Six things to know before studying abroad

Posted on 23rd Sep 2019 in School News, Choosing a school, United Kingdom

Eugene Tan is from Malaysia and studied the IB Diploma at EF Academy...

Studying abroad is exciting, there’s just no other way to put it. My time at EF Academy in the UK has been the best of my life. I’ve met people from all over the world, gained experiences unlike any I’ve experienced before and made unforgettable memories.

My circumstances were fortunate as I had a lot of support from my parents and my local EF Academy admissions office. However, there are some things I wish I’d known at the start of my journey. In this article, I’ll pass on some of the top tips I’ve collected that can help you prepare to start your own adventure abroad.

1. Choose where to study

Countries are just like people, no two are exactly the same. When you’re making friends, you’ll most likely find it easier to connect with people who are compatible with you. In choosing a country or place where you’ll spend a significant amount of your time living and studying, compatibility is important too. You’ll want to do some research.

First, learn more about the country’s language, landscape, culture, religion, food and more. This way you’ll know whether it’s right for you and there will be fewer surprises after you arrive. It’s always best to know what you’re getting yourself into and a little research will ensure you feel confident in your decision.

2. Consider the weather

Always research the climate and average temperatures of your chosen place of study. I am originally from Malaysia, a country with a 37 degree Celsius average temperature all year round. So, studying at EF Academy on the South Coast of England, was a bit of a change.

The weather here can be anything from brilliant sunshine and warm days on the beach to cozy days inside when it gets cool. I went from needing only light shirts and shorts to needing my wardrobe to suit some colder weather too. If you get to know the weather in your destination country, you’ll have an easier time packing the appropriate clothes before you set off.

3. Take responsibility for your finances

This may not be something that’s constantly on your mind when your parents are around, but while studying abroad, budgeting is very important. Make sure your bank knows where you’re going before you leave. If you don’t, you might find they decline your payments when you’re out trying to buy some coffee!

Another thing you should be aware of is the current exchange rate between your home country and the country you’re moving to. In the past, it took me forever to get used to a new currency, and it was embarrassing sometimes fiddling with my wallet in shops trying to find the right coins. Make sure you’re in control so you’ll be confident in this kind of situation. Learning to be independent is a crucial part of studying abroad.

4. Prepare your electronic devices

Phones and laptops are essential as most schools nowadays are being more electronic by introducing Google and other learning programs into their system. If you don’t have a laptop, you’re going to find it difficult to type up that 1,000-word essay on your phone screen or create a presentation on your tablet.

Get in touch with someone from your new school to ask about the electronic equipment you might need for your schoolwork. This way when you arrive, you’ll be ready to start studying straight away.

5. Make a note of emergency numbers

If you don’t already know it, get to know the emergency numbers of the country you’re moving to. You never know when you’ll need them, and it’s important to be prepared. You’ll also need the emergency numbers of your new school so there’s someone you can call if you get lost or something has happened to you or your bags at the airport upon landing.

Although it’s good to memorize numbers, be sure you also have them physically written down on a piece of paper in case you forget. It’s important to record them on paper and not just on your phone in case you run out of battery.

6. Don’t worry about culture shock

By following these tips, hopefully, you won’t have a problem with culture shock. If you’ve got a good idea of where you’re going and what to expect, you should start to settle in. However, if you do feel homesick, keep an open and positive mind and make sure you ask for help. Part of being a young adult is taking responsibility for yourself, and this includes seeking out support when you need it.

At EF Academy, I never experienced homesickness, but there are a few things you can do just in case. Bring along some comfort food from your home country and remember to call your family or friends from home regularly. Keep in mind that no matter how much you miss home, the next holiday is just around the corner. Enjoy your time abroad because you’ll miss it when it’s over!

Finally, students who study abroad are given the opportunity to grow in confidence and become independent thinkers. So, don’t be nervous! This is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make, guaranteed. Good luck!

This article first appeared in the 2019/20 edition of John Catt's Guide to International Schools. You can read the digital version of the guidebook here: