Studying Abroad: Final Preparations | Top Universities

Studying Abroad: Final Preparations

By Staff Writer

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

Make sure you’re really ready to study abroad, with these final preparation tips from international student advisors around the world.

Preparing to go and live in a whole new country can be a daunting experience. Even after you’ve gone through the process of choosing a university, getting a place, and arranging your visa, there is still a lot of work to be done.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is choosing what to pack. Though it can be tempting to try and squeeze your entire life into a couple of suitcases, you are going to have to be selective about what makes the cut, and what stays at home.

“It is best to wait until arrival to buy warm winter clothes and there is no need to bring sheets, bedclothes, towels, or homewares as they are available at reasonable prices at discount stores and it saves paying for excess baggage,” advises Joanna Barker, director of the University of Adelaide’s International Office.

You should also, she advises, take stock of what will and won’t work in the country in which you’re studying: “Bring a laptop but don’t bring other electrical goods. The electrical outlets in [your study destination] may be different from your home country.”

Lynsey Finnemore, an admissions and events officer in the University of Durham’s International Office, emphasizes the importance of bringing the correct documentation.

“It is vital that students bring their visa, photocopies of important documents such as passports, debit cards, and so on. The documents that were used to apply for a visa should also be packed. Additional forms of identification are useful and passport-sized photos can come in handy.”

She concurs with Barker on bedding and linen, and warm clothes but advises that you bring some clothes that are suitable for layering, especially if you’re heading to somewhere with a chillier climate than you’re used to.

A bit of money in the local currency to get you going is also a must, as are any prescriptions for essential medicines and some contact lenses, if you wear them.

On the subject of ailments, Barker advises you take some precautions against one of the most common: homesickness.

“Students should bring things which are important to them and remind them of home.” However, she adds that it might be better to leave valuable jewellery and anything really irreplaceable behind – better to be without them temporarily than to risk losing them forever.

Get your house in order

As well as packing tactically, you should also make sure you tie up any loose ends at home before setting off. It is particularly important, says Finnemore, to sort out anything that could cost you financially.

“Before setting off, you should phone your home bank to inform them that you will be abroad to avoid cards being frozen. Cell phone plans should be cancelled as well.”

Sorting out a new phone contract, she adds, should be one of the first things you do on arriving, as should opening a local bank account.

Barker emphasizes the importance of making sure you will have a roof over your head.

“Arrange student accommodation in advance, preferably for the whole year but at least for the first few weeks.” Your university, she says, will be able to help if you need temporary accommodation.

She also recommends that you factor in time to acclimatise and attend orientation events which most destination universities will offer before you begin your course.

Many universities will have programs in place to look after international students from the moment they arrive. If, like the University of Adelaide, they do, you need to let them know in as much detail as possible when, where and how you will be arriving.

Life in a new culture

Your preparation should also go beyond the material. Paul Forster, the director of the Global Students Office at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, recommends that you prepare yourself for differences between your home and destination countries.

“I would advise students to prepare themselves for their studies by doing some research on their host country. I think most students already do some of that. But as well as the weather and cultural differences, do some research on the history, education system, teaching and learning styles in their new country.”

He goes on to explain the value of such research: “Understanding the history of the country helps to explain how and why people behave the way they do.

“Each country has its own educational traditions and local students will bring to their education a different set of experiences than international students. Knowing something about those before arriving can really ease the settling in process.”

But take the time to do this, says Finnemore, and you will reap the benefits. “This will be a very big transition in your life, but you will have the incredible opportunity to be immersed in a foreign country in order to gain a better international perspective. This experience is extremely enriching and exciting and will very likely be the most exciting time in your life!”

This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

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