Studying abroad is a mission, a challenge and also a life-changing experience. It is bound to be one of the best phases in your life. While it’s fun to plan your dreams on how studying abroad should be before you embark upon the journey, you may find that being an international student can be arduous. Some of the biggest difficulties are language barrier and different ways of living. Remember you’re not alone. I may not be an expert, but I hope that as I have overcome challenges and observed new things in both the UK and elsewhere in Europe, I am able to share some tips here. Have a look at my guide for survival to help you cope with the pressures of being away from home.
Before you leave:
- Inform yourself about the new environment
You can begin by outlining some steps you can take to fully understand about your destination country; its local culture and people. Do research by using as many different sources as possible, such as the Internet, television, magazines and newspapers. If you have any questions, I strongly advise you to ask your friends, Indonesian students or others who have been or are currently living there. They probably have better understanding and can give you a little guidance.
- Start dealing with the language barrier
The one profoundly frustrating challenge for international students is the language barrier. A number of languages might be spoken in a single country. Make sure you know which language is mainly spoken by the locals in your host country. Keep in mind to always show respect for the local language. If English is not the first language, make an effort to learn some new words, for example how to say good morning, hello, thank you and other important pleasantries you can use in your daily interactions with the local people. Nothing sends the message that you value the diversity more than your willingness to learn about them.
- Find your best accommodation
Looking at your finances is the first concern. You should list what your possible outgoing expenses will be, such as rent, utility bills, food and other costs. The next thing you have to think about is the location. Consider if you need to use public transportation to your host university or not. Another important factor is the type of place you prefer. What would be the most suitable for you? Perhaps you would rather stay in a student accommodation owned by your institution than a shared flat with your friends, or the other way around. Understanding your housing preferences and needs is essential because it can really define your experience there.
- Evaluate health insurance plans
Some countries may ask the international students to purchase a plan that meets a set list of school/government requirements. Identify the medical benefits that will be covered by your insurance plan before purchasing. Having access to nearby doctors, specialists or hospitals that accept your insurance plan is another thing you need to consider. It is imperative to ensure that the price and benefits balance to meet your needs.
You may find this link is useful for you: International Student Insurance
- Prepare a final checklist
Get the necessary information and put together all the documents you may need to bring way ahead before the time of your departure. Making a final checklist will help you to determine whether or not you really are ready for living in a foreign country. Need a guidance? You can click Study Abroad Checklist.
Once you are there:
- Keep in touch
Upon your arrival, contact your family as soon as possible to let them know you have arrived safely. Do not forget to inform your new address, phone number and other contact details to your family and friends. In addition to keeping up with others, you may need to buy a local prepaid SIM card. Choose a mobile data plan that is well worth the cost. If you haven’t heard about it, use Skype which allows you to make calls to landlines for a cheaper rate than most cell phone networks.
- Get unpacked and settle in
Once you have got your keys, settle into your new room and unpack completely. If you need to find where to buy cheap cleaning supplies, groceries, etc., do not be afraid to ask your resident assistants, landlords or flatmates for help. Make your new place feel more like home. Also, spend some time to explore your campus and the city you will be living in.
- Set up a bank account
This is definitely a worthwhile option for students studying abroad, especially those going for the whole year. Foreign bank accounts can solve the problem of ATM transaction fees. You may see which bank most students seem to be using and which ones have a student account option. It is all up to you and what works best for your personal study abroad budget. Based on my experience, the process for opening a student bank account is relatively simple as long as you can provide all the required documents. Therefore, you need to find out what documents your chosen bank wants you to bring.
- Register to the Indonesian Embassy
You should know where the Indonesian Embassy is in your host country and register your stay. It is of great importance that the Embassy staff know where you are living abroad and how to contact you concerning your safety. You should also have the phone number of the Embassy in case you need to contact them.
- Join student societies
Some of you probably come to your destination country with one thing in mind: study hard to achieve the best grade. While this is certainly important, there is more to meet the eye. I suggest you to sign up for any societies offered by your host institution or city that interests you. The fun thing I found while I was studying abroad is doing voluntary work. Not only you get to meet lots of new friends from around the world, but also you will be able to do something you have never had an opportunity to do before.
- Make as many friends as you can
One of the most rewarding aspects of this international experience lies in the friendships you will cultivate while studying overseas. Remind yourself to step outside of your comfort zone.There is nothing wrong with going out with friends from your home country. However, only by immersing yourself in a new culture – having conversations with new people, trying the local cuisine, etc. – will you truly attain a memorable study abroad experience.
- Explore the world
Do not let the fear or homesickness prevent you from enjoying the travel experience. Studying abroad is the perfect time to visit tons of new cities and countries. Take this opportunity to travel the world with no commitments but to study and learn about new cultures. A wise man once wrote, “Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest of chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Thus, plan your trip wisely!
Overall, there are many ways that people cope, and you may discover other strategies that work particularly well for you. Taking every single chance to explore is the golden advice. I understand it is hard since I went through it by myself, but the more difficult it is, the greater your individual development will be. Just think of all the excitement you have yet to come. Make sure you live your studying abroad with no regrets!
Images courtesy of Yulisa Rebecca.