13 Things to Remember About Studying Abroad

Living in another country really isn’t as scary as everyone says, but there always things you wish you know before you travel. So for anyone even thinking about studying abroad, regardless of how long, here are a few things to remember…

1. Don’t think in terms of your home currency

Yes, things are going to be different. Depending on where you go and where you come from, there’s going to be a stark difference in the cost of living. For example, coming from the United States, you have to avoid thinking in terms of USD – it’s a lot more expensive in certain parts of the world, but if you spend every second converting the cost of things, it’s going to be really hard to do anything. For example, spending 20 quid every week for groceries is great in London, but if you convert it back to USD…spending $32 a week seems like a lot. Don’t focus on the conversions, but more on the standards wherever you are and you’ll do just fine.

2. Budget

For the first few weeks especially, keep track of how much money you spend on different things. Keep receipts and budget. Remember how much you spend on the necessities – like groceries and travel – per week and budget it. Then you’ll know how much you can spend on other things like nights out and souvenirs for friends and family.

3. Always ask if there’s a student discount

Believe it or not, there are student discounts for everything nowadays. Keep your student ID on you at all times, and it’s bound to save you money on things. Whether it’s a retail, a nightclub or travel fare, I guarantee you there are helpful discounts for students. Make sure you go to any student fairs or unions where they wll be able to provide you with information on budgeting and making things cheaper.

4. Make friends in class and befriend the locals – not just your fellow home country students

Don’t get me wrong, making friends from your home country is great. You make friends for life while you’re abroad and share the most amazing memories with people you probably wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise. But you should make the most of studying in a new country and make local and internationalfriends. While you’re abroad, you’ll have people to show you around who share their favourite things about the country with you, but you’ll also have friends to last a lifetime once you go back home.

5. Be a tourist, but be a local

Do everything you’ve seen on TV, go places you’ve seen in the movies, take the most cliché pictures. Take in the city like you would if you were on holiday, but take things in like the locals would as well. See things you wouldn’t have a chance to see if you were in another country for say, a week. Make it a point to find local hotspots and see things the way they would – because you’ll be considered a local for as long as you’re studying there. After a while, it becomes your city.

6. It’s okay to get lost – it’s almost inevitable

Travel in another country is intimidating, especially if you’re not used to the type of public transport in your new city. So don’t get too freaked out if you get lost. There are maps and people you could turn to if you really don’t know where you’re going. But getting lost isn’t always a bad thing. Embrace it. 

7. Download Viber

The first thing most study abroad students look for as soon as they land is a WiFi connection and a way to contact everyone back home. Don’t make the mistake of running up your international phone bill. If you get a chance, switch out your existing SIM card for a local Pay As You Go one. Regardless of if you get a local number or not, download Viber [http://www.viber.com] and make sure everyone back home has, too. It uses your existing phone number and allows free calls and texts over WiFi or 3G connection. It’s a lifesaver.

8. Know what you shouldn’t say before you learn the hard way

If there’s one thing that’s going to give you real culture shock, it’s the language barriers. “But I’m going to an English-speaking country,” you say. Yes, well, I came from an English-speaking country, and I still got tripped up over words and phrases I’ve never heard before. If there’s one thing I wish I knew, it would have to be the different colloquialisms. Instead, I learned the hard way and said something that caused everyone to laugh at me while I stared blankly in response. Save yourself the embarrassing moments and learn what you can and can’t say before you get to where you have to go.

9. Don’t pack everything you would if you were going back to school

This one is self-explanatory. Don’t pack your bags to the brim and push the weight limit for your flight. Bring the necessities and a few of your favourite things, but leave those things you’re unsure of back home. Leave space in your bags to bring home souvenirs at the end of your time and save yourself the struggle of extra bags or overweight fees.

10. Make copies of important documents

In case of an emergency, keep a copy of all of your important documents separate from your originals. If you lose your passport, study abroad insurance, social security/NI cards, etc., all your information is gone – visa and all. But it’s better to have copies than nothing at all.

11. Open a local bank account

Regardless of how long you’re abroad, it’s probably easier to open a local debit account to use for just about everything. You can find free cashpoints almost everywhere to withdraw money from your home accounts and put it in a local account to avoid international usage fees.

12. Be adventurous and try new things

It sounds pretty cliché, but what is travel without the adventure? Don’t just stick to what you know. You’re abroad to experience something new, so take it all in. Jump right in and embrace the new culture at all costs.

13. Study hard, but have fun

Last, but not least, the most important and simple piece of advice about studying abroad. Know the difference between studying abroad, studying abroad and studying abroad. Balance it all out and remember to study. Stick your nose in the books and don’t leave your coursework to the last second. Take it as seriously as you would back in your home institution. Remember to work hard, and play hard as your reward.