Studying abroad is exciting, there’s just no other way to put it. It’s been the best time of my life and can be yours too as you meet people from all over the world, gain experiences unlike any other, and make new memories in life. However, if you’re ill-prepared, you might find the transition from comfortable family living to living independently quite difficult and stressful.
My circumstances were fortunate as I had a lot of support from my parents, admissions office, and more. Yet, I know some people who were in potentially avoidable tough spots at the start of their journey. If only they had known some information beforehand or thought of contingency plans for any possible mishaps. I’ve been where you are before, and I want to help make your experience of studying abroad as painless as possible.
So, here are 7 things to know before studying abroad.
1. Choose where to study
Countries are just like people, no two are exactly the same. When you’re making friends, you’ll most likely find it easier to connect with people who are compatible with you. In choosing a country or place where you want to spend a significant amount of your time living and studying, you’ll want to do the same but in the form of some research.
First, learn more about the country’s language, culture, religion, mannerisms, food, and more so you’re not flying in blind. Perhaps you do want to go in without any previous conceptions or expectations, which is fine as well. No matter what though, it’s always nice to know what you’re dealing with first so you won’t regret your decision after.
2. Weather & clothes
Something you might want to consider is the weather. Research the climate and the average temperature of the place you’ve chosen. I am originally from Malaysia, a country with a 37 degree Celsius average temperature all year round, so this means sporting light shirts with shorts.
I’ve studied at EF Academy Torbay which has, let’s say, eccentric weather. As I’m writing this blog, the blinds are drawn to block the blinding sunlight and warmth from annoying me (I’m a vampire for those of you who don’t know). However, just two weekends before, we had a snowstorm that hadn’t happened in Torbay in over nine years. Tomorrow and the next couple of days, we’re expecting a lot of rain. As you can see, it’s best to know the weather in the area so you can pack the appropriate clothes from your home country.
3. Phone plan
This is absolutely essential when studying abroad. You never know if you’ll suddenly need to make a call at the airport, use your data for Google Maps, or search for information like a taxi company. Before you travel, check with your mobile phone provider if they have international plans with the country you’re moving to and if it’s still affordable.
If not, be sure to sign up for a mobile plan at the airport once you touch down so you have one less thing to worry about. If you can, do also pack a cheap backup phone just in case something happens to yours. You can never be too careful.
4. Budgeting and finances
This may not be something that’s constantly on your mind when your parents are around but while studying abroad, you need to be aware of your monetary circumstances and budgeting. Just like your mobile service provider, make sure your bank knows what’s up before you leave so they don’t decline your payments when you’re buying some coffee.
Some things you should be aware of if you aren’t already are:
- your bank’s international charging fee
- the current exchange rate between your home country and the country you’re moving too
- the monetary system of your new home.
For example, when I was in America, it took me forever to get used to their coin system and it got embarrassing sometimes when I was fiddling about my wallet to get the right coins. So be sure to know the system so you can avoid being “that person.”
5. Emergency number
Now, we all probably know the emergency number of different countries so of course, that’s not what I’m referring too. (Note: Get to know the emergency hotline of the country you’re moving to if you don’t already know it.) What I’m talking about is the emergency number of your school/college/university so there’s someone you can call if you get lost or something has happened to you at the airport upon landing.
To be well prepared, be sure to have the emergency number written physically on a piece of paper as well to keep in your luggage in case something happens to your phone.
6. Electronic devices
On the flip side though, phones and laptops are absolute essentials as most schools and colleges nowadays are being more electronic by introducing Google and other learning programs into their system. If you don’t have a laptop, you’re going to find it difficult to type up that 1,000-word essay on your phone screen or create a presentation on your tablet.
Be sure to know your school/course and get the appropriate electronic equipment.
7. Culture shock & homesickness
I know a lot of friends who experienced culture shock when they first started studying abroad, and many of my friends experience homesickness throughout the academic year. By following the first tip, hopefully, you’ll avoid culture shock. However, sometimes unforeseen events may tip you off, so you’ll need to cope.
In order to do this, do keep an open and positive mind of what’s happening around you and ask for help. Don’t isolate yourself and just hope for someone to come along. You have to take responsibility for yourself because you’re now a young adult.
As for homesickness, I’ve never experienced homesickness before because – well, I don’t know why. So, from my experience observing others, maybe bring along some food from your home country and call your parents regularly. Keep in mind that no matter how much you miss home, the next holiday is just around the corner so just enjoy your time abroad because you’ll miss it when it’s over.