How to prepare for your stay abroad?
Every year millions of students from all over the world decide to continue their higher education abroad. Students from India are a big part of this. Be it the USA, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Australia or many other countries, students love getting out and exploring different continents. If you have already received your admit to your dream university in your dream country, then this post is for you.
There are many things you have to take care of, if you plan on studying and living abroad.
1. Passport and Visa
To travel and study abroad you must have a valid passport. In case you already have a passport make sure it is not expired and that it won't expire within 6 months of your intended return. If you have already traveled abroad before, you have to make sure It still has blank pages.
For people who don't own a passport yet it is important to apply for a passport as soon as possible, since it can take up to several months until it is issued and send to you. Of course there will be options to speed up the process, however nothing is for free, so you will have to pay extra for this service. Why pay extra money for something that can be easily avoided.
If you are from India you will need these documents to apply for a fresh passport:
- Proof of date of birth and citizenship
- Electricity Bill, Gas Connection Bill, Telephone Bill or Water bill in your name as a valid address proof
- Bank Account Statement, Voter ID Card
- In case of a married person, one can attach spouse's passport copy and in case of a bachelor, one can attach parent's passport copy
- Income Tax Assessment Order (if applicable)
- Aadhaar Card
- A HR certificate on the letterhead, or a Bonafide Certificate from the School/College
If you only have to renew an old passport, you should be able to provide these documents. They may vary depending on your age and type of passport:
- Original old Passport
- Self-attested copies of the first two and last two pages of the passport.
- Self-attested copy of the ECR/Non-ECR page.
- Self-attested copy of the page of observation, if any, made by the Passport Issuing Authority.
- Self-attested copy of the validity extension page, if any, with respect to the Short Validity Passport (SVP)
- Proof of documents which eliminate the cause of issuance of Short Validity Passport (SVP).
Depending on the country you want to travel to, you may also need a visa. Different Countries have different requirements, so it is important to familiarize yourself with these things ahead.
You can find all the information online or you can easily contact the nearest embassy or consulate of the country you plan on studying in, in order to receive information about visa requirements and any special travel restrictions.
Sometimes this can also turn out to be a lengthy process, so do not wait until the last minute to book a visa slot.
2. Health Check Up
Another important thing to do before going abroad for a longer period of time is definitely to pay your doctor a visit and get a health check up. Make sure to carry a copy of your medical records in case of an emergency overseas. Otherwise your required treatment can be delayed and in serious situations you should be able to get help as soon as possible.
A part that you cannot miss under any circumstances is to get to know the host country's immunization requirements and become immunized before your departure. Normally your program will advise you about any types of vaccinations you may need while being abroad.
In case you have a medical condition, which requires you to take medicine/prescription drugs, you should make sure to carry them in correctly labeled containers to prevent being mistaken for illegal drugs.
3. Travel Insurance
Just like the immunization prior to departure it is important that you have a reliable health and accident insurance policy while you are studying abroad. You never know what happens and the last thing you want to do in case of such an event is to worry about the money.
Health insurance providers cover many things but not everything:
- Coverage if flight is delayed/canceled
- Luggage is lost
- Someone stole your personal belongings
- Evacuation in the case of a health emergency or natural disasters
Spare enough time to really get to know about all different providers before settling for one.
4. Travel Arrangements (obviously)
One of the more obvious points on the list of things you have to take care of before leaving is buying a plane ticket. Even though it is so obvious it is not at all easy.
Depending on where you want to go the prices for the ticket/tickets will definitely vary. In general the tickets are always cheaper when you book them a few months before you plan on leaving. However, if you don't have your visa yet, then that is always a risky decision. If your visa gets rejected but you already bought your tickets you can either schedule a new visa interview (if enough time is given) or you will have to cancel the ticket. In that case make sure you book refundable tickets only or make sure you can change the date of your departure. This, however, also brings additional costs. Staying will already be costly enough. No need to waste more money on non refundable tickets. If you are positive that you will get the visa the next time you can also change the date of your flight. On the other hand you can also wait with the booking until you have the visa and pay a little more for the tickets.
To prevent from creating problems with the immigration, do not arrive more than a few days prior to your intended program start date.
5. Familiarize yourself with your new home's Culture, People and Language
Most People decide to study in a country that is completely different from their normal home. By taking this decision you should consider what changes you may have to make to your dressing style and manners/behavior. In one country it may be totally fine to wear shorts and skirts, in another country it is completely disrespectful. One country has no restrictions when it comes to eating meat etc, another one only allows or provides chicken.
Another difference would also be how people handle garbage. You may be used to leave garbage where you are or just throw it in some bush. I know of a few countries, who will actually charge you with something if they see you doing that.
Some cultures are used to eat with their hands, others however see this as inappropriate.
There are so many things that can be different from your home, which you have known all your life. Culture shock will hit you double as hard if you do not prepare yourself for it.
Something that can definitely help you to settle in and adjust to your new life, is knowing at least a few basic phrases of the local language. Sure, most countries have English as their official language but e.g. in Germany people speak German. Being able to say "Guten Tag", "Mein Name ist XYZ", "Ich komme aus Indien" will give you more confidence and also serve as an ice breaker.
You don't necessarily need professional coaching for this. If you are lucky you may have a friend, who is fluent in that language or you can just download an app for the same. It's the 21st Century and everything is possible.
Besides the other things I have already mentioned,Money is equally important. It pays for your rent, food, clothes, fees and leisure time.
Before heading off to a different country you have to do a few things regarding your finances. Otherwise you are risking being stranded abroad without any money.
First of all, you need an online bank account. This way it is a lot easier to manage your money while overseas.
Secondly, make sure you let your bank and credit card companies know that you will be abroad for a while. If you fail on doing so they might lock your account/ flag it as fraud. Why all this mess if you can prevent it?
Also, never forget to bring some extra money with you in your wallet. Enough to last for the first 2 -3 days. These days will be busy and I am sure you have better things to do than finding a local ATM.
When everything else is done, you can get to the real deal: Packing!
In contrast to popular believe try to avoid over packing. Yes, you are going abroad for a long period of time but many things can be bought at your destination as well. So don't pack things like food items, more than 4 pair of shoes, pillow cases, towels etc.
Check your baggage allowance with the airline to avoid any additional fees.
Something you should bring is power adapters for your electronics, extra pair of glasses (if you wear them) and a few family/friends reminders.
Keeping that in mind, you shouldn't have any problems with packing.
8. Cell Phones
8 out of 10 people do have a cell phone nowadays. If you only consider the younger generation then this will be topped with 10 out of 10. Cell Phones together with Laptop/Tablet are the main means to keep in touch, especially when you are overseas. The first few weeks will be extremely new and exciting and you will find yourself calling your parents, siblings, friends etc more than you usually did back home.
To make this experience as easy and inexpensive as possible, you should not rely on international plans. They are ridiculously expensive. You will be gone for much longer than just a week. Instead, you should get a local SIM card. You can get these right at the airport after you land.
Normally newer phones are already unlocked for international use. If not, you can easily get it done at via your cell phone carrier (phone call/store visit).
With all our 21st Century inventions it will be no problem to keep your people updated. Most of the people use Whatsapp and Skype to do so. Normal phone calls would be way too expensive.
Now last but not least: Prepare yourself mentally for the probably most intense months/years of your whole life. You may find it hard at first to manage everything on your own, especially if you have never lived on your own or weren't away from home for so long. You will have to cook for yourself, find your way around town, wash your own clothes, pay the bills and on top of that keep up with your studies. This can be a lot of mental pressure. That's why it is important to talk about everything before you start this journey. A strong support system from home can do wonders. Let people know when you are struggling, when you need help. Locals are usually extremely helpful to guide you. Make new friends with people who already lived there for quite some time or even locals. They will be more than happy to tell you about different things you should know, like the traffic rules, political news, the train/bus system or even shops where you can find the food you are used to.
Some programs/universities also arrange tours around town for foreign students; don't be afraid to join it. It will be super helpful and a great place to get to know other people. In general you should not be afraid of learning new things and brighten your horizon, that's why you are travelling all that way, right?