurdles. If you’re moving to a country overseas, you’ll have to apply for a student visa or a work permit. Although the move might be a little bit easier when you’re staying in the EU, you will still need to make sure you register with the local council, or consider applying for an EEA registration certificate to confirm your rights of residence.
Don’t forget to cover yourself with international health insurance too. If you’re staying in the EU, you can apply for the European Health Insurance Card. This will give you (sometimes free) access to state-provided healthcare in other EEA countries and Switzerland. If you’re going further away, however, you may need to read up on worldwide and globetrotter insurance cover.
Scan all of your important documents, such as your passport, visa, acceptance letter and insurance papers to your university before you go. Not only will it prepare you for the unexpected, it will also help to give you peace of mind knowing you’ve got everything sorted before you pack your bags! If you are struggling, you should seek some immigration advice from a designated immigration advice service.
Start building up friendships before you leave
You might be worried that you won’t make any friends studying abroad, but actually, it’s usually a lot easier to meet new people on your year abroad than it is at home. If you’re going on exchange, see if anyone from your home university is going to the same university. Even if your aim is to only meet locals, you’ll be very grateful to have someone there to fall back on and explore the city with. Together you’ll meet twice as many people, so you’ll make twice as many friends!
Make sure you also choose your accommodation carefully in your new city. Living in university halls of residence while studying abroad is usually a great way to meet new people, and sometimes you can chat with your new housemates on the uni website before you move in.
Another tip is to participate in every kind of orientation or introduction week you can find. Join societies and subscribe to gym classes, piano lessons, knitting courses…anything that interests you. This way, you already have a new social life to look forward to before you leave!
Learn about the local culture
Are you going to a country with a completely different etiquette when it comes to table manners, giving gifts or greeting people you’ve never met before? Avoid being the ignorant foreigner by doing some homework before studying abroad, and learn a couple of crucial phrases if you don’t speak the language. However, don’t get too fixated on this, as you’ll witness differences no matter how much research you do beforehand. If you expect it and learn to embrace the differences, it will be much easier to assimilate.
Don’t change your mind!
The paperwork is done, the flight is booked and you’ve already said goodbye to most of your friends. But what’s that sudden feeling of anxiety? Suddenly you start to doubt all the reasons why you thought it was a good idea to go abroad. What if you don’t make any new friends or really dislike the city? What if something bad happens to your pet dog whilst you’re away? Don’t worry, everyone gets cold feet in the weeks prior to taking such a big step in their lives! Focus on all the reasons you were so excited about going abroad, visualise what your life is going to be like by looking at pictures of your new destination and don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your friends and family to blow off some steam.
And guess what, you won’t regret your decision! As soon as you arrive in your new town, you’ll meet plenty of like-minded people who are also new to the city or country and are dying to make friends! Within a few weeks, you’ll be an expert on the local food, you’ll have met people from all over the world and will probably be too busy with uni work (or partying) to answer any of your mum’s calls on Skype. If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to study abroad, grab it with both hands, because it will be an experience you’ll never forget!