Five top tips to prepare for your year abroad

Lucy McLeanon 10 September 2018
Five top tips to prepare for your year abroad

So… it’s September and soon you’re off on your study abroad year. You know where you’re going, and what you’re doing but that’s about it! Luckily, we’ve got you covered with a load of handy tips that will have you prepared in no time!

1. Get on Social Media

This may seem counter-productive, but we’re not telling you to look at memes for three hours.

A really useful first step is to look for the Erasmus or general exchange groups on Facebook for your chosen city/town/region. Most of them have a main page where you can find flats (or even flatmates!), advice, and even make a bunch of new friends! Many places will have a specific page for English people, so you’ll never feel completely removed from home. So, get joining before you leave the UK!

Then you can sit back and look at memes guilt-free.

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2. Sorting Accommodation

It won’t be easy to find a place to stay before you go, but some basic research will make the whole house-hunting process easier. Try to find answers to these few simple questions, and you’ll be off to a good start:

  • What’s the average cost for a shared flat in the place you’re going to? Is living by yourself financially feasible?
  • Will you need to pay a deposit or any administration fees? (in most places this is one month’s rent).
  • Are bills included? If not, remember to leave room in your budget!
  • How far is your flat going to be from your uni/workplace? Will you need to pay for transport?
  • Will your flat be fully equipped or will you have to fork out for household items? If so, what things are easily packable, and what should you buy on arrival?
  • Do you want to live with other English people for home comfort, or people from your destination country to fully immerse yourself in the culture/language?

This may seem daunting, especially financially, but remember that you’ll still get Student Finance, and it’s often a larger sum on your year abroad. And if you’re going within Europe, you’ll get a grant from the European Commission that you don’t have to pay back!

Just think that once you’ve done this research, you’re heading into a really exciting year, and where you live and who you live with will be a really big part of the experience.

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3. Money Matters

On the topic of money, have you thought about how you’re going to exchange currencies? There are many cross-continent prepaid card companies such as Caxton FX and Revolut, many of which link straight to your UK bank account. Some (like Revolut) don’t have any fees for withdrawing cash, and have 24-hour assistance lines in case of any problems. These can be ordered to your UK address before you go, so start looking now. Trust me: the more you do now, the easier it’ll be once you get there.

You could also consider opening a bank account at your destination, but I’d only really do this for longer stays. For larger-sum bank transfers between countries, such as a rent payment, Transferwise is a well-known website that many travelers swear by.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you tell your UK bank where you’re going and for how long. If you fail to do this, you might get a call from the bank notifying you of suspicious activity when you’ve simply used your UK card to buy some groceries!

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4. SCAN Important Documents

One the best pieces of advice that people gave me was to make as many scans as physically possible of each and every important document I owned.

First off, make sure you have the hard copies, and keep them well-organized and in a safe place. Then, think about the essentials: passport, health insurance, travel insurance, national insurance (all the insurances!) and driver’s license. Make at least one photocopy of each for administrative matters such as registering as a resident and uni registration (and a few more for good measure!).

Whilst you’re at it, pop to a photo-booth and get some recent passport pics - trust us, you won’t regret it. When the time comes, you’ll be ready to whip out each and every requested file to get the job done as quickly as possible.

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5. Admin, admin, admin

If you’re going to a uni, registration is a given, and they’ll inform you of any other matters, whilst if you have a job, they’ll help you out with paperwork getting set up as a foreign resident/worker. Outside of Europe, this might be a bit more complicated, so make sure you seek guidance from your home uni on securing a visa and medical insurance. Everyone should get travel insurance, which a lot of unis provide for you, but if not, is easy to sort out and usually very cheap.

Aside from all the serious stuff, you should also think about some other things to get excited about going!

  • What’s the climate like in your chosen country? In other words, will you need to pack snow boots or speedos?
  • What’s the food like there? Does it cater for special diets (veggie/vegan/gluten free, etc?) Plan ahead and again, check for Facebook groups - they can honestly be lifesavers!
  • What touristic/obscure things are there to do there? As much as this is a year of your degree, it’s also a year to explore, push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn from life experiences! Honestly, make the most of it before you have to come back and do your final year of uni - it’ll go in the blink of an eye.

I can hand-on-heart say that my year abroad was one of the best times of my life, and I’m so excited for whoever’s reading this to go on theirs. Once the necessary preparation is out of the way, it’s time to jump right in with two feet. Good luck and enjoy!

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Lucy McLeanon 10 September 2018