When you envision yourself earning your undergraduate or graduate degree, you don’t see yourself doing it in the United States. You want to experience new cultures. You also want access to different programs and specialties than you’d find in the States. So you’ve decided to study abroad.
However, as exciting as the prospect seems, you have to keep the following in mind before you go. If you don’t prepare properly, you could find yourself in some frustrating and difficult situations. You could even lose the opportunity to go to a foreign school. But as long as you remember the information below, you shouldn’t have any problems.
1. Find Housing Before You Leave
Most schools offer the option of on-campus housing. However, if you don’t have on-campus housing, you cannot just show up at the school and hope that things work out. Look for apartments in the area so you don’t find yourself homeless. You don’t want to use a hotel as a backup-this tactic will burn through your finances. Sign a contract with a landlord in advance so you can easily move in.
2. Finish Your Visa Before You Book Your Flight
If you, like most people, like to buy your airfare in advance, make sure you finish your student visa in advance as well. If you show up in a foreign country with an unfinished student visa, the border agents will send you straight home. Even if you have partially finished your visa, and even if you have a valid passport, you will need a completed visa-usually glued into your passport-to enter the country.
3. Arrange to Stay in Touch with Your Friends Back Home
When you go to school abroad, you’ll have to maintain long-distance relationships with everyone you care about. And these people still have to worry about their everyday schedules, so they might not have time to catch up with you if you don’t prepare beforehand. Arrange to keep in touch by phone or by email. Establish a regular schedule for calls and emails too.
4. Study Different Cultures’ Etiquette
What passes for polite or allowable in America may not have the same reception in other countries. For example, some cultures may feel offended if you chew gum in class. Others may feel uncomfortable if you wear clothes that expose your shoulders or show the bottom of your shoe. Research cultural faux pas in your new country to make sure you don’t rub anyone the wrong way.
5. Pay Attention to Exchange Rates So You Know How Much Money to Save
An American dollar isn’t worth the same as a British pound. When you travel to a foreign country, you have to pay attention to the exchange rate, or the worth your national currency has against money in the country where you’ll study. The dollar usually has less worth than a pound or a euro, but it often has more worth than other currencies. Keep the exchange rate in mind as you plan your budget.
6. Find Out if You Need a Foreign Bank Account
In some countries, the university gives you a student account, so you do not have to worry about this step. However, others require you to have a local bank account in addition to your US one before you can receive loans and scholarships. Ask your school which policy they use.
7. Look Into Other Unexpected Costs, Like TV Licenses
Do you have a subscription to Netflix and other online TV services? If so, you might have to get a TV license before you can watch videos in a foreign country. These licenses do not cost much, nor will you have to deal with them in every nation. Research the laws in your school’s country to learn more.
Before you let your excitement overwhelm you, make sure you’ve considered everything in the list above. Additionally, don’t think that you have to relocate your belongings all by yourself. If you have several items to move and no idea how to get them overseas, talk to a moving company for advice.