It’s a big decision to spend a year or more studying in a foreign country. You’re uprooting yourself from your friends, your family and even, in most cases, from the culture that you grew up in. At the same time, foreign study is a huge opportunity to experience more of the world and enhance your future career. The Florida State University Gateway Programme has come up with a survival guide to help you to make the most of your time abroad.
The immediate concerns of anyone who is thinking about studying outside the UK are generally over where to go and how to get the money to live in a foreign country.
Tackling the location of your course first, you should be looking for a course that will be worth taking. Plenty of research is advisable here as the last thing you want is to find that the course you’ve travelled thousands of miles to take is going to be of little value on your CV. You’ll also probably want to go to a country where you’ll be able to communicate reasonably well.
In terms of money, only a small proportion of students self-fund their study abroad. The majority are funded by a variety of different grant programmes such as ERASMUS for courses in the European Union. It makes sense to save up money before you go, however. It would be a shame to travel to an exciting new country only to find that you need to work during every spare minute just to afford to live there. That being said, spending some of your time working is a good idea both for making friends and earning enough money to go out and have fun.
Unless you have a huge amount of cash you’ll want to set yourself a monthly budget before you travel out. This will give you an idea of how far the unfamiliar currency in your pocket will stretch and stop you accidentally blowing a huge amount of cash in the weeks after your arrival.
One handy tip to save money is to get yourself an International Student ID card. This costs $22 but will save you money in restaurants, movies and when sightseeing. Most impressively it allows you to transfer your currency without paying any commission, which can cover the cost of the card in itself.
The university can generally help out with getting reasonably priced accommodation. Staying in a hall of residence is a great way to meet other students and is often not too expensive. If you have to stay further away from the campus then a bus or rail pass is well worth looking at. They are often great value and can also help you get out and about to see the country. Seeing the country should definitely be one of your goals while abroad.
Finally, make sure to attend as many events and socials as you can so that you meet people and sign up to Skype so you can chat to your friends and family when you get homesick.