Like every other chance in life that can bring tremendous rewards, the opportunity to study abroad will be even more beneficial if you have thoroughly planned and prepared for it. We have gathered our top six tips for students preparing to realise their dream of studying abroad.
These include general suggestions if you’re preparing your application, those awaiting an admission offer, those lucky enough to already have a firm offer or any of you out there already twiddling your thumbs in the departure lounge!
1) Research, research, research!
Our guess is you will have already put a significant amount of thought into your desired program of study, school, campus or town and country. However, if you haven’t made a start, it’s worth…
- For starters, thoroughly researching and identifying a range of suitable options before settling for one! Compare and contrast before making your final decision. There are hundreds of study abroad blogs which can help you navigate your choice.
- Defining your academic goals and identifying your desired career path. Which institutions will best allow you to realise these dreams?
- Thinking about factors such as: climate, culture, standard of living, politics…does the way of life suit your personality and how you spend your free time?
2) Be organised! Prepare your application and keep a checklist
While preparing your application, applying, and preparing to depart, you will have to source all the required documents, such as your visa, prepare your proof of language proficiency and provide evidence of funds. All of these things take time, and you should ensure you start early enough to make sure the stress of waiting for paperwork doesn’t spoil your first experience of living abroad.
3) Learn about the destination, their culture and language
The chances are if you’re reading this, you expect to be using English for academic purposes. However, it’s equally important that you have a basic understanding of the language spoken in your future host community. Are you thinking about studying in China, Spain, Saudi Arabia, France, Canada…? Make the effort to learn and understand their language and culture and you will reap the benefits in terms of integration and enjoyment of your time abroad.
4) Prepare to connect with a diverse community
Connecting with a community which may be many times more diverse than you’ve experienced in the past is an inherent element of accepting an offer to study abroad. You should prepare mentally to see the world and others in a way different from what you’ve been used to. Tolerance, acceptance of others’ beliefs and opinions and, of course, learning from them is all part of the experience of studying abroad. Consider watching recent popular films from your chosen country to gain insight into the culture before you leave. For example, IMDB allows you to search by country and genre.
5) Pack… and pack again!
The keyword is pragmatism, over-packing will just lead to surcharges at the airport and under-packing means last minute dashes for essentials in your first week (when you will want to concentrate on finding your feet and enjoying the ice breaker activities!). Lay out what you think you will need and filter brutally! While packing your bags, think about:
- Necessary academic documents (ensure these are safely stored and you have duplicate electronic copies or photocopies)
- Double check your travel documents: visa, ID, health insurance, vaccinations. Check requirements with your embassy or travel agent.
- Basic study materials, including electronic devices and at least 2 regional adapters.
- Clothing appropriate to the season in your chosen region!
- A conversation starter from home – especially useful if you are going into shared accommodation!
- Are there essentials from home that you really can’t live without?! The local spice blend, comfort food or brand of toothpaste?
6) Connect with alumni of your school
Consider connecting with alumni of your school, either in your home country or on social platforms. LinkedIn is perfect for this! Nothing beats having a chat to graduates that have already attended your chosen institution or completed your chosen course. Not only will this boost your confidence in what you can expect when you arrive on campus, but they will be able to give you insider tips on anything and everything ranging from the best places to eat, tips on finding affordable accommodation to sports clubs and societies that you may like to join. You never know, this initial connection may also boost your prospects later in your academic career when applying for placements, jobs or mentorship.
Finally, just make the most of your time… wherever you end up!
Liked this blog? Check out our blog What to expect when you study abroad. Sign up to our mailing list at the bottom of the page to receive notifications of new posts by email. And don’t forget to like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram for more tips and resources to help you learn English!
Dawn Slaughter is a DELTA-qualified ELT trainer and marketing professional, specialising in educational content. She spent a year studying in the South of France before moving to Paris to work in both teaching and publishing roles. Taking the step to integrate a year abroad into her degree was the springboard to a diverse and fulfilling career which has allowed her to meet authors, teachers, and students around the world.
Shouldn’t it be “Are there essential …”?
You’re absolutely right, Marcia. Thanks for spotting that typo!