What to prepare before studying abroad
So, you’ve been accepted to the school, university, exchange program, or scholarship of your dream!
First of all, congratulations! That’s a major achievement and we are sure you are excited to embark on this amazing new chapter in your life.
But now, you have to get ready to leave your home country and settle in a new one!
There are so many things to prepare and it can be overwhelming!
Worry not, in this article, we will share what you need to prepare before studying abroad so you can start your journey smoothly!
1. Get your passport and visa in order
This is arguably the most important since you can’t really go abroad without these!
Make sure your passport has not expired and make sure you have applied for and received your visa.
Almost all countries have a specific visa for international students so you can stay for the duration of your degree and you don’t have to reapply during your stay in your host country.
To apply for a student visa, you usually need to show your Letter of Offer or Letter of Acceptance from your university. You usually also need to do a health check-up and obtain a clean bill of health to obtain your visa.
So, make sure you have a valid passport and visa so you don’t encounter legal problems down the road!
2. Get international student health insurance
You don’t want to get sick and have no means of paying for your treatment, do you?
Also, it’s a legal requirement in most countries so you must have insurance!
There are multiple insurance providers to choose from so always do a bit of research, compare all options, and choose the one that best suits your needs.
3. Arrange accommodation
Now that you have arranged your passport, visa, and health insurance, it’s time to find accommodation!
Some universities have dorms. Usually, these dorms are very close to your university or even within the university environment itself!
University accommodation is convenient and some even provide meals and you can make new friends easily as everyone there is a student just like you. However, quite often university accommodation is more expensive.
Alternatively, you can search for your own accommodation, like an apartment or a share house. What is a share house? Basically, you rent a house with some other people and live together,
When looking for an an accommodation, be mindful about:
- The condition: furnished or unfurnished? Some apartments and houses come without furniture and it can be quite a hassle buying furniture, not to mention costly, so it’s better to look for furnished places.
- Price: is it reasonable? How does it compare to other rent prices in the neighborhood? Are the bills included in the rent fee?
- Area: how close is it to your university? What options are available to go to university? Is walking or biking possible? What about public transport? Is it a safe area?
If you’re not sure about making a decision about where you’ll live before arriving in the country, you can spend the first few days or weeks staying in a hotel or Airbnb while you look for places or you can stay in a university dorm for a semester and move to an apartment or a share house later.
Generally, it is recommended that you open a bank account in your destination country once you arrive. However, we recommend that you bring a credit or debit card with Visa or MasterCard logo so you can access funds while you’re opening a bank account in your destination country. We also suggest that you bring some local currency cash or get some from the money changer as soon as you arrive in your destination country.
When packing, less is more!
It might be tempting to bring everything since you might think that some stuff is not available in your destination country.
But remember that there is a limit to your baggage as dictated by the airline. Don’t bring a rice cooker! It’s a huge waste of space and you can easily buy a rice cooker in your destination country, the basic one is really cheap.
Some essentials to bring are:
- Important documents: Remember to put it in a safe place, preferably not in your luggage.
- Clothes: don’t bring your entire wardrobe! Bring clothes that you think you will wear often. If your destination country has a winter season, you might want to bring winter clothing. However, you can just bring a basic coat and buy the rest in your destination country. Indonesia is a tropical country anyway so it is hard to look for winter clothing here and what’s available might not be of the best quality.
- Shoes: stick to 3 pairs or less, if possible.
- Electric appliances: especially for the ladies, leave your hair dryer or flat iron at home! You can bring an adaptor for your phone and laptop charger or you can buy a new charger in the destination country. Again, no need to bring cooking appliances like rice cookers or toasters, they are cheap to buy in your destination country.
- Toiletries: bring travel-size toiletries to last you a few days or a few weeks, then stock up in your destination country.
- Snacks and seasonings: you might be tempted to bring snacks and seasonings and that’s okay. However, depending on your destination country, you might have to declare what you bring upon arrival at the airport. However, chances are you will be able to find at least one Asian grocery store in a reasonable distance from your accommodation so don’t worry, you’ll still be able to get your much-loved indomie!
- Prescription medications: If you routinely take medication, make sure to ask your doctor for a prescription note. However, check your destination country’s rules regarding bringing medications.
6. Brush up on your host country’s language
You might have passed the required language test of your academic program; perhaps you’ve done IELTS or TOEFL iBT.
We certainly commend you for achieving your target score. That’s not an easy feat!
However, it’s a good idea to brush up on your conversation skills or if you want to be super serious and get a headstart, take an academic writing course!
Now, IELTS and TOEFL iBT both contain Writing Modules, but they are quite short. Remember that if you’re doing a degree level education (i.e., bachelor’s, masters, or doctorate) your essays are going to be a lot longer and more in-depth, so it’s a good idea to train yourself to get used to writing in an academic style and learn to do citations.
7. Learn to self-study effectively
Embarking on your academic journey abroad isn’t just about attending lectures and participating in seminars. A significant chunk of your learning will happen outside the classroom – in the realms of self-study. And trust us, it’s an art worth mastering!
First things first, get cozy with academic resources like Google Scholar. This isn’t your average Google search – it’s a treasure trove of academic papers, articles, and publications. While your university’s library system is likely to be top-notch, being a whiz at navigating online resources like Google Scholar is a skill that will serve you well throughout your academic career.
But here’s the kicker – you’ll be dealing with a mountain of reading material. This is where fast reading techniques, such as skimming and scanning, become your best friends. These aren’t just fancy words; they’re practical strategies to help you sift through pages upon pages without getting bogged down. You’ll learn to pick up key ideas, essential arguments, and crucial data quickly – all without sacrificing comprehension!
Remember, effective self-study isn’t about cramming information at the eleventh hour; it’s about consistent, smart, and strategic learning. So, embrace these skills early on, and you’ll find yourself navigating the sea of academic literature like a seasoned sailor!
8. Learn time management skills
Now, let’s talk about a skill that’s as golden as your academic degree when studying abroad – time management!
Trust us, it’s the secret sauce to making the most of your international study experience. Why? Because you’re not just a student; you might be a part-time worker, a traveler, a friend, and so much more.
Imagine juggling classes, perhaps a part-time job, and soaking in the new experiences of living abroad. Sounds like a lot?
Well, with savvy time management, it’s not just doable; it’s enjoyable!
Tools like Google Calendar can be your best buddies here. They’re perfect for keeping your university, work, and personal life schedules in harmony. And hey, don’t forget those assignment deadlines! Apps that track these deadlines can be lifesavers, ensuring you never miss a beat.
But here’s the real deal – having a detailed timetable and planning ahead. It’s about knowing what’s coming up in your study, work, and playtime. Prioritizing is key. Recognize which tasks need your immediate attention and which can take a backseat if something unexpected pops up. This way, you can make swift adjustments without throwing your whole schedule off balance.
Regularly reviewing your schedule is like doing a quick reality check. It helps you stay flexible, adapt to new situations, and re-prioritize as needed. And remember, it’s okay if things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, life throws a curveball, and that’s perfectly fine. Give yourself some grace and wiggle room for those unexpected moments. After all, a bit of spontaneity adds color to your study abroad adventure!
9. Lean to manage your personal finances
Picture this: you’ve landed in the destination you’ve always dreamed of for your studies abroad. The excitement is palpable, the adventures await, but then you realize – your funds seem to be vanishing faster than you anticipated. Sounds alarming, right?
That’s why it’s important to become a pro at handling your money – a skill that’s as crucial as your academic pursuits!
Start by tracking every penny you spend – it’s like keeping a diary of your financial life. This practice sheds light on your spending habits, revealing areas where you might trim down expenses without sacrificing your happiness. It’s about being smart with your money, ensuring you have enough for both needs and a few wants.
Creating a budget is your next step to financial savvy. It’s about balancing the scales between your income (like parental support or part-time job earnings) and your outgoings!
It’s not just about tracking; it’s about gaining insights and making informed decision.
And when it comes to budgeting, remember, it’s not just about rent and utilities. You need to account for groceries, and yes, even that all-important ‘fun money’ for your leisure activities!
But here’s the crucial part: stick to your budget like glue. It’s easy to get swayed by peer pressure, to join in on every outing or activity. But pause and ask yourself – is this something you genuinely enjoy? If not, you’re not just missing out on the fun, you’re also watching your precious money slip away.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to go at it alone. In today’s digital era, there are countless budgeting apps at your disposal, acting as your personal finance assistants.
But here’s the real trick – start practicing this skill now. Get into the habit of budgeting and monitoring your spending before you set foot abroad. By the time you’re unpacking your bags in your new dorm or apartment, managing your finances will feel like second nature to you!
10. Prepare yourself mentally
Last but certainly not least, prepare yourself mentally!
You are about to go through some big changes and leaving home and saying goodbye to your families and friends might be hard, but thankfully with today’s technology, you can keep in touch with them pretty easily.
Rememeber that it might take a few weeks or even a few months to adjust and that’s completely okay! Adjusting is a process! And you have to accustom yourself to new culture, new language, a new way of life!
Your academic responsibilities and expectations might be on a level you have never experienced before. So, take your time. There will be ups and downs but just enjoy the ride!
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IELC Academic Director