Preparing to Study Overseas
How to approach the idea of earning your degree abroad.
Studying abroad is a great experience, but it takes preparation. As with any big undertaking, the first and most important step is research, research, research. This is a significant change in your life that will shake some things up! The more you know ahead of time, the more psychologically prepared you'll be. Here's some advice to get you thinking. You'll never really know what a place is like until you visit, but you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to succeed in your studies abroad.
Connect with other international students and expats
Moving to a new and unfamiliar country can be scary, especially if you don't have friends or family on the ground. Meeting people in the age of ubiquitous social media can be tricky, too, but you can leverage the internet's power by finding communities of expatriates and international students who are in the same boat you are. Check out Facebook, Twitter, and other social media for your school(s) of choice to find fellow travelers to connect with.
Think about your ties to home
Before you set off on your grand adventure, think about how you'll bring a bit of home along with you. Packing some of your favourite things, and a few sentimental tokens, will go a long way to making an unfamiliar place feel like home. Plan to stay in touch. When you're away, will you get a mobile phone with a long-distance plan, or set up weekly video call sessions? Keeping your connection to home alive will help with the confidence you need to immerse yourself in your new environment.
Look up travel information
The federal government of Canada offers up-to-date travel information and advisories for all citizens. As you think about studying abroad, check in now and then with the government's travel pages. Most countries have a profile and helpful links on the following subjects:
- Risk level(s), in comparison to Canada
- Safety and security advice
- Entry and exit requirements, for things like passports and visas: important if you want to be a student!
- Health notices, including food and water advisories, and available medical facilities
- Laws and culture, regarding money, identification requirements, and more
- Natural disasters and climate info
- Local assistance, including contacts with your local consulate in the country
With these details at hand, you'll have a strong sense of what to expect when you arrive.
Check out some tourist guides
The government's travel info above might be a bit dour, and it certainly won't help you connect with the culture of your destination, so why not check out a few tourists' guides? Books from Lonely Planet or DK Eyewitness Travel are a good way to get a feel for your destination, and they'll be full of interesting sites, restaurants, museums, and more. Your local library probably has copies!
Prepare your budget
For some people, this might be the most fun part. For the rest of us, drafting a budget can be a drag, but it's well worth it. Having a sense of your finances is essential to success as a student, abroad or otherwise. Planning for expenditures and income are the bare minimum: and you also have tuition to think about. Check out this piece on the essentials of budgeting as a student for some quick advice on being money-wise. For more advice, as well as a searchable database of thousands of awards, try ScholarshipsCanada.com.
The University of East London offers entrance scholarships for international applicants, worth anywhere from £1,000 to £4,000 (~$1,700 to ~$6,950) off your first year's tuition. Not a bad start to your budgeting!
Studying overseas is an incredible way to experience the world and earn your education. Stepping outside your comfort zone helps you grow as a person, providing plenty of challenges for you to meet and overcome. Preparing yourself intellectually and emotionally, as well as physically, will help you make the most of this amazing opportunity.