Studying abroad is one of the best things to do when you’re young. Rubbing shoulders with people that you otherwise may never have met, getting an insight into the university system of another country, and truly immersing yourself in another culture – wherever you go, your study abroad will be something you’ll remember forever.
Having said that, studying abroad isn’t always easy. Like with any big move, preparing before you go will save you a lot of hassle once you arrive. Though nowhere near a comprehensive list, here’s what we think are the very basics you should consider before going to study abroad.
Use a VPN
Though it might not sound as obvious or imperative as the other things listed here, using a VPN when travelling abroad can come in handy in ways you won’t appreciate until you’re abroad without one. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a piece of software that simultaneously encrypts and moves your data to a different IP address, meaning that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can’t track what, or from where you’re doing online.
VPN usage has become prevalent, and with good reason. VPN’s were initially developed for military use, however in recent times; their use has been widespread amongst everyday internet users.
Whilst it may seem that only those with clandestine intentions would want to encrypt and hide their data, VPN’s have myriad uses, particularly amongst those who travel abroad a lot. Because a VPN can make it seem like you’re surfing the internet from a different server location, here are the things that using a VPN can be useful for, for students studying abroad:
- You can access the same internet you accessed at home. This means the same Netflix, the same website language, the same BuzzFeed, the same shopping channels
- You can bypass geo-restrictions imposed on the country you’re studying in. For example, if you’re from the UK, you can access BBC content (including iPlayer) from anywhere in the world. Another example is being (currently) able to access Google, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram in China
- You’re free to use public Wi-Fi’s that may otherwise put your cybersecurity in jeopardy. Cafes, public places, transport stations all usually offer public Wi-Fi, which is unsecured. This opens your device up to hacking, which may sacrifice your passwords, banking details, etc. Using a VPN secures your device and protects your data from hackers.
If you’re interested in downloading a VPN, but aren’t sure which one to choose, check out Vpnpro for a list of helpful reviews and rankings.
In all the excitement of moving away, sometimes it’s easy to forget the obvious. Getting affordable housing in another country is often one of the most difficult and time-consuming things to prepare before going to study abroad, so it’s best to start looking a few months before you move. If your university offers student housing, great! However, if you’re renting a regular apartment or house share, things can get a little bit tricky.
Luckily, you’re not the first, and certainly won’t be the last desperate student looking for housing abroad. Those that have gone before you have thankfully paved the way for students like you to find affordable, appropriate student housing. Here are a few of our recommended sites to help you start looking for accommodation for your study abroad:
- Housing Anywhere is one of the most trusted names in the study abroad housing game. It collaborates with over 130 universities in over 400 cities across the world and offers a huge range of accommodation options, such as rooms, studio apartments and flat shares.
- Roomi is a great platform for those looking for shared housing options. Their personalised housemate finding algorithm, user-friendly house rules and amenities information and 24/7 customer support make it an incredibly user-friendly platform, and new locations are popping up all the time.
- University Rooms is a great, easy to use site particularly suited to students looking to study in the UK. The premise is that empty student rooms are put up on the site during summer and the academic year. This is also a great option for those looking for a place to stay after their study abroad is over, as you don’t strictly need to be an enrolled student to apply.
Get involved with communities
Being a student abroad can be lonely. You may feel far away from home, particularly if you’re working a lot or lost in a big city. Even if neither of these applies to you, it can be tempting to shut yourself in your room and hide from the world when studying abroad gets too much. However, joining groups and finding a community is essential for feeling like you’re fitting in and getting the most out of your study abroad experience.
Sharing things you enjoy with others who share your interests is a great way to beat the isolation you might feel like an international student. It’s important to remember that:
a) You’re at university, enrolled in a course that you’re (hopefully) interested in. Why not reach out to your course mates – even if it’s just to study together? This way you get to network with your peers and focus on your studies in one fell swoop. What’s wrong with that?
b) You’re an international student – but (probably) not the only one. There will be others like you who will also be looking to reach out and make friends in a new country. The only issue is finding them.
In this world of social media and online networks, it’s never been easier to connect with people who share your interests or background. Sites like Meetup have grown in popularity amongst students recently. Groups catering to a wide variety of interests (drama, cycling, business, nature, partying, etc.) and communities, are put up on the site, where literally anyone can join for (usually) free. Meetups are now happening all over the world, and if there isn’t one for your hobby in your city, why not start one?
A little preparation, some hope and a positive attitude are all you need to make your stud abroad the best decision you’ve ever made.