5 Tips to Prepare for Studying Abroad | Top Universities

5 Tips to Prepare for Studying Abroad

By Mathilde Frot

Updated March 29, 2021 Updated March 29, 2021

First off, congratulations! You’ve secured a place to study abroad, sorted out your accommodation, applied for a student visa, and booked your flight. Get prepared for what’s ahead with this quick guide to studying abroad. From battling culture shock to compiling the perfect study abroad packing list, here’s everything you need to know…

1.  Join your course group on Facebook.

This is essential. Joining your course group on Facebook is a really great way to get to chat with other students about things that worry or excite you, like Freshers’ Week, or even how to deal with practical stuff like finding a flatshare or the stress of moving away from home for the first time. You’ll realize that everyone’s pretty much in the same boat and that you’re not really diving into the deep end solo.

2. Buy weather-appropriate clothes.

Look up average winter and autumnal temperatures in the country you are moving to and figure out how and where to buy weather-appropriate clothes. If you are moving to – say – the UK or Canada from a warm tropical country or even a place with a temperate climate, then you definitely should invest in a good winter coat, scarf, gloves and a hat. Obviously, if purchasing your winter kit in your home country is going to be an issue, then you should check out your closet and prepare a budget with a list of items to buy ASAP when you arrive.

3. Figure out the cheapest way to call your parents and friends back home.

Studying abroad, you’ll probably be prone to the occasional bout of homesickness, but unlike many of your friends, you won’t be able to catch a quick train or a ride home for the weekend. But while you may not be able to recover from freshers’ flu at home or spend reading week with your family, there are many ways to catch up with your family and friends while at university.

Taking into account any time differences, agree with your family on optimum times and days of the week to catch up. Just make sure you use a free service such as WhatsApp or Skype, or shop around for the best mobile network for international calls, because being a student isn’t cheap!  

4. Bring dry goods (snacks, sweets, cereal etc.), snapshots of your dog and your go-to comfort films/books/CDs.

DO NOT bring sauce pans and a duvet with you on the plane! Check in one or two suitcases and pack them with clothes, family photos and anything that you’re liable to miss from back home. You can buy the rest once you arrive.

Here’s what should be in your studying abroad packing list: comfort junk to pimp your room or hold onto when you’re feeling sad. This can be anything ranging from your personal DVD collection of Friends to a little jar of harissa or Milo cocoa powder.

Do not skip this step. It will really help to have something to retreat to when you’re stuck in bed with a cold or missing your family.

5. Embrace unfamiliarity.

Rather than research your new home extensively before you go – memorizing its pop culture, history and literary cannon back to front – you should probably just focus on accepting that you will inevitably get absolutely everything wrong during the first few months.

Every day stuff might probably seem a little off, and often what you think you know about the place, its people and culture will actually be miles away from the truth. Take the move as an exercise in humility. Accept discomfort, and trust that you will eventually have strong emotional ties with your new location.

This article was originally published in September 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.

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