Preparing to start your year abroad can be scary business. To adapt to a different country, its culture, food, and excruciating administrative processes, is an impressive feat.
To help you embark on this adventure, here are some of my top tips, where I draw on what I did (or, more likely, what I should have done), before starting my year abroad.
Use social media (such as Facebook groups) to network with other outgoing students from other universities before leaving your home country.
If, like me, most of your uni friends are not going on a year abroad, it can be quite an isolating prospect, because you’ll feel like a fresher having to make new friends all over again.
Using social media, you can join groups in advance of your placement, such as sports clubs and language meet-ups. On a year abroad, the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has never been so true - sharing advice and problems with other year abroad students is really reassuring. You’re all there to support and help each other.
Print off and scan copies of important documents before you leave, and organise a folder with dates and deadlines for administrative documents.
When you’re travelling, you don’t know when you will be able to access a printer, and so making copies of documents in advance that you might need for administrative processes when you first arrive in a country will be a godsend.
Amongst all the mayhem that comes with moving to a new country, it’s easy to forget submission of folders (such as for Erasmus deadlines), so making a list beforehand will keep you organized when the rest of your life has been turned upside down.
Don’t forget an adaptor (or a couple) for your country of destination.
This seems like a no-brainer, but amongst the chaos of moving, it’s easy to forget the little things. And adaptors, albeit little, are very important.
Having just uprooted your entire life to a new room for the next year, the last thing that you need is to be left with a dead phone that you have no way of charging, because you didn’t bring an adaptor...
It seems obvious… but book accommodation as early as possible, and ask around at university to find references for trustworthy and reliable accommodation possibilities.
The best way to make sure that your accommodation is reliable is to visit your country of destination before you go, and view places to rent in person.
This isn’t always possible, so the next best way is to use references from previous students. The first place you should ask is at your home university, but if you know where you will be spending the year, be it at a university, college, or a company- ask them for recommendations. That way you know it’s legitimate, and you’re less likely to be scammed, or be left without a place to live at the last minute.
Exchange some money, so that you have some cash immediately when you arrive in the destination country.
I can’t stress how important this is. You’ll be undergoing a very lengthy process to open a bank account in certain countries, and using your usual card will mean you risk being charged extortionately for transactions.
Check out options to handle your money abroad in advance- cash cards can come in very handy, and make a list of potential banks to visit as soon as you arrive to get your process started. If you’re feeling especially proactive, you can even ring them up and make appointments and ask any questions you might have.