The opportunity to study abroad can be one of the most exciting times for any student. It’s an opportunity to experience a different culture and country and to really broaden your outlook on life in a way that would never be possible staying at home. But it’s also fraught with a great number of potential problems and perils. Fortunately, most of these can be mitigated by a student who takes time for a few precautions and preparations. In this article we look into some of the essential things every student going abroad should consider.
Financing Your Foreign Adventure
Being a student you’re most likely at the start of your career, and the rich financial rewards of success you aspire to have yet to come. Even if you are financially independent, it still makes sense to be aware of any financial aid you may be eligible for. State and national education bodies in some countries can make a contribution in whole or in part towards your education but this, as always differs in different countries.
Other methods of financial aid include scholarships from institutions looking to attract the best and brightest from abroad to study with them which is another option worth pursuing. Some systems offer their aid in special student loans which you may need to consider as an alternative to a grant or scholarship.
If you find yourself running into financial difficulty when abroad, these same bodies may still be able to help you, but your first port of call should be your institutions own support network and financial officers who may be able to provide some limited assistance if you find yourself in difficulty.
Preparing to Go Abroad
Foreign travel is an expensive enterprise, meaning that if you leave anything essential behind on your journey out then you’ll likely have to do without. This is of course, unless that something essential is your passport or other travel documents without which you’ll be stuck in your wondering whether or not you really should be studying abroad.
Depending on the diplomatic agreements between your country and the country you are travelling to you may require a visa or other permissions to study in that country. It can take time to arrange for visas or other permissions so be sure to investigate what needs to be done and make your preparations far in advance of your planned travel time. Don’t be tempted to travel to a country and study illegally – many countries have been ramping up their enforcement against students entering their countries without permission and getting deported half way through your studies would be a depressing end to your adventure.
However it’s not just documents you should prepare. Depending on the country, you may find you have to take other precautions and pack other supplies for travelling. For example, if you are travelling to an area with known malaria problems, mosquito nets are a necessity or if you are moving to study in a cold northerly country in the winter you’ll want sturdy winter clothing. Know what awaits you in your chosen destination and make sure you’re prepared for it.
As for essential equipment for modern living such as computers or mobile phones it may be a good idea to buy them before you leave rather than attempting to get them in your destination country. This will depend on the exchange rate between your currency and theirs and is worth paying attention to – you may be able to get a much better deal in your own country than you will ever get abroad.
Plan for the Best, Prepare for the Worst.
Insurance is never the most exciting of words, but it’s something important to bear in mind and prepare for. Apart from protecting your personal belongings, your conditions of travel or visa may require that you take out health insurance to cover you should you fall ill and require medical treatment in your host country. This might require a particular course of immunisations to protect you against any diseases potentially present at your destination.
Another form of insurance that may be essential to consider is travel insurance. Especially if you are travelling by plane and your luggage will be out of your sight for some time it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place for the inevitable mishap. Some carriers are quickly becoming legendary for their ability to send traveller luggage to the wrong airport (and sometimes the wrong continent) so it’s a good idea to take precautions in case something does go wrong.
And if something does go wrong, you’ll want to be able to get back in touch with home in case of emergency or other problems. In today’s interconnected world the most obvious solution is the mobile phone, however these can also be incredibly expensive to operate, especially if you try to use your domestic phone abroad in your host country. Consider instead using a different network in your home country, ideally one with favourable tariffs to your home country.
It’s also a good idea to explore alternative communication technologies to keep down costs on communicating worldwide. The Internet offers a wide variety of ways to stay in touch with friends and family from around the globe for only the cost of your internet subscription, which in many places Is available either free or as part of the lease of your accommodation. Even if it is not, you can use Voice over IP or VOIP services such as Skype to make phone calls over the internet to other skype users for free, wherever they are in the world, or at an affordable rate to regular phones.
Travelling abroad for study can be one of the greatest experiences of your life. And with a little forethought and preparation you can avoid the potential pitfalls and ensure your education away from home leaves you well rounded and set up to embrace any challenge life can throw at you.