At last, after years of hard work, you get to fly abroad to your dream destination and study in a world-renowned uni, to live happily ever after. The end. While we accept that things may not be THIS simple, you can still find your perfect student story ending, given you know how to begin it right. So start by prepping yourself for your new home, away from home!
Are you ready? Not really? Maybe you need a little push to emerge out of your cozy cocoon, not to worry — here we are, right behind your every step. It is now time for you to make the transition and come out with flying colours — here are a few basic pointers for you to get started…
As you break out of your comfort zone and land in your brand new study destination, you may face a few hurdles here and there. These are all part and parcel of your international student journey, so just keep going. We advise you to sort out all the details about your accommodation, your meal plans, your transportation, your communication needs, and most importantly, your finances, well before hand.
Some must-follow guidelines for you:
- Research online thoroughly and gather all the information you can on what it is like to live there, the weather and cultural etiquettes.
- It may be natural for you to be hit with a bit of culture shock initially, but, again, being well read might help you overcome it in a shorter span of time. To cite an example, Americans don’t use the word ‘aunty’ to refer to an ‘aunt’; they also don’t use phrases like ‘will do the needful’, which is commonly used in India. Indians use sentences like: “He passed out of college” to refer to someone who has graduated, but elsewhere, ‘passed out’ means to lose one’s consciousness. So look into such common ‘Indianisms’ (yes, that’s what they are called) and avoid using them.
- Facing difficulties finding roommates or want to know about the availability of on-campus transportation? When unsure who to turn to, get in touch with the uni’s international admissions office. Many unis have student support services in place to help international students, from the moment they are sent the offer letter.
- If you can’t find a specific info online then shoot an e-mail to the university’s help desk asking them for guidance.
- Reach out to the uni’s on-campus foreign and Indian student community, or see if you can find them online. Use Facebook to gain access to student blogs and groups and get your queries sorted out by them.
- Look up the university’s alumni circle and connect with some former students. You may even find one living in India at the moment, having completed his/her studies abroad. Ask them about the kind of challenges they faced when they first moved there and how they resolved them. This could prove very useful for you (and not to mention, inspiring as well).
- Find out how to get to your uni once you land there. Many unis give you, the international student, the convenient option of an airport pick-up. You will be escorted to your chosen accommodation by representatives from the uni, on arrival. All you need to do is sign up for it on time.
- Is English going to be the language of communication there? If not, you may have to learn a few basic phrases and terms of the local language to survive there. Get yourself acquainted with the basics of the language and also maybe a simple guide book, something like the Lonely Planet.
Adapting to the Land
- Enquire about the uni’s accommodation services. Many unis require you to live on-campus for the first year of your study, which should make settling into student life easier for you. If you are unable to find on-campus accommodation options, you can look for some popular off-campus options in the surrounding area, which may work out to be cheaper when shared with roommates.
- If you have not opted for a meal plan, then you may want to work out your monthly food budget based on the cost of living there.
- Look into the laws of the land. Did you know that it is illegal to import or sell chewing gum in Singapore? The punishment for smuggling gum into the country is a year in jail and a $5,500 fine. Yikes! Make sure you don’t break any laws that you weren’t even aware of, to begin with.
- Even something as optional as brushing up on the history of the land may help you adjust to the new place.
Finding Your Way Around
- Know the location of your uni and make sure you’ve mapped out all the key proximate areas of interest.
- Familiarise yourself with restaurants, bus stops, stations and other landmarks of interest within the city or locality. You will be able to navigate much easier on arrival, this way. If not, then Google map your way around. That’s what smart phones are for!
Buying the Right Goods
Sort out all your shopping needs well in advance. If the country you are travelling to demands winter wear, then you need to have your jackets and boots ready. Get your set of formals and bags sorted for your university days. Look into your course books and see if your university will provide you with all of them. If you have to purchase any additional books or supplies on your own, then you could even consider buying it in India before you leave.
Additionally, if your course demands it, then consider getting yourself a laptop fully equipped with all the software you need. If you feel it makes more economical sense to buy certain products, like your laptop, abroad, then take a call on it. But consider packing in light so that you don’t have to pay extra for exceeding the baggage limit on the flight.
Look Into Your Health
It’s good to get a thorough medical checkup before you leave India to ensure you are in good health for your stay abroad. Get also a copy of your medical records in case of an emergency overseas.
The country you are travelling to may have certain immunisation requirements. If there is a need for it, then get vaccinated before your departure. Your uni program will likely advise you on the types of vaccinations you'll need (if any) while living abroad.
If you have a medical condition that requires prescription drugs, then try to carry enough with you to last during your entire time abroad (if possible). Prescriptions drugs must be carried in correctly labelled containers, with a copy of a doctor’s letter.
It’s absolutely critical that you have a reliable health and accident insurance policy for the duration of your studies abroad, as well as coverage for emergency evacuation.
If you are already covered in India, then check with your health insurance provider to see if their policies cover you while you live abroad. Most unis provide you with an option to purchase a health insurance plan once you reach abroad. Firms like Student Travel Guard, HTH Worldwide, Tata AIG Insurance and International Student Insurance offer affordable health and travel insurance plans for international students living across the world.
Hitting the Bank
Consider carrying a bit of local currency from an Indian bank back home. Also, take a few hundred US dollars with you for conversion at the nearest money exchange place — you are likely to find one at the airport. Feeling nervous about carrying a lot of cash? Then get yourself an international credit card like MasterCard or Visa and withdraw cash at the airport ATM, once you land there. You can also carry a traveller's cheque if safety is your main concern.
If you feel there is an urgent need to make a call once you land there, consider getting an international roaming service sorted on your Indian number by your local service provider, or better yet, get an international calling card in India. Calling card dealer Matrix allows you the option to either purchase a global SIM card, which is valid in around 150 countries, or get a local number for the specific country you are travelling to.
We advise you, however, to land abroad and then assess your calling options there; generally, students opt for a calling card once they reach overseas. The service abroad is likely to be cheaper and better than the options available in India.
All major universities run a student orientation programme that helps international students acclimatise to life abroad. The programme can be a two-day event or a full length one-week event with lots of fun-filled activities and ice-breakers that allow new incoming students to interact with existing students. The orientation event will incoporate regulatory paper-work like signing up for health insurance, opening a new bank account, settling down in on-campus accommodation etc. Goes without saying, do not skip the orientation event.
By doing a thorough research on your study destination and being well aware of the country’s customs, culture and laws, the process of settling into a new place becomes a lot easier.
These, in short, are some of your must do’s as you start your prep for your student journey abroad. All set to take off now? Let us know if you have any more tips to share with us on the topic. We’d love to hear from you.