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How to Study Abroad: The Ultimate Guide for International Students
Welcome to educationations.com's ultimate guide to studying abroad! Studying abroad is life changing, but it can be confusing. In this guide, we'll walk you through the entire process, from asking why you should study abroad, to choosing schools, and even how to recover from the shock of reversed culture (and everything in between).
Table of Contents
Why study abroad?
We believe everyone should study abroad! There are so many reasons why studying abroad can be a life changing experience. If you still have to convince why you should study abroad, here are some things to consider:
1. You become more independent. Whether you are traveling outside the country for the first time or living alone for the first time, studying abroad forces you to become independent and self-sufficient. There are of course challenges that come with it, but it's incredibly rewarding. Students often say that studying abroad was a time of tremendous personal growth for them.
2. You learn about another culture. It doesn't matter whether you're traveling in ten time zones or just the next country. When you study abroad, you will meet new people, a new way of life, and a new culture. Our society is more global than ever, and these experiences will expose you to different types of people that make you a better employee, student, and person overall.
3. You will stand out from future employers. You will acquire valuable skills by studying abroad and employers will be aware of this. You will be a stronger communicator, have better interpersonal skills, and acquire street smarts that will help you be critical regardless of your occupation.
4. You expand your education. Say you're an archeology student - studying in a country where you can actually go to ancient ruins locally is incredibly valuable. Regardless of what field you are in, studying abroad simply exposes you to new avenues to pursue your passions or even explore new ones. The world has so many great universities - so look beyond your current school and explore the possibilities.
5. You learn more about yourself. As you move away from an environment that you are comfortable in, expect a lot of personal growth. Leaving your hometown and moving to completely new surroundings isn't always easy - even if it's only a few months! However, getting out of your comfort zone can be really invigorating. Even in the most stressful moments of homesickness, language barriers and dealing with foreign currencies, you will learn to face the occasion and find out what you are really made of.
6. You will acquire valuable travel skills. To travel well is indeed a skill that all citizens of the world should have. Not only do you get to know the social norms of a new place, but figuring out things like public transport also gives you valuable life skills.
7. You are expanding your network. If studying abroad isn't enough for personal growth and an opportunity to expand your education, do it for the friendships. Making new friends can be scary, but it's so rewarding. You may find that you have so much in common with someone who lives in another country. Whether you are connecting with someone else from your country traveling with you or making friends with a local, expanding your network is very important to your social life, career, and your own growth. And with friends abroad, you always have an excuse to come back!
8. You immerse yourself in a new language. Learning a new language can be an exciting experience, especially if you learned one in school years ago. Even if you just learn the basics, you are still exercising part of your brain. And going to a country where they speak the same language as you is still a fascinating experience - you learn new slang and language patterns and see your own language through completely different eyes.
9. You will experience new adventures. You don't even have to climb a mountain to study abroad - trying a new meal could be adventure enough. But you're still exposing yourself to new things that you couldn't expose yourself to at home. And while you can (and should!) Snap photos for Instagram and your friends at home and for your friends at home, you'll likely get so engrossed in these new experiences that you hang up your phone and just enjoy.
10. You bring home all of these new skills. Coming home after a semester (or years) abroad can evoke all kinds of emotions. Reverse Culture Shock is real! But these emotions mean that you have changed and have probably brought a lot of skills with you. You may even realize how much you missed your home country and gain a new appreciation for it.
What can I study abroad?
Many people who are thinking of studying abroad think of taking a semester abroad during their undergraduate studies. While this is common, it is by no means the only way to study abroad. In fact, you can study abroad at almost any level of your education - even if you haven't attended school in years!
You don't even have to be at university level to study abroad. You can do anything from a summer program abroad for a few weeks to a year-long exchange. Studying abroad in high school could be a great way to differentiate yourself when applying to a university and is a good way of life to live alone.
Foundation Programs / Pathway Programs
Foundation programs and pathway programs are post-secondary programs that you can take after high school to further prepare for university. If you want to study abroad, you may be able to join a Foundation or Pathway program that will help you with language skills and teach you about the educational system in that particular country so that you can achieve success in your study abroad program!
Associate degrees are degrees from undergraduate colleges that can be a stepping stone before the undergraduate degree or, for other students, is a qualification in itself. While this is most common in the United States, you can find these programs in other countries as well. They're often two years long - and could be a great opportunity to study abroad before getting a bachelor's degree.
Studying abroad for a semester or year during your undergraduate degree could be a great addition to your education in your home country - but it's not the only way to study abroad during your undergraduate degree! You can also complete your entire Bachelor's degree (3-4 years) abroad. Consider this option if a school abroad has a program that interests you. You don't have to go during the school year either - a summer program of your level might be perfect if you don't have time to spend a full semester or year abroad.
Did you get your bachelor's degree at home? It's never too late to study abroad. Discover Masters degrees around the world! Depending on your field of study, going abroad for your master’s degree may be what you need to set yourself apart in the job market and help you get a good internship or work experience in another country. Whether you want to get an MBA or a Masters in Anthropology, there is sure to be an excellent program abroad for you.
PhD and PhD
Track the highest level of education abroad. Doctoral programs are often quite small and competitive, and sometimes only have one or two vacancies per year. If you can't find a job in your home country, a look abroad can be a great way to continue your studies and expose yourself to new schools of thought and experts in your field.
Would you like to master a new language? It may be time to continue this training abroad. There is simply no substitute for interacting with locals unlike being self-taught from home. If you are serious about becoming fluent, consider attending a language school abroad.
Certificates and diplomas
If you are studying a very specific skill or just want to pursue a unique passion, a certificate or diploma program abroad could be exactly what you are looking for. Take a pastry course in France or get a diploma in digital marketing. Studying abroad for these short term courses could be a great thing to use to build your resume, advance in the job market and learn a new skill.
How do I study abroad?
Still convinced? Studying abroad really is life changing and you should. But first things first - a lot of planning has to go into an application to study abroad. When should you study abroad? Can you afford it Which country should you choose and how do you apply then? Read on for all the details.
Make a plan
Two of the most important decisions you need to make are when to study abroad and how to pay for it. It can also be a challenge to convince your parents to let you study abroad if they are resistant. Before we dive into the application process, the first thing we should do is make sure that it works with your life.
When should I study abroad?
If you've just completed a bachelor's program and are ready to go abroad for a master's or doctorate, deciding when to study abroad can be an easy one. But when you are in the middle of your undergraduate degree, when you leave can be very important. You need to find out where studying abroad fits in with your other academic commitments, such as internships, collaborations, and course requirements.
Depending on your university or major, you may not have any other choice. Not many schools allow freshmen to go abroad, and it's still uncommon in the sophomore year. The junior year is a common time to go abroad, and a senior year may still be possible. Be sure to contact your university's international office or your academic advisor for information on what is most typical and convenient for a student at your school.
Can I study abroad as an engineer or medical student?
You can definitely study medicine or engineering abroad. There is a widespread misconception that studying abroad for students specializing in medicine or other STEM areas does not work with their very structured academic requirements. That is not true! While you may need to plan a lot ahead if you have a lot of academic requirements, studying abroad is possible and you will likely become an even stronger candidate for medical school. Contact your school's pre-professional counseling office as soon as you know you want to study abroad. You can work with your schedule to see how to fit it in. While you may not be able to complete a full year abroad, you can usually still fit into a semester, or at least a summer program.
Can I afford to study abroad?
There's no way to sugar-coat it - studying abroad can be expensive and a huge deterrent for those looking to study abroad. But you have options and how much it costs depends on the country you are going to and of course how long you stay.
How much does it cost to study abroad?
According to the Institute for International Education, a semester abroad costs an average of $ 18,000 per semester. Depending on how much you pay per semester at your home university, this can be the same or even the same. In addition to program fees, you also need to consider airfare and living expenses. If you live in New York City, the cost of living in Costa Rica seems to be much lower. And if you are currently going to school in Stockholm, studying abroad in New Delhi may be quite affordable. Expect to add a good amount for that total too.
"A semester abroad costs an average of US $ 18,000 per semester."
But there is good news - you have plenty of options, especially if you want to study abroad at the bachelor's level. For example, if you are currently receiving college funding, that funding will continue to flow into your study abroad program. You can also take out a student loan or collect scholarships. And of course, if you can't afford to spend an entire year, a summer program can still give you that life-changing experience at a fraction of the cost.
How can I convince my parents to study abroad?
Your family may be reluctant to let you study abroad. Put yourself in their shoes - you're probably just nervous, especially if you've always lived nearby or if you (or she) have never been out of the country. But if you build your case, you can likely convince them.
First, be prepared - you will have many questions, and you must have answers. Make sure you know how you may be going to pay for it because this is what they definitely want to hear. Describe the many benefits of studying abroad and making sure you communicate with them frequently while abroad. If you approach the conversation with empathy, you certainly stand a good chance of convincing even the most protective of parents.
Start your search
Once you know roughly when to go and how to pay for it (and when you get the green light from your parents if you need it), the funnier stuff begins. Let's decide where to go!
Where should I study abroad?
Perhaps you already know exactly in which country or on which continent you would like to study - but at which university? Or maybe you are really open to countries but you know you want to go to a top biology program since you are pre-med.
Something else to consider: is your university partner of universities abroad? In that case, this might be the easiest path for you, especially since it will likely be seamless when transferring credits. Many schools have partnerships with a variety of universities around the world. So ask your study abroad office.
Also check out our extensive study guides - we have detailed information on what it's like to study abroad depending on the country around the world.
If you don't have a country in mind yet
Consider your major
If you are an English major, it may not make sense to study in China. But if you're studying world literature specifically, studying in China might actually be a great idea. Certain countries are known for different things, and while many countries are likely to have excellent programs, this can be a good place to start when you are at the beginning of your search. Consider the following ideas:
Business & Finance: Think of big cities that are business centers: London, New York, Hong Kong, Toronto, Sydney, and Tokyo.
English & Literature: To the major literary centers include Santiago, Oxford, Paris, St. Petersburg, Dublin and Edinburgh.
Medicine and Public Health: Developing countries often give you hands-on experience, but they also think about where the best health care in the world is. Consider locations like Denmark, South Africa, Ghana, Thailand or India.
Politics & Law: To the political hotspots include Brussels, Geneva, and Washington, DC
Engineering & Technology: Think of innovation centers like Singapore, San Francisco, Berlin, Tel Aviv, Stockholm and Lisbon.
Visual arts: Try a city with a rich cultural history of fine arts and countless museums such as Florence, Paris, Barcelona, Beijing or Chicago.
Performing Arts & Music: To the Theater and music centers include (but are not limited to) Havana, Nashville, London, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires, and Berlin.
History: Whether you are into archeology or just history in general, you can't beat places like Athens, Jerusalem, Cusco, Alexandria or Moscow.
Education: Consider studying in countries with the best educational systems in the world (Finland, Netherlands, Japan, South Korea) or places where English teachers are in demand (Vietnam, Colombia, Taiwan).
Take into account your interests outside of school
You are more than just a student! So think about your interests outside of the classroom. Do you want to go anywhere with a beach? Would you like to be able to camp? Is a hot culinary scene important to you? Consider the following ideas:
When you are outdoors , consider countries like South Africa, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Norway or Tanzania.
If you're looking to study near a bouncy culinary scene, you should Consider cities like Tokyo, Marrakech, Rio de Janeiro, Dubai, New York, and Taipei.
If you are an ambitious buyer , you should consider top shopping cities like London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris and New York.
If you are interested in this cafe life , you should consider these cities with some of the best cafe cultures in the world: Stockholm, Seattle, Melbourne, Rome, Singapore or Vienna.
Look at the cost of living
If staying on a strict budget is important to you, consider cities with lower cost of living. According to Numbeo, the countries with the highest cost of living in 2018 are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Luxembourg and Denmark. You might consider more budget-friendly countries - for example, these all have low cost of living, according to Numbeo: India, Mexico, Kenya, Peru, and Hungary.
If you already have a country in mind
If you already know where to study, now is the time to decide where to apply. When choosing a university, keep the following in mind:
- Does the university offer a program that fits my career goals? If you want to get a full bachelor's degree in biology in England and then return to medical school in the US, you should be very careful that you meet certain requirements in order to apply to American medical schools. Do some research beforehand!
- Can I transfer credits back to my home university (if you complete a semester / year and not the entire degree)? Some schools may be very strict about which credits count towards your degree, especially when it comes to key requirements. Make sure your school allows the biology course you are taking overseas to count as your required biology tuition for your public health major!
Would you like to learn more about what it's like to study in a particular country? Read our study guides for the following countries:
Where should I look for study programs abroad?
Once you've decided on a general location, now is the time to seriously start making a list of potential universities. Try some of these options:
Education search engines
While Google can be a good starting resource, using a more targeted resource like educationations.com can help you by comparing programs and connecting with universities. This is a good place to start when you are in the research phase. You can filter programs by country, city, school type and category.
If your focus is on the school rather than the country, it might also be a good idea to check out ranking sites like THE, QS, and US News, which compile annual rankings of the top schools around the world. But take this with a grain of salt - just because a school isn't in the top 20 doesn't mean they don't have an amazing program unique to you and your interests.
The application process
Do you have a list of schools in mind? Now is the time to start the application process. We promise it's not as complicated as it could look! If you've previously applied to a home university, the process will likely look pretty similar. Read on to find out exactly what goes into an application to study abroad.
Before doing anything else, it's a good idea to get organized. We recommend starting with a spreadsheet so you can keep track of the deadlines. You may also want to keep checklists of requirements for each school. You should refer to this table over and over again throughout the process to update it. If a spreadsheet isn't your style, you might want to try creating a checklist or some sort of master document to go back to.
Ready to apply? While the application process will vary depending on the type and level of school you are applying for, here are the basic requirements that can be part of your application.
Most programs want to see how you did in your last school, be it your elementary school or even your high school. Some schools have specific minimum GPA requirements that must be met in order to be eligible. Contact your current school as soon as possible to have them send your transcript to the school you are applying to.
Depending on the country's grading system, you may need to convert your grades or even have your certificate translated into another language.
Many international programs work primarily in English. If English is not your first language, you will need to take a standardized test to show that you are able to do the coursework. For most schools this is either the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language). Schools in North America usually prefer the TOEFL while the UK usually prefers the IELTS. However, both tests are accepted worldwide. So be sure to check the individual requirements of each school. You can use this test to check that you are ready to take the IELTS.
Depending on the country, the schools you are applying to may also require more general standardized tests such as the SAT (which many American universities require for undergraduate students). If you are applying to an American graduate school, you may need to take the GRE.
Letter of motivation / personal statement
Some schools require you to write a personal statement (sometimes called an international paper) explaining why you are applying for their program. It's an opportunity to show your personality, your priorities as a student, and how school is helping you achieve your dreams. Motivational letters vary in length but expect to average around 500 words.
Your cover letter should do several things:
- Explain why you would like to study at the university you are applying to. Think about what they can offer you and how you, too, can contribute to their institution.
- Explain why you would like to study in your country rather than your home country.
- Show proof that you can do particularly well abroad and at the university.
Your cover letter should not:
- Be a general letter that you send out to all of the schools you apply to.
- Plant doubts that you couldn't stand being an international student away from home.
- Imply studying abroad to party and just make friends.
Recommendations / references from teachers
Some schools request an academic reference or two that you can include with your application. Often times teachers will be asked to send references directly to the university, but sometimes you will be asked to send them in yourself.
Choose teachers who you really know and with whom you have a good relationship. These could be teachers you recently had. If you ask them for an academic reference, you may want to provide a resume and list of the schools you are applying to so they can customize their references. A good rule of thumb: let them know at least a month in advance and be ready to send reminders.
Interviews are not very common, but you may be asked to interview over the phone or Skype. Interviews may sound scary, but they're a great way to show your personality and a great opportunity for you to ask questions and decide if the school is right for you - interviews are a one-way street!
Here are some questions you might come across in a study abroad interview:
- Why do you want to study abroad?
- Why are you interested in this particular program?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- Have you ever been abroad? How did you find that?
- Which parts of LAND culture are you most looking forward to?
- How would you get involved in our school?
- What are you doing in your spare time?
You should also have questions of your own. But do your research first and don't ask questions that you could easily find on their website. If you take the time to do thoughtful research, it will show your interviewer that you are serious about their program and studying abroad. It can help you to have a “mock interview” with a friend or family member before the actual interview.
If you go on a prepared study abroad program, you are sure to make a good impression. Email a follow-up thank you note after the interview!
Writing / art example
Most programs do not require this. However, if you are applying for a program that involves writing or the arts, you may be asked to submit a sample of your work. For a literature program, this could include research. For an animation class, this might be a portfolio of your best work.
Apply for scholarships
Studying abroad can be expensive, but scholarships can be a way to significantly offset the cost. There are many places to search for scholarships, and the scholarships vary - they can go up to hundreds of dollars in tuition or even cover an entire program. But don't overlook the smaller scholarships - any amount can go a long way in helping you study abroad. Not sure where to start? Let us guide you!
Start with our scholarship guide
We've put together a guide to the best scholarships for students in 21 countries. We've already done the dirty work of researching scholarships online. So you know these have been reviewed and are actually worth applying to. Some of these scholarships are associated with universities, while others are open to students who wish to study anywhere in the country. In the instructions we give you the full details like deadlines and eligibility.
Check out your university's scholarship page
If you are looking to study in a country that is not included in our scholarship guide, you should check to see if the schools you applied for have scholarships specific to their school. Most universities have a page dedicated to this information. You may also want to investigate whether your current university offers student scholarships to study abroad at other universities.
Explore government funded scholarships
Some countries will help fund students who want to study there. A quick Google search is definitely worth it!
Apply for financial assistance
If you are an American student receiving financial aid at your home university, you can likely get financial aid to study abroad as well. If you've taken out a federal loan, check out this list of countries that accept FAFSA. If your school gave you a private scholarship, you can likely expand that to include your study abroad. Contact your school's financial assistance office with any specific questions.
Accept an offer of admission
You managed! Once you start attending a school abroad, the real fun begins. But maybe you have been accepted by more than one school. You have to decide which school to choose.
This is how you decide where to study when you have more than one option
The important things first. Make a pros and cons list for each school you choose. There are several things to consider:
- Costs. What is the lesson? If the schools you choose are in two different countries, what is the cost of living in each country? Does a school offer better financial support?
- Students life. While you might not get a real feel for student life prior to your arrival, you can check the university's website for clues. What clubs do they offer? Check out the schools' social media. What mood are you getting? Could you see yourself there for a few months?
- Academic offers. Will both schools take you where you want to go? Look at the prestige of the school. Think about whether the courses you take will help you after you graduate.
- Your gut feeling. Don't choose a school just because your parents prefer one. If you're spending a few months or a few years out of the country, it should be somewhere you want to be.
You haven't received an admission offer?
If you haven't been accepted by any of the schools you applied to, you might feel very frustrated or disappointed. But remember that many programs are extremely competitive, and just because they might not have thought you would fit right now doesn't mean they never will. Apply next year and consider a wider range of schools. With all of your experience, the next year it will be even easier to apply.
How do I prepare for studying abroad?
Once you've officially accepted an offer, it's time to do the logistical work to prepare for the move. This can be very overwhelming, so we've broken down everything you need to do, step by step.
Some programs provide shelter for you or make the arrangements for you - and if so, you are very lucky. For those responsible for securing their own housing, here are the different types of housing you will encounter as a student abroad:
Student dormitories. College dormitories are great in that they are furnished and give you instant access to people your age who are in a situation similar to yours. From a social point of view, this is an ideal scenario. In terms of privacy, you are likely to be giving up a little privacy. All dorms are different, but you will likely share a kitchen and possibly a bathroom. Inquire about the offer at your university. Dorms can often be good value for money - they are often inexpensive and are located near campus.
Guest families. Homestay families are an excellent option for people who want to immerse themselves in the local culture. You will have a real experience living with someone else (or a whole family) and benefiting from their wisdom and advice as a local. These places are of course also furnished, which is ideal for those who will only be in the country temporarily.Of course, you have to forego some privacy here too. But it might be worth it if you want to integrate into the culture faster. Not sure where to start? Homestay.com is a good place to start. Your program may also have the ability to connect you with people.
Apartments. The apartments are the most private of your options and are great for those who feel comfortable with more independence. Of course, depending on where you live, your apartment complex can have a lot of students, which makes it as social as a college dorm. Look for apartments that are fully furnished. However, apartments can be expensive so you may need to get a roommate (or two). The apartment search can also be difficult to navigate if you are unable to visit apartments before making a decision. However, there are several resources you can use to find student housing.
Things to Consider When Looking for Accommodation Abroad:
Since you are unlikely to be able to visit the apartment, you should be aware that some of the ads are scams that will make you spend a lot of money on places that are not worth it. To avoid this, check out these landlord's red flags. We also recommend reversing Google image search to see if the photos published are legitimate or are stock photos that are used in multiple listings.
We also recommend that your safety is a priority, especially in large cities where petty crime is common. Just because an apartment is cheap doesn't mean it is worth sacrificing your wellbeing over it.
Make a budget
Managing your money is one of the toughest things to do abroad. With so many new experiences, it's easy to blow money and justify it in the pursuit of YOLO. And it's true - you only live once, so you should definitely make the most of your study abroad. But you can do it in a sensible way that is within your budget!
Your budget depends on where you study abroad. There is definitely no single budget as some countries are cheaper than others. You will often see the range of $ 3,000 to $ 8,000 as the average for what you will be spending overseas over several months.
Some Basic Budget Tips To Save Money Abroad:
- Bring your student ID with you wherever you go. Student discount cards are offered in many countries. If you bring your student ID with you frequently, you can get to museums and other tourist attractions at a reduced price. Many shops and restaurants also offer student discounts.
- Prepare meals at home. Eating out can add up very quickly. If you are on a budget, cooking most of your meals at home is a great way to save money. You can still use local foods - but preparing them at home will cut the costs.
- Find free activities. Sure, some things cost money - but you'd be surprised how many things you can do for free. Explore outdoor activities (including outdoor gyms), beaches, free museums, and festivals.
- Check your budget often. Having an ambitious budget before you leave can't hurt, but you should revise it once you're in the country and get a better sense of what things are going to cost. Also, check your bank account regularly. Especially if you are not used to foreign currency, you may inadvertently spend more than you think.
- Research cheap travel options. If you want to travel even more while studying abroad, look for affordable options. Cheap airlines like Ryanair might be a good choice for you, and check out trains and ferries too. You can invest in a bike to travel between cities. It's a great exercise and potentially cheaper than a subway or train. Don't forget to walk too!
What to pack
Is your flight date approaching? Better take packing seriously. Different items are required for each region, and many items are available for purchase there. Read on for our ultimate packing list (optimized for 6 months abroad, regardless of location) and then for region-specific style advice.
The ultimate packing list for studying abroad
- Passport (and copy of your passport)
- Local currency if required
- Credit and debit cards
- Health card
- Student ID
- Driver's license
- All the recipes you take with the original printed recipe
CLOTHING, SHOES AND ACCESSORIES
- 14 pairs of underwear
- 3-4 regular bras and 2 sports bras if you wear them
- 1 sweatshirt
- 2 jeans (one dark wash)
- 1-2 pants
- 1-2 shorts
- 2 skirts
- 2-3 dresses
- 2-3 tank tops
- 4-5 short sleeve shirts
- 2-3 long sleeve shirts
- 1 formal outfit (blazer and pants or a nice dress)
- 2 sporty shorts or leggings
- 2 sports shirts
- 1 swimsuit
- 2 pajamas
- 2-3 sweaters (one lighter, one heavier)
- 1 raincoat
- 12 pairs of socks, 1-2 pairs of tights
- 1 light jacket (e.g. denim jacket)
- 1 heavier jacket (depending on location)
- 1 pair of sporty sneakers
- 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes
- 1 pair of more elegant shoes (flats, heels, nice slippers)
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of sandals (depending on location)
- 1 hat
- 1 scarf
- 1 pair of gloves
- carry bag
Toiletries take up a lot of space in a suitcase. So just bring small travel sizes that will last a week or two and then shop for new things in your new country. You might even find some cool overseas brands to bring with you! Here is a list of what to bring and what to buy when you get there:
Bring from home:
- Deodorant or antiperspirant (may not be the same depending on where you go)
- Your favorite makeup (can be quite expensive abroad)
- Sun protection
- Over-the-counter drugs like Motrin or Benadryl (check country restrictions first, but know that not all of your favorite OTC drugs are available at a foreign drugstore).
- Menstrual products when you use them (may be different from what you are used to while abroad)
- Travel sizes of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facial cleanser, moisturizer
- Skin care products that you cannot live without and that you cannot buy there
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- Contacts and contact solution
- Hairbrush or comb
- hair conditioner
- Soap or body wash
- Face wash
- laundry detergent
- Nail clippers
- Hand sanitizer
- Laptop and charger
- Phone and charger
- Power supply / converter
- Flash drive
- Power bank / mobile phone charger
- Camera and charger
- USB cable
Location-specific style advice
Fashion and climates vary by continent, but we've spoken to people who have studied abroad in some of the most popular study countries, what things you are likely to see in university students around the world.
American college students tend to dress very relaxed in class. Many students wear sweatpants and sweatshirts or leggings and a t-shirt. But you will often see a huge variety in terms of personal style. Some people will dress more and expect to see "preppy" fashion on the east coast and south - polos, button-down shirts, brightly patterned skirts, and boat shoes. In cities like Washington, DC, and New York, you'll see more black and neutrals and trendy clothes. The west coast is pretty trendy too - think loose silhouettes, white denim, and bohemian styles.
Unlike the US, you won't see sweatpants in classrooms here. Many British students are very interested in current trends. All custom styles are welcome, but you can't go wrong with a loose denim jacket, pants or high waisted jeans, leather jackets, white sneakers, black low boots, and branded sportswear. And if you are based in a city like London, take advantage of the fantastic shopping!
First things first - you definitely need a coat if you go to Sweden. The summer months don't get too hot either and the nights can be quite cold. Swedish students are very stylish and tend to wear a very similar uniform. Think white sneakers with loose, architectural pieces in black, white, and gray. You will also see many Fjallraven backpacks. However, leave the sweatpants and university sweatshirts in your room - you won't see them in the street.
French students like to look good. So expect them to wear the style that you have. Think of branded trainers, skinny jeans, a flowing T-shirt, a patterned dress or brogues. However, skip the sportswear. Wearing leggings is a sure sign that you are not from here. Neutral colors are always a good idea. If you go for something brighter and more vibrant, keep it the focus and pair it with neutral basics.
Australian students have different styles, but comfort is important! Expect low-key style on campus: lots of jeans, white sneakers, sandals, and canvas tote bags. It can get extremely hot depending on where you are in the country. So pack accordingly.
New Zealanders are casual and chic and certainly don't wear sweats to class. You'll see a lot of black and gray here, and while those who don't know might think that being an island country, it's just warm all the time - that's wrong! In summer you definitely need warm clothes, but in winter it can be quite windy and cold. So bring a thick coat. New Zealanders like practical and simple style, but don't confuse that with uninteresting. Prepare to see some nervous and androgynous looks.
"Don't get dressed for the weather," recommends an Irish editor at educationations.com. Ireland is known for its wet weather, but rolling up in rain boots and an Aran sweater is the easiest way to assert yourself as a foreigner. Irish students love night clubs. So bring or buy club clothes. During the day you can't go wrong with a neutral palette.
South Korean students value their appearance very much. Therefore, expect people to wear more elegant clothes and makeup every day at school. Modesty is important in South Korea, so wearing low-cut shirts is not very common. Whatever you do, don't look sloppy or just got out of bed - people will think you don't have your life together! Koreans are very sensitive to trends, so the students dress differently from year to year. Bring classics and get some affordable street fashion while you are there!
Japanese students are pretty chic and if you are in a big city like Tokyo you will see a lot of urban street style. Modesty is also important, so avoid short shorts. Students definitely get dressed to go to class, and you will even see students wearing heels instead of sneakers.
Chinese students wear uniforms during high school, making this university the first time they can truly express their personal style. Expect bold looks and lots of colors and individual tastes. As styles change and Chinese students definitely take note of trends, you will see less loose, baggy clothing and more “put together” looks here. Think of purses instead of backpacks, dresses and skirts instead of jeans.
What to do when you arrive
Congratulations - you did it! As soon as the jet lag subsides, the real fun begins. Here is your guide to everything that happens next.
The first days
The first few days in a new country can be both exciting and completely overwhelming. You will likely be exhausted, but there are a few important things that you must do. (You may want to write to your parents or friends first that you got there safely! If so, trust us.)
If you haven't already, find out your money situation
While many people rush to the airport currency exchange desk upon arrival, do your research first. Some cities around the world are essentially "cashless" and it's easier to use your debit card from your home country (give them a call before letting them know you are abroad!). However, if you need cash, be sure to research the exchange rate. Often times, currency exchange locations don't have an exchange rate as cheap as your debit card at a local ATM. If you use a debit or credit card, be aware that foreign transaction fees or fees for using foreign ATMs may apply.
Get a phone
Your options here are a few, and it largely depends on the type of money you can spend and what the rules of your home phone company are.
- You can use the phone you brought from home, but you can buy a foreign SIM card. If you have an unlocked mobile phone, you can exchange the SIM cards for one with a local network operator. This is probably the easiest option, but it may not be possible if your phone is locked. Check with your airline for rules and restrictions before traveling.
- You can buy a cheap flip phone to use abroad. Another simple, relatively inexpensive option is to go to a local electronics store and buy a cheap phone. You can then get a SIM card for a local network operator. The downside here is that this phone is likely not a smartphone and you may no longer have the same access to apps and the internet as you are used to. But for those who want to be able to text text and call people overseas and simply use their home phone with WiFi, this is a great option.
- You can use the phone you brought from home with an international plan from your home carrier. This is probably the most expensive plan, but it depends a lot on your home operator's fees. If you don't plan on using your phone that often and don't plan on calling home a lot, it may be worth checking out for your convenience.
- You could do without a cell phone tariff and simply use your home phone with free WiFi. This is the riskiest option, but it is also the free option. Turn off your data from your home network operator and only use your phone when you are connected to WiFi. When you're in your home and at school, you probably have internet, but when you're out, you're connected. This can be an option if you are in a country that you are very familiar with, where you already speak the language, and a good option if your parents or loved ones are ok with this, you may not be able to use you at all hours to reach !
Buy last minute items
Hopefully you haven't wasted a trunk by bringing your favorite full size shampoo and conditioner! Now is the time to stock up on the essentials. Go to a local grocery store or pharmacy and pick up a few items that you didn't pack. Depending on your living situation, you may need to purchase some bedding as well. Reward yourself for all of your hard work with a snack.
Adaptation to different study expectations
Your new school may have very different expectations than your home school - and it can be one of the more difficult adjustments you need to make depending on the atmosphere you're used to. There are three main reasons why study expectations can differ: oversight, assessment, and formality.
Different levels of supervision
If you come from an American university you may be used to a relatively high level of supervision compared to universities around the world. For example, some universities may have a more student-centered learning process where you are expected to take more initiative outside of the classroom to complete your coursework. You may be in a classroom less often - but that may not mean the course is less rigorous. And attendance may not be that important. While all universities have their own cultures and customs, European and Australian universities are more student-centered, with less emphasis on participation and less oversight overall. American universities will have more oversight, with more assignments, a stronger focus on smaller assignments, and perhaps more time with a professor.
Different assessment levels
Some countries focus more on final exams, while others focus on a variety of assessment methods including, but not limited to, attendance, attendance, small assignments, group assignments, graduation projects, essays, and exams. If you're used to taking two exams per semester, suddenly doing a multitude of assignments every week can be completely overwhelming. And if you're used to getting graded on a lot of assignments during the semester, it can seem scary when you put that stress on an exam or two.
You should also expect a difference in rating. Each country or region uses a different rating scale. If you are used to the AF rating scale, you may find it difficult to interpret a "1" in the Czech Republic or a "6" in Switzerland (both are excellent, or an "A" if you use the AF rating). Use a scale!). Keep this in mind when you get test results again. You may also need to interpret these for your home university when you send your certificates back.
If you are from Sweden and have called your professors by their first names, you will be surprised that this is never possible in many other countries. You may also need to consider the language you use with your professors. In many languages there will be two forms of “you”, one more informal and one more formal (like French do vs. vous ). It is probably safest to play it safe and be more formal, but you will learn what counts as normal teacher-student behavior soon enough.
Adaptation to your new culture
Even if the country in which you are studying is not that different from your home country, you should still expect a certain adjustment phase.
Culture shock is real, and even if you travel frequently you probably won't be immune. Culture shock occurs when you leave the usual culture for something new. There are generally four stages of culture shock. First you go through the honeymoon phase. Everything is exciting for you here - the beaches, the nightlife, the delicious food - and you could imagine staying in your host country forever. However, next comes the time of frustration or negotiation. You may be afraid of the language barrier or frustrated by the differences in technology, hygiene, social interactions, transportation - or any other thing that affects your daily life. However, this period of fear doesn't last forever and eventually you will reach the adjustment phase. At this stage you will finally find your feet in the local culture and things will not seem so strange anymore. In the final phase, acceptance, you will feel comfortable in the new culture and possibly even get a "reverse culture shock" when you return home.
Culture shock, especially when you're in the frustration phase, can create a lot of anxiety - but there are things you can do to combat these feelings as you adjust to your host country.
How to Beat Culture Shock When Studying Abroad
- Accept these feelings! There's no point in beating yourself up for a very common, perfectly normal experience. You can be unhappy! It feels bad to fight abroad because "you should have fun". But that's not always the case. Accept your feelings, recognize them and make up with your new surroundings.
- Communicate with loved ones at home. It can be comforting to talk to people you know really well when you feel alone in a new culture. Of course you don't want to just speak to people from your own culture. But texting mom or dad every now and then can be a source of comfort.
- Find some positive people. It can be difficult to make friends overseas, but you will find that most people are just as eager to make new friends as you are. Hanging out with people who are positive (but still validate your very real frustrations!) Could help you through the difficult period of culture shock.
- Keep busy. It can be tempting to stay home when you are feeling frustrated by a language barrier. But doing nothing is worse than facing your fears. Create a routine that will force you to go out into the world - and bring a friend or two with you. There is no need to do this alone.
- Learn the local language. If feeling like you can't understand the people around you is a cause for concern, learning (even a little) the language of your host country can help allay some of your culture shock. And while you probably can't become fluent during your studies abroad (unless you stay for more than a year), you can likely master some basic everyday phrases and words. Check if your program allows you to enroll in a beginner language course. If not, there are plenty of free online resources and apps (like Duolingo or Memrise) that can offer a crash course.
- Try to integrate yourself into the culture. Try a new meal, greet people in the local language, maybe try a new style trend - it's not about becoming someone else while traveling, it's about living a bit like a local. Stepping out of the public eye and only speaking to people from your home country may be a simple short-term solution - but it is not sustainable or even possible for most people. You are here to learn and you will be forced to go outside. Take advantage of knowing that any discomfort or frustration you experience is likely to pass. If not, you'll be home early enough.
Studying abroad can bring many ups and downs emotionally. It is completely normal and common to miss home, especially as you adapt to a new culture and educational system. But there are several things you can do to help alleviate the loneliness that you experience from time to time.
- Find solace in others who are going through the same things as you. You are likely studying abroad with other international students. Reach them. They're all going through the same thing as you, even if they're not talking about it loudly, and they'd probably love to talk about it and process it together. You can also get in touch with friends back home who may also have recently studied abroad and know how it feels!
- Be active. Wallowing in your room may help a bit, but you may find it easier to get out of homesickness doing something outside. Exercise with new friends (or go alone!), Take leisurely walks around the city, go to a museum or cafe. Anything that gets you out of your room will help!
- Create a new routine. Most of us like the feeling of a routine, and studying abroad usually forces you out of one. So create a new one! While it may be so easy to exercise in the morning before class or to have dinner at a set time, a new living structure is essential so that you can better orient yourself as you adapt to a new lifestyle.
- Schedule self-care. Self-care looks different for everyone, but here are some ideas. Go outside and read a book for pleasure. Try a new sport. Do some face masks. Skype with your best friend from home. Take a nap.
- Speak it out! Whether you're reaching out to a friend in your home country or having a little chat with classmates, don't let your emotions out of sight - let people know how you are doing! You will be surprised how helpful it is just to say it out loud.
- Face your fears. Studying abroad is about getting out of your comfort zone. If you're worried about interacting with locals because you don't speak the language (or if you speak part of the language but feel too uncomfortable to practice), face your fears by taking small steps. Order coffee in a new language. Try speaking to someone who is new. Go to town alone. Do things that make you a little nervous. You will be grateful when you return home!
How to make friends while studying abroad
Making friends is sometimes easier said than done, but one of the most rewarding parts of studying abroad is meeting and making new friends with new people from around the world. Here are just a few ways you can make friends overseas easily!
- Go for orientation. If you've attended college before, you probably know that orientations are often not the most stimulating event you've ever attended - but don't skip this one. An orientation abroad is often your first personal interaction with people at your institution and it is important that you obtain information. But it's also a great way to make friends. When you go to this normally mandatory event, you will suddenly be surrounded by tons of students who are just as bored and confused as you are. And you can bet they'll want to connect with you through it.
- Join a student club. Whether it's an intramural sports club, sorority, or knitting circle, joining a student organization is a great way to meet people with interests similar to you. And don't be uncomfortable walking alone - people in clubs WANT to meet other people too.
- Get a roommate. Depending on your situation, you may not have a choice about your life situation - but if you do, consider having a roommate (or two). And if you already need a roommate, take advantage of this. Walk for orientation together, cook a meal together, whatever - even if you don't really get along, they may be able to introduce you to other people.
- Plan a trip. You may know a few classmates or neighbors but don't consider them good friends yet. Deepen the friendship with some type of activity. Go exploring, arrange a pub crawl, or just throw a dinner party if you can. Don't wait for someone else to invite you to do something - be the initiator!
After studying abroad
Dealing with reverse culture shock
Culture shock is severe, but dealing with reverse culture shock can be even more difficult because you aren't expecting it. Reverse culture shock occurs when you drive home after integrating into your host culture. It can surely be strange to realize that the world at home went on without you and things may have changed. You may be longing for food from your host country or suddenly critical of your home country. It can also feel very lonely because you find that people don't want to talk around the clock about your experience abroad. But just like the culture shock, this will pass. Here's how to deal with it in the meantime.
- Expect reverse culture shock . You will be surprised how strange it can be to return to your home country, especially when you are away for a long time. But reverse culture shock occurs and there is not much you can do to stop it.
- Keep in touch with your new friends abroad . Or connect with friends back home who are returning from their own study abroad. If you have not studied abroad yourself, you may find it difficult to identify with those who did. So don't take it too personally if your parents or friends aren't that interested in hearing your talk about every moment of your time abroad. It's not that they don't care about your happiness - but it's difficult to invest in all of your anecdotes if you've never had the experience yourself. So keep in touch with all your friends abroad! With apps like WhatsApp and Facebook, there's no excuse for getting out of touch.
- Write down your feelings. Writing out can be cathartic to less interested friends and family members, but don't be afraid to think bigger! Online magazines and blogs may be looking for people to share their experiences. If studying abroad changed your life, start looking for ways you can talk about it more!
- Restore your overseas routine at home . Especially when you return for the first time, you may find yourself feeling lightheaded and confused without your old lifestyle. If you find it helpful during the adjustment, continue with whatever routines you set up at home overseas. If you woke up at 6 a.m. to run in France, do the same at home! Of course, recreating your life abroad domestically is impossible, but restoring a routine can be a helpful coping mechanism.
- Plan a return trip! It is normal to long for your host culture and maybe even feel a little critical of your home culture. But do you know that you can and should return to your host country. It's just goodbye, not forever!
Use the study abroad on your resume
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