If you’ve recently been thinking about doing your own study abroad year, or are already in the process of applying, this blog post is for you. Preparing for a study abroad year seems like an easy enough task – until you actually do it. Of course, individual differences apply, but being someone like me, these reminders had and have been useful:
1. Make sure you definitely know the place you want to study abroad IS the place you want to study abroad
This sounds quite basic, but I have met people during my year away who’d wish they would have picked a different university, or even a different country to study in. It’s upsetting to think that with a little extra research on the university and the country being visited, these feelings wouldn’t be present. I know that you can’t help changing your mind as time goes by, but ensuring that the university you’re going to stay at has good resources and is ideal for YOU is the first step to ensuring a great year abroad.
2. Find out more about the country/city/university
Another no-brainer and connected to the last point, but this could prove useful in terms of:
- etiquette (e.g. tipping)
- what you need to enter the country (in terms of documents, covered in the next point)
- emergency situations (e.g. what are their police/ambulance/fire services like)
Also, finding out about your city and around your host university gives you a good idea of places of interest and attractions that are close by and worth visiting!
3. Prepare documentation IN GOOD TIME
This tip is tedious, and with exams in the summer (which will constitute whether you will make it to your study abroad year or not), filling out university application and visa forms is not your first priority. However, it is better to have it over and done with as soon as possible rather than leaving it until after exam season. This is due to the time frame and efficacy of different countries processing forms. The bottom line is, you REALLY don’t want to leave it until the last minute. An example: you, 3 days to go until you leave for your host university, and still don’t have your visa (not from personal experience, but that example just frightens me).
4. Make sure you apply for as much funding as you can
Just like you tick the “Yes, I want higher maintenance loan” box in your Student Finance application (my condolences to international students who do not get this privilege), grabbing funding from many sources adds up advantageously by time you start your year abroad. Money from Global Opportunities Grant (visit the website page for more info or office hours), bursaries, Student Finance [England] refund grants or even local funding schemes are examples of ways you can really make the most of your time (and also be able to afford everything you need).
5. Make lists
Whether it be of what you’re going to do while you’re there for the year, or documents that you need to take with you to allow access into the country, lists are important for organising and structure. Making sure you have remembered everything you need is easier when you have it written down, as forgetting something may cost dearly.
6. Be sensible with packing
Long gone are the days where I could shove 12 boxes into the boot of the car, filled with semi-useless objects, to move in with. Instead, I had to fit 23kg into one suitcase (I ended up with 3 suitcases in the end) to take for my year away.
To be honest, this may have been the biggest struggle throughout the whole year abroad preparation. I do NOT pack lightly, but eventually I managed to squeeze everything in. For your own health, do not do what I did – instead think of what you really want to take with you. Also, bear in mind that you will buy things there, regardless of how much money you have.
7. Always remember a work/play balance
Yes, a study abroad year entails that you will be studying, but you’re also there to have fun and see things beyond your 3-year degree at Swansea. Ergo, do not be afraid to let off some steam and do the things that you enjoy, because that will be a lot more valuable to you in your lifetime than studying tirelessly for another midterm.
8. Budgeting saves lives
In a literal sense this is true, but hopefully the years at Swansea have at least taught you a thing or two about what to not spend your money on. At the end of the day it is perfectly okay to overspend (as long as you have a safe back up, such as an overdraft). However, being in a different country may inhibit your right to work, and international wire transfers are a pain to get out more money from your UK bank account (from personal experience). Just be cautious!
9. Know emergency numbers (and other resources in case of danger)
This tip speaks for itself, but it’s important! You never know what can happen, and having an idea of where you can turn to is just smart thinking.
10. Don’t be afraid of your comfort zone (but also know your limits)
If you wanna try something new that is currently beyond your reach, definitely go for it while you are abroad. The year is to make memories and try out experiences that will stay with you forever. That being said, staying safe is priority, so ensure basic limits are considered when trying something new.
Hope my tips help out any of you looking to go away!
Until next time. x