Before you start your study abroad adventure be sure to do the next 10 activities to prepare yourself to make sure you have the best year ever.
Visit the Doctors and Dentist
Before you leave make an appointment with your doctor and dentist for a general check-up. That way if you need any medication prescribed or fillings you won’t have to pay extortionate fees abroad in your host country. Check which vaccinations you need to have and make sure you’ve got them all and the booster jabs. Get at least a two weeks supply of all of your prescriptions to save arriving and having to find a doctor straight away. Lots of countries such as the USA allow you to take 3 months’ worth of medication into the country. When I studied abroad in the USA, my medication in the UK was £9 a month, but was $125 a month in the USA!! So I made sure to bring as much as I could with me/got some shipped out.
Travel insurance is ESSENTIAL. It covers illnesses, delays, lost luggage, thefts, etc. Make sure to research the type of insurance you need. You can often use your university’s study abroad travel insurance so check with your home university before buying insurance. Be sure to read the small print when buying insurance to avoid any unexpected payouts.
Familiarise yourself with your host country
Before you leave research your host country in detail. Familiarize yourself with local cultures to avoid offending, e.g. dressing modestly is expected in lots of countries in Southern Asia. If studying abroad in a non-English speaking country learn basic phrases such as ‘Good Morning’ & ‘My name is’ to help you.
Consider how you’d like to access money whilst abroad. Do you want to get a Post Office travel card that you top up and spend, or would you like to use your own bankcard. Be sure to tell your bank you’re moving abroad so they don’t freeze your account. If you’d like to open a bank account in your host country be sure you have all of the necessary documents to open an account. When you first move to abroad try to bring enough cash to cover your first few days as you settle in and find where the nearest ATMs are.
When moving abroad the overwhelming temptation is to pack all of your clothes, including that Banana costume from freshers just in case you need it. Most items you need will be available overseas so don’t weigh yourself down and pay for extra baggage. (My mum made me pack a giant box of PG Tips because “who knows what American tea tastes like!” – it’s pretty much the same as English tea). If you arrive in your host country and discover you’ve forgotten something you can either go to the shops or have your family send you the item if it’s necessary. Save some room in your suitcase by only packing about two weeks’ worth of toiletries and buying the rest when you arrive.
As you’ll probably be going home over Christmas make sure to only pack weather appropriate clothing. You can bring home lots of your winter clothes and swap them for your summer clothes over Christmas break.
Don’t bother bringing hair straighteners or hair dryers – you’ll fry them. Different countries use different voltages to the US. You’re better off leaving them in the UK and buying new ones when you get there.
As a rule the maximum amount of luggage you should bring is one suitcase, one carry on bag, and one small purse/bag that fits under your seat.
Don't forget to pack:
- Power adaptors
- Photos of home to help with homesickness
- Your favourite snacks from home
- A travel journal
- Reusable water bottle
- A portable charger
Check out The Abroad Guide’s ultimate packing list.
Before you arrive research sim cards and tariffs in your home country. If you’re a UK student studying in Europe you won’t need to make any changes as your Sim Card can be used in most countries in Europe. If you’re studying further afield consider if a Sim Card is vital. Depending on which country you study in lots of restaurants, buildings, and cafes will have WIFI so you can contact your friends or family. If you’d like to be able to contact them on the move and not rely on public WIFI then a Sim Card is a good idea.
Running out of money abroad is less than idea. Before you leave create a budget. Save the Student have a handy downloadable budget calculator where you can track the costs of bills, accommodation, and flights.
Arrange your airport transfer BEFORE you arrive abroad. Have your host universities’ address memorised.
Make copies of documents
Make sure to scan copies of your passport, visa, travel documents, and confirmation from your host university before you leave. Keep copies of these documents in your luggage in case you lose the original in transit. Make sure to email a copy to parents or friends to use in an emergency.
Save any phone numbers you’ll need e.g. of your host university, your home university, emergency services, and a taxi number in your host country.
Making friends before you arrive is a great way to help elevate anxiety. Make a Facebook group of students from your home university who’re also studying abroad with you. Join Facebook groups at your host university for your course/accommodation bloc. That way you can share information and helpful tips to make sure you’re more prepared for your adventure.
Worried about dealing with homesickness when studying abroad? Head over to Study Abroad's blog to find out how you can manage it.