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Study Abroad Advice: Our 14 Top Tips for Students

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Author: NCUK Student Services

About to start studying abroad? Then you’re about to begin an incredibly exciting, rewarding new chapter in your life. There’s a lot to plan and think about before you get on the plane – where to begin? Let us help. We’ve broken down our study abroad advice into 14 simple tips designed to help you make the most of your time at university.

PACKING

  • Photocopy important documents.

Passports, visas, driving licences… of course you’ll want to bring the originals with you. But having photocopies handy also helps you avoid that panic when you need essential information fast and the documents are buried under piles of books.

  • Pack smart

You’ll be studying abroad for at least a semester, so bring clothes for a few different seasons. How do you fit your life into a suitcase? By packing smart. Take a look at our study abroad packing checklist  for advice on what to bring.

MONEY

  • Research debit and credit card options

It can be tempting to rely on your existing bank cards when you start studying abroad – but don’t fall into that trap! You could end up paying huge amounts to use your card or withdraw money. Instead, research which banks offer the best deals for international students. If you’re stuck, ask your university to point you in the right direction. And don’t forget about some of the new digital-only banks, like Monzo and Revolut. They’re cheap and easy to use in different countries.

  • Make a budget – and stick to it

Freshers’ Week is great – full of fun events and chances to make new friends. But you don’t want to get to the end and realise you’ve no money left. Draw up a budget before you leave, so you know how much money you need for food and other essentials. Then you can relax and enjoy yourself.

  • Get an ISIC card

Make your money go further with an ISIC card. The International Student Identity Card is available for all international students. It gives you access to exclusive discounts on everything from restaurants to cinemas and museums. Don’t forget you can get discounts with your regular university student card too.

SAFETY

  • Add ICE contacts to your phone

In an emergency, you want people to know who to contact. Add ‘ICE’ (‘In Case of Emergency’) after the names of a few key contacts in your phone. Then people can see at a glance who they should get in touch with. Try to have a couple of contacts at home and in your host country (like a friend or someone who works at the university) so you’re well covered.

  • Learn your host country’s emergency numbers

In the UK, you should call 999 in an emergency. If you’re not well but it’s not life-threatening, call 111. But these essential numbers vary from country to country. Learn which numbers you should call where you’re studying abroad, just in case you need them.

  • Get insurance

If you’re studying in the UK for more than six months, you can access the NHS (National Health Service) and won’t need health insurance. You’ll just have to pay a health surcharge on your visa. If you’re studying for less than that, or in another country like the US, look into medical insurance to make sure you’re covered. It’s also worth taking out contents insurance to cover your possessions in case they get lost, broken or stolen.

PREPARATIONS

  • Learn the language

If you’re coming to study in the UK, you may already know English. Some accents and dialects can be tricky to understand, so it’s worth watching British TV or listening to the radio before you leave, to familiarise yourself with how people sound. And if you’re travelling somewhere you don’t know the language, try to pick up the basics beforehand so you can get by. Apps like Duolingo are really helpful for quickly picking up the language.

  • Decide where you want to stay

If you’re studying as an undergraduate, most universities will let you stay in their halls of residence. If that’s not possible, or if you’d rather stay somewhere else, look into private accommodation. You’ll have plenty of options. The key is to sort out what you’re doing well before you leave – don’t wait until you arrive.

ENJOYING YOURSELF

  • Get stuck in

University is such an exciting time. You’ll make friends, learn new things and have a lot of great experiences, so get stuck in from the beginning. Go along to Freshers’ Week events and join clubs and societies that interest you. They’ll help you settle in and quickly make new friends.

  • Decide what you want to experience

Wherever you’re studying abroad, there’ll be lots to see and do. Have a look in advance and decide what things particularly interest you. Then, go out and do them! Try to tick as many things off your list as possible by the end of university – you’ll make a lot of incredible memories.

  • Keep track of your experiences

There’s so much going on when you study abroad, it’s difficult to remember everything you’ve done. Think about keeping a journal or taking photos, so you can look back on all the great experiences you had. You won’t regret it.

  • Have fun!

The greatest piece of study abroad advice we can give you is to have fun. There are so many incredible opportunities and experiences at university. Make the most of them all and enjoy yourself – you’ll look back on these memories fondly in years to come.

Want more study abroad advice? Check out our students’ top tips for everything you need to get started at university.