Getting ready for studies abroad

Studying abroad at any level is one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do. Ask anyone from any walk of life — academic, artist, businessperson or civil servant — and if they have had a study abroad experience, they will remember it as an influence in one way or another. But how do you make sure that your study abroad experience is the best it can be? The following tips are aimed at helping you through the preparation for going abroad.

Consider what country you wish to study in. Much of the decision to study abroad is more about the cultural and social experience you are likely to have in your destination than it is about classroom considerations. Weigh up what you personally want from the country you are going to study in.

Research your potential universities very carefully. Choosing the best university for your study abroad experience is not all about an institution that comes top of the world university rankings. It’s more about your personal preferences and interests so that the choice that you make is the right one for you.

Choose a university that is known. It doesn’t have to be a world famous institution like the University of Oxford or Harvard University, but it should be a university or college that is recognised either in general terms or for a specific programme or academic area. If you think you will work internationally, it is vitally important that your degree qualification will be recognised wherever you go.

Make sure that the university you choose to study abroad at is used to welcoming international students to their campus. It is important that they have a support network for you and that they are in a position to anticipate some of the questions that you might have. Always look for an International Office or Office of Student Exchange and see what they have to offer you. See student support services.

Consider ways in which you will finance your study abroad programme. This is often one of the most crucial areas for all students wishing to study abroad, and can make the difference between going and staying home. Financial aid, scholarships and bank loans are available and are commonplace amongst the millions of students that study abroad. The university you make your first choice should be one that offers some prospect of financial aid.

Once you have a shortlist of universities and colleges that you are interested in, try and

locate current and former students to help you make your final decision. The universities in question should help you with this. Alumni are often the very best source of information about life on campus, especially if they too are international.

Make sure that when you apply your application is in good time and complete. Universities will rarely make decisions if something is missing from your application material and this will delay the whole process, reducing your prospects of being successful. Prepare for any necessary tests well ahead of time and fulfil all requirements before you send off your application form.

Once you have an offer of admission and, if relevant, obtained your student visa, prepare for your study abroad experience. Make sure you understand the procedures for getting international student accommodation and try and secure this before you leave home. Through your university you will be put in touch with other students from your country and you can begin to make some plans. Perhaps arrange to travel together? Or at least start to talk about your forthcoming adventure.

Be prepared to learn a new language. Many of the world’s top universities teach in English but are located in non-English speaking countries. Learn a few phrases of the local language to help you adjust and meet people.

Finally, enjoy the anticipation of your forthcoming international study experience. You can’t plan for everything, so relax and make sure that you are ready for the basics — your arrival, your student housing and your first few days at university — and then see how the rest develops!