Feeling the heat of the sun on your face, a cold drink in your hand, surrounded by others just like you relishing in the atmosphere. This is not a description of my ideal holiday; this was my life when I was studying abroad.
Hard to believe, right? Well, you better believe it! If given the chance, you should hop on the next available flight and travel to a country you’ve never been to and meet people you may never have the chance to meet anywhere else.
Making the decision to study abroad can be a daunting one. You are voluntarily leaving a familiar place where you feel safe to go to a completely new country, study at a completely different university and have to make a new group of friends all over again. You may wonder, is it even worth it? Speaking from personal experience, the answer is YES. According to a survey conducted by The College Tourist, 42.3 percent of undergraduates are studying abroad with the top five destinations being USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Germany.
You may feel homesick, face problems in getting accustomed to the new culture, have roommate difficulties, and be unable to manage your budget. But there are a few basic things to keep in mind that will help you avoid these negative feelings, and focus on the more positive things that will be coming your way.
Find student accommodation
Make sure you secure a place to live before departing, and at least you will feel secure knowing that you have someplace to live rather than getting stuck at the airport with nowhere to stay. Usually universities will provide accommodation to incoming exchange students; if not, they will provide real estate agents and websites that deal directly with student accommodations.
Set up a bank account
Apply for a debit/credit card as soon as you are in the country, to avoid the hassle of carrying cash around everywhere. It will make it easy for your family to transfer money to you whenever you may need it.
Familiarise yourself with the city
If you find a place to live near your university, travelling will be easy; whether it is walking, riding a bike or taking the bus. It is important to familiarise yourself with the area you will be staying. Start by touring the city with other exchange students. It is also a good excuse to make new friends.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there
Above all else, enjoy every single moment. Take the opportunity to do and see things that you would not have the chance to at home. Use this time to learn about yourself. Boost your self-confidence and independence, experience another culture and expand your world view.
So send in that application form and pack your bags! An exciting journey awaits.
Do you have any more tips for those who are going on a year abroad? Let us know in the comments below.
Photo: Sian Elvin