The infamous year abroad: a lifestyle writer’s practical tips

Going abroad is a daunting prospect. You will be encountering new cultures and new people in a new environment, and as much as it is exciting, it can be scary. To help with the good and the bad, here are a few tips to help you integrate and fend off homesickness as best as you can.

  • Find out whether your bank card can be used abroad. Know that online bank transfers to and from foreign banks will require you to have a BACS reference number. Let your bank know where you are going and for how long so that they don’t cut off your account by mistake. If it’s more convenient, create a new bank account upon your arrival. Seek out features which might benefit you – no withdrawal charges, online easy bank transfers, and guaranteed replacement cards when lost or stolen.
  • Get a sim card with cheaper deals for data, texting, and calling.
  • Choose university modules ASAP so that you don’t have to deal with administration, which can take more time due to language barriers.
  • Research whether the university offers accommodation and if not, join local student housing groups online. Beware of scams! It might even be better to book a hostel for the first few weeks after landing, enabling you to directly view a flat, both to confirm that it exists and that you like the location.
  • Find out in advance where the cheap supermarkets, bus stops, and train stations are.
  • Learn a few common phrases in the language, and if you have any dietary requirements, remember the words for the foods you need to avoid.
  • Explore local travelling options such as cycling, buses, trains and tram, (and their costs). Buy a travel pass with a student discount for frequent trips. Find out whether tickets can be bought on the bus/train, with cash or card. Have some change ready just in case.
  • Find out if anyone from the university is going to the same destination by using the Go Abroad Facebook Page. If there is a group of you, try to arrange a meeting to get to know each other before heading to the destination. The Facebook page is also a great place to get tips from students who have been to the host university before.
  • Use the opportunity to travel to nearby tourist spots.
  • Join a cultural society to avoid feeling homesick and a university society for international and exchange students to get resources aimed at foreign students.
  • Find work via the careers service at the host university.
  • Go with the flow, as nothing will be as you expect. Don’t compare your go abroad experiences with other people’s as you will, at the very least, learn some life lessons.
  • Take out insurance for health, travel and possessions. Your home or host university may be able to provide this, so them in advance of travel. Bring a sufficient supply of medications, in case they are expensive or not readily available at your destination.
  • Take important documents with you, such as a passport with a valid visa, photo ID, insurance details, medical examination certificate and passport photos for bus passes, other ID forms, or for if you lose your passport. Make copies of these documents for emergencies.
  • If you haven’t got one already, invest in an international student ID card, which will allow you to get student discounts in most places.
  • Attend host induction sessions. Learn the campus in and out, so that you know where classes will be.
  • Write down important contact details of university support services and emergency contacts and carry these with you in case of a dead phone battery situation (embassy details, emergency services, and local security services).
  • Familiarise yourself with laws of the country e.g. drinking laws.
  • Culture shock can happen where you will feel homesick, stressed and frustrated whilst adapting to a new culture. Just remember, this is perfectly normal so don’t beat yourself up for it. Take a few days to transition into the time zone and climate. Treat yourself with something from home or call your friends and family to have a connection with home.
  • Finally, enjoy your year abroad to the fullest. Eat all the dishes, attend cultural events, and be patient with yourself. Living abroad is no easy feat but you will learn a lot. Good luck!


Image: Creative Commons via pxhere 

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