Getting a Degree Abroad | Before You Go

10 December 2015

Welcome to Part 2 of my new series, Getting a Degree Abroad! If you missed Part 1, where I discussed the first steps you should take before actually applying to a school abroad, check it out here! This one is a little more information heavy, so be prepared! There are lots of things you need to do in-between your acceptance and your initial arrival!

Housing | As a student, you will always have the option of living in student housing. For some, the idea of going back to dorm style living arrangements may not be ideal, however university housing will save you a lot of trouble! I personally went with student housing when I first arrived, however I decided to rent from an outside leasing company after one year. Living arrangements will vary depending on country. Research research research! While student housing in some countries may be the most reliable option, in others it may cause a lot of stress and anxiety.

Phone | It is worth looking into whether or not you will want to pay for an international plan from your home country. I personally did this, as it made it easier for me to keep in touch with friends and family abroad. I bought a T9 phone in the UK to make UK calls, but used my US iPhone on wifi and to stay connected with the US. This is not necessary! While it worked for me, you can also cut your home phone bill by buying a smart phone in your new country. There are so many free ways to stay in touch with people back home if you have a smart phone!

Notify Your Home Bank | If you are getting a degree abroad, chances are you have plans to eventually move back home. Do not close your home bank accounts! These are your lifelines. However, you will have to notify your bank that you will be spending significant time abroad. The reason? If you start making a whole bunch of international purchases, your bank WILL lock your account. Even if you DO notify your home bank, this may happen! That is why you will need….

Starter Cash | Keep a couple hundred dollars/pounds/or whatever your new currency is, tucked away somewhere safe. You never know what could happen (ex: your bank locking your account because of international charges). During your entire time abroad, I highly recommend keeping cash stashed away… Just in case.

Research a Bank Abroad | While it is not completely necessary to open a bank account in your new country, I highly suggest you do. If you plan on working, leasing, or making a big purchase, you are going to want to have a bank account in the country you are actually living in now. Your university will provide you a letter for whatever bank you chose, proving you are in fact a student and will be living in the country for X amount of time. Just ask the international office! Many will provide this letter within the first week of moving in.

Know Where Your Home County's Embassy is Located | This is really only a precaution, but better safe than sorry!

Print All Documents | There are a LOT of documents you'll need to have with you before you enter customs. I've created a list of these documents below, and I highly suggest creating a binder to keep everything organized. You will need three sections: Customs Documents, University Registration, and Just In Case. Some of these documents will overlap into multiple sections. 

Passport and Visa | Duh.

University Acceptance Letter | It goes without saying, but when you are at customs the officer is going to want to know you are actually attending school. The acceptance letter is the most important document at customs other than your actual passport and visa.

Letter from Your Home Bank | Since you will be a student, you will have to prove to the government of your new country that you have sufficient funds to last your entire program. You will need to provide a letter from your bank upon your arrival at customs. Make sure you've had these funds in your account for the required amount of time. Most countries require that you have had these fund available to you for at least six months or more.

Visa Application Receipt | You are going to have to pay for your visa application. Keep that receipt handy, as you may need to provide proof you did in fact pay for your application.

Immunization Record | Some countries may require proof of your previous immunizations. It is also worth looking into whether or not there are some shots required by your new country that you have not received already.

Certification of Registration from Your University | Most universities will allow you to begin the check in process online before you leave home. Once you arrive, you will be required to check in personally along with all other international students. Each university's process is different, however most will require you print out a "Certification of Registration" and bring it to your first check in. This will prove to them that you are in fact a new student. They will check this document, along with your passport and a few other documents (university specific) and then stamp this document. Keep this document safe. You never know if your new country will require you to provide this document at any given time.

Any Transcripts from Home | Most universities would have already required you to provide your transcript online in the original application process. However, the may also require it at the check in discussed above.

Proof of Housing | If you have decided to live in university housing, there will be a whole set of other documents you will need to provide upon moving in. However, it's best to keep the receipt from you original downpayment handy just in case something happens.

Copy of Your Passport | This falls under the just in case category. Why keep a photocopy of your passport? In the event you do loose your passport while living abroad, providing your embassy with a photocopy of your passport information page, as well as your visa page, will speed up the process tremendously.

Bare Necessities | Okay, let's be real. You don't need to pack pillows, sheets, towels or any of that. Get it when you arrive! You are going to want to pack a million and one things, but trust me when I say you will not need it. Pack clothes, shoes, medication, whatever you consider the bare necessities. Everything else is expendable and will just take up space in your already limited suitcase. Research types of stores you will want to buy these things before hand. In England, my go to for everything was Wilkinson. It was my "Target" so to speak.

I am so excited to be sharing this series with y'all. As I stated before, I have received numerous emails about getting a degree abroad. Instead of one general overview, I want to try and hit all the major points over several weeks! If you have any questions, please leave a comment below!


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