Tips and Tricks for Preparing to Study Abroad (AKA Feel Free to Learn From My Mistakes)
As with many new adventures, it’s often overwhelming to think about the seemingly never ending to-do list that you have to get through before you go, and this is probably one of the most off-putting aspects of the whole experience.
As you’re reading this piece, I’m preparing to go on a five-month study abroad to Sweden, which I can honestly say is as terrifying as it is absolutely thrilling. I’ve been out of the country by myself in the past, but never for this amount of time. I have to admit that I’m not the most well organised person on the planet so I’ll happily save everything to the very last, stressful second, but it also means that I’ve learned a lot already; what to do and, well, what definitely not to do…
With that in mind, I thought I would shine some light on the scariest and most confusing areas of going away on to study abroad:
Find the perfect destination for you
I know it sounds a bit obvious, but think about how far from home you actually want to be! Whether you’re desperate to go to France, the U.S.A or even Australia, it wouldn’t hurt to sit down and really consider where you’ll be most comfortable. For me, I’ve always known Scandinavia was somewhere I’d love to explore for longer than just a week on holiday, and it’s not too far from my family that I would feel too homesick.
If they need you to pay rent before you go, do not leave it until the night before
Many accommodation services require at least a deposit to be paid before you can pick up the keys to your room abroad and there are often strict deadlines for this. Do. Not. Take. This. Deadline. Lightly. Trust me. I made the mistake of leaving it until the night before and all I can say is that it’s not fun calling up your bank at 10 o’clock at night.
There’s a widespread fear that studying abroad will cost an arm and a leg – I know that I was worried about having to pay ‘double rent’, and this also put a lot of my friends off. Wherever you go for the semester, you will continue to pay the same tuition fee to Falmouth, nothing more. In many cases, the accommodation abroad will be cheaper.
Get your accommodation, both in Falmouth and in your destination town/city, all sorted well in advance
They say that you should start looking at houses for second year at around Christmas time (in your first year) to make sure you get the right one, and they’re really not just saying that. It will really put you at ease if you and your housemates find a house that you all love before even thinking about accommodation in your country of choice. Once you’ve all agreed on a house, then start to think about advertising your room on the various Facebook pages, in order to find an exchange student looking for a spare room while you’re gone. I used the Facebook page ‘Find A Student Housemate – Falmouth, Cornwall’. There are hundreds of members and it’s active every day leading up to your departure, so you’re much more likely to find someone who’s interested. This a mix of local Falmouth students as well as international students looking for accommodation for one semester.
You’ll need to sort out your accommodation in your chosen country by yourself and there are some limited spaces, so definitely get in contact with the accommodation services over there as soon as you can.
Try not to over pack
Remember that everything you take there, you’ll probably have to bring back again – maybe even more – so you’ll need to be ruthless with what you choose to take. Think about what essentials you need to take with you and what items you can afford to buy when you’re over there, like pots and pans etc. Something to ask yourself is, are there any items that you can perhaps leave behind? This could really save you from paying more money on luggage coming back home. You could donate to some local charity shops, or even let the international office know that you have some spare things for other students to use in the future.
Join the social media groups of other people going
If there isn’t one already, suggest starting a Facebook/Whatsapp group for everyone going to the same destination university. This is a great way to break the ice with your fellow study abroad students and it’ll really put you at ease that you’re all in the same boat. The groups are most likely to be led by two student mentors so they can give you completely candid advice.
Remind yourself that you have a strong support system around you: friends, family, lecturers and the Study Abroad team are all here to help get you through it and make your time away as stress-free as possible. After all, as much as you’re there to study, you’re also there to explore the country you’re in and meet new people.
Obviously there are some things that I’ve missed out on my list that I’ll probably kick myself for forgetting once I’m there, but I hope these tips and tricks have helped you feel a bit more at ease about the whole thing and maybe even inspire some of you to think about going! I’m still a work in progress with my own study abroad experience but I’ll be sure to update you, as I stumble my way through the next five months.
by Niamh Hitchmough