Being originally from Moscow, Russia, studying abroad anywhere in the world would be an experience completely different from what it would be back home for me. I’ve lived in several countries – in and out of the EU, briefly or for several years and have a lot more friends from even more countries.
It may seem either debilitatingly scary, or simple and not-a-big-deal depending on who you are, where you’re moving and what you’re going to study. And both are fine.
But here are some tips on how to make it a bit easier for yourself.
Exploring might mean different things, of course; what I’m talking about here is essentially “don’t get stuck in your little, comfortable corner.”
Check out the Student Union at your university; check out the bars around the university; check who your neighbours are; go to events. It’s not about partying – frankly, I hate partying myself. It’s about a) getting fresh air, and b) meeting different people.
These connections will not just help you get through university – they will help you later in life when you suddenly need help from someone who, for example, knows how to draw.
Don’t put work off till the last second
I know. It’s tempting. It seems easy to do. You might have always done it like that before.
Well, it’s time to stop, then. The lack of the exoskeleton that the constant presence of your guardians provided you with when you used to live with them will absolutely not let you slack off effectively anymore. It will become a dastardly habit that leaves you in panic. Especially since you never know what grade you’ll get in university – there’s a whole committee, not just your professors that you might know well – so…
Just don’t. I mean it. A part of studying abroad is accepting that you’re responsible for yourself now.
Make friends with your professors
Or teachers, if you’re still at school. That’s semantics.
The important part is that while it won’t affect your grade for the better – as it shouldn’t – it will help you with sudden tips, connections and recommendations when you suddenly need them.
Studying abroad is a lot more about meeting people and making friends than you might realise. Use every opportunity.
If you’re moving into a new country the official language of which you do not know (at all, or just too well), get on it.
There is nothing that will undermine your studying abroad experience more than the inability to communicate due to outside influences like language. You’ll feel it everywhere – from when you’re in class, to when you’re at a grocery store.
Do not worry – languages do come about much easier once you live in environments filled with them. Still, do not slack off too much – an effort still has to be made.
Check everything in advance
On a student visa? Always know when it ends.
Planning to prolong said visa? Always check the requirements at least three months in advance.
Graduating this year? Check the potential prices, dates and requirements in advance.
This might seem like silly advice to you, but you won’t be able to count the amount of people I’ve seen freak out because they hadn’t checked something before doing it on one hand.
Don’t reject new experiences
Never been in a student society before? Never wrote articles for magazines? Never tried photography? Never learnt any language besides English?
Well, now is your time!
Changing your general location is massively beneficial to welcoming new things into your life. Studying doesn’t have to just be about your major, or any specific aspect of our world; even if you’re studying medicine, doing something like painting courses just because you enjoy it and have some free time would be extremely beneficial to you and your brain.
Hobbies stimulate different parts of your brain while still letting your mind rest from your usual topics, while also opening up more career opportunities for you in the future.
Stock up on food
This is more of a “moving out in general” tip than it is specifically about studying abroad, but do that nonetheless.
Buy food for several days if not a whole week in advance; don’t just buy daily portions every day. It’ll save you a bunch of money.
Buy a lot of foods you can store – rice and other grains, pasta, dried fruits, canned tomatoes, etc. They will save your life if you’re suddenly out of money, and will help your ass if you’re lazy or too busy with the deadlines to make a full balanced meal.
And while you’re at it – stock up on medication, too.
Keep important information on hand
Write down all the local emergency numbers. Find out how bank accounts work. Find out how paying your bills works. Make photocopies and scans of all of your documents and keep the real things safely stashed. Stock up on some cash, just in case.
It’s the twenty-first century, so some things might seem all too cautious to you, but don’t forget – accidents happen. It is in your power to help prevent them as much as you can, for your own sake.
Don’t do things just to seem cool
A lot of us have been there. Whether you’re going to a boarding school, or moving out to finally live alone and go to university – don’t drink just because everyone else is drinking, don’t go vegan just because everyone is going vegan, don’t even buy jeans just because everyone else has the same-looking pair.
As corny as it sounds, you only live once. Imitating others won’t impress anyone; if anything, being unique and making your own decisions for yourself will be far more rewarding, socially and emotionally.