Deciding to study abroad is one of the biggest decisions you could make in your life as it takes you away from the environment you are familiar with for the sake of greater opportunities. Such a noble task won’t be easy as it comes with various factors you need to deal with in the future.
You will need to prepare a lot of items when studying abroad. It’s ideal that you turn your lodging into a functional home rather than just a roof over your head. Here is a quick guide on how to prepare for your new environment as you start a new life in another country:
Choosing where to study
Deciding where to take your education is one of the most impactful factors in your ability to adapt. Ideally, you should choose a place with culture, people, and language that are similar to what you are used to. Even without the fear of descrimination affecting you, Scholarship Organ wishes to warn you about the difficulty in adapting in an alien world.
Religion is another factor that you should consider as it’s a large part of any community’s customs. What seems normal at home can be viewed as weird or offensive to your new neighbours and it is your responsibility to respect them.
Accessibility to the country is also an issue that you need to solve. Mexico and Canada are places you can drive to and from as a United States (US) citizen. Thus, you can come back home more regularly than if you choose to study in another continent. This also concerns your student’s visa that you need to
Budgeting for travel, lodging, and daily necessities
The topic of money always intimidates students but it has to be addressed. You need to have a list of expenses prepared for each day that you are spending in the country. Make a plan including your tuition, miscellaneous, rent, and bills as fixed necessities.
Clothes, groceries, and commuting can be counted as essentials that can be changed based on options. You can make adjustments to these expenses if you need to but keep it optimal to what is convenient for you rather than what’s cheaper.
Set aside a budget for pleasure eating, recreational activities, and impulses as these can help uplift your spirits. You can start a part-time job to help with your daily expenses and avoid relying too much on scholarship and allowances from parents.
Phone plan, contact information, and emergency number
You can still keep in touch with your family and friends back home while in another country thanks to social media and internet-based communication apps. However, you still need a sim card that is local to the country you are studying in. This will be your new contact number for everyone in the area including your school, landlord, roommates, and schoolmates.
Likewise, you should also consider who among the people in the area can receive calls for emergencies involving you. It could be your landlord, roommate, or a relative who is also in the area. The only requirement is that they can respond to emergencies involving you both physically and through phone calls.
Essential tools for school
Every student needs to have a few items in their bags or lockers. The necessities will be different based on your course and whether you can buy them locally or not. Here is everything that you should have at all times as a scholar abroad:
Textbooks and study materials
The textbooks are usually not essential for higher education as professors tend to provide studying materials or allow you to take notes. If you need one, you can borrow a copy at the college library or buy a specific edition at the school’s store.
Studying materials like notes, references, and research papers are a lot more essential than textbooks. You have to make some of these as part of your schoolwork but some helpful materials can be photocopied from library resources. Likewise, it’s sometimes just easier to take a picture with your phone or scan them to make a softcopy you can refer to using a laptop.
Speaking of laptops, electronic devices are considered essential in most schools around the world as they embrace digital mediums as tools for academics. The best example of this is how schools use online platforms for students and teachers to interact, deliver announcements, or submit attachments. It’s a far more organised means of tracking individual students’ performances compared to physical papers that can be misplaced or damaged.
Since instructors already expect students to have electronic devices to access such mediums, they often end up using online platforms for almost everything. That includes timed quizzes, exams, and homework. You will need a smartphone and a laptop with enough processing power required to load the school’s chosen platform. Some of them can be system-demanding so try inquiring about the minimum requirements with the campus’ information technology (IT) specialists before buying a new device.
Appropriate clothes for school, outdoors, extracurriculars, and at home
If you are going to live without a guardian other than your landlord and roommates, then your daily attire will be your full responsibility. The most important wardrobe you should prepare is the sets of clothes you will wear for school. If there is no uniform, then you just need to abide by the school’s policies of appropriate attire.
Also prepare clothes that are good for extraneous activities like Physical Education if it’s in your curriculum or extracurricular activities you have signed up for. Lastly, you should have some comfortable clothes to wear at home, some of which you can wear repeatedly if you don’t perspire too much. It’s better to travel with at least one-week’s worth of clothes for all occasions then shop for more on the weekends or practice weekly laundry day.
Adapting to your new environment
Adjusting to a new place will always take time no matter how similar the environment is to your home. There are a lot of changes that you have to get used to like the route to the school from your address as well as looking for new places to lounge when you have time to kill. The best way to make adapting easier is to hang out with locals or someone who is just as new to the place as you.
Another way to adapt is to actively learn about the following factors. You can search for facts and solutions online about the area or explore and take note of what you discover in your journey. Another way is to have a local or someone who has spent more time in the area who can give you a tour.
Weather and climate
The climate drastically changes between hemispheres so you have to learn about the new seasons’ cycle if you travel north or south relative to your home. Weather is a lot more volatile based on the mountains and the bodies of water surrounding the town. All of these factors have to be considered for your safety.
If the area has a history of being flooded, then it’s better to study the signs of strong weather and how to evacuate to a safer area if needed. Likewises, you should also prepare clothes and home equipment for extreme weather conditions that you aren’t used to like drought or snow.
Opening and closing time of every venue in the area
As a student abroad, you will always have some time to kill during the weekend that you will want to spend on places like a restaurant, mall, or café. The park is also an ideal place to hangout or study with new friends. You should see what their working hours are during your first week in the area as they can help you manage your schedule ahead.
Culture of the city and nearby towns
Adapting a city’s culture is a lot harder than it seems on paper. Every action that is normal at home can be seen as eccentric or strange among your new peers. This includes the type of clothes you wear as well as how you interact with strangers in public. It’s always better to stay with a friend in most cases but studying local customs is the best way to stay on the safe side.
Coping with homesickness
Everyone has to deal with homesickness at some point. No matter how well acclimated you are in your new environment, you will yearn for your familiar world or long for family. Long-distance interaction is made easy by today’s information technology but it’s not the same as having them within hugging-distance.
The best way to alleviate homesickness is to distract yourself with productive activities. You can also occasionally indulge yourself with food or practice that you used to have at home. Alternatively, Scholarship Organ suggests that you consider taking time to come home every year like during the holidays or birthdays if it’s feasible with your budget and schedule.