Moving abroad even for a couple of months has to be one of the most daunting things to happen in my opinion. Just moving to your new accommodation for university is difficult enough never mind a place that is in a different country. As an ex-study abroad student I thought I would conjure up some words of wisdom (well perhaps not wisdom) to those that are taking the plunge and heading abroad. I can’t recommend a year abroad enough, it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had the pleasure of taking part in, once all the stress of living somewhere new had disappeared.
Research is key. I know it is obvious and probably doesn’t need to be said but I don’t think I researched where I was headed quite enough. In my case I was unaware of the exact destination for a while and so was not as prepared as some of my fellow students. I was one of the lucky ones because when my programme was organised I was given accommodation details and told to register. However you may find that your university may send you out to look for your own. Don’t panic, many people are put into this situation; the best idea is try to connect with a student who has already been away with the programme you are going with. Ask your study abroad office for past students and ask them for their advice, perhaps you can stay where they stayed? In my experience people are more than happy to talk about their abroad experiences so don’t be afraid to ask. Not only is it vital to research the place you are going but I did a little research on people who were going too. With Facebook and Twitter it is pretty easy to track down other students in the same boat. Maybe your programme or the housing you are staying at has a Facebook group. In my case it did and I started chatting to a few people before I went which made the first couple of days less nerve wracking.
What to take. It is not too difficult when deciding on what to take. Research into your accommodation in case you need to provide you own bedding or basic room paraphernalia. You don’t want to get there after a long flight to realise you can’t even sleep. The other thing I will mention is food. This sounds really uncultured and closed minded but when you are in a different country for a year you will at some point want some food from home. In my case it was cheese. I went to Norway which is renowned for being expensive; I also think it should be renowned for expensive bad cheese. While in Norway I made friends with some fellow Brits who understood my frustration due to the only cheese available. When one of my friends went home for a visit we all decided to give him a shopping list for home comforts. Due to lack of suitcase space he returned with a ski jacket lined with cheese. Let’s say the security guards were not amused.
Getting you and your things over there. The easy, although most likely the expensive bit, will be booking your flights. The difficult thing for me was my belongings. Being away from home you will want to take some personal knick-knacks with you. Along with your clothes and books the amount of things to take will mount up quickly. If you are taking a lot of bulky items you may want to think about packing your things up and sending them ahead of you. There are many companies that specialise in sending large packages for people who are relocating abroad. Have a browse and collect some quotes it may not be expensive as you think. The other option is to carry it all. You may think that this is the cheaper option but due to baggage restrictions it may result in you having to leave things behind or paying a lot when you get to the airport. Have a look online at the allowances and see if you can pre-book extra weight.
Once you get there. This has to be the worst bit. Finally all your plans have lead you to this moment and you are now alone in a strange place with the weight of the world in your bag. It may be terrifying but remember this feeling will disappear pretty quickly. I arrived at the airport in Norway with only a piece of paper with an address on for company. Once I got to where I was going (and had a mini sob in my room). I realised everyone is out there to experience something new and make friends. So as long as you make an effort to go to the induction events and nights out, which are usually a bit lame, you will meet people. It is ok not to soak up the culture straight away as you will need time to settle. But I hope you will not go across the world to sit in someone’s dorm and watch TV. Get out there and experience it. You will create stories for a life time!
Charlotte Critchley is a graduate in Psychology and Business, spent a year studying in Bergen and enjoys freelance writing and blogging. This post was written on behalf of Rajapack, specialists in packaging supplies.