Pre-departure: preparing to study overseas
Choose where to study
Which country suits you?
The key questions here are: what are your goals? What do you want to achieve by studying overseas? Which countries or research fields interest you? Take time to delve into the options and weigh up where works best for you. Our country guides to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are a great place to start.
Choose your institution and course
Deciding on a university or college and the course you want to follow is a very important step: read as much as you can, talk to people about their experiences and look at sites like LinkedIn. Trawl university websites, and contact them if you want more information. Look into application requirements and what you can expect to get out of the course. Do all the research you need, until you find a winner.
Get your finances sorted
Plan plan plan!
While the rewards are enormous, the costs of studying abroad can seem prohibitive. This is when it’s crucial to plan carefully, and as far in advance as possible. Research the costs – tuition, living expenses, travel costs, application fees – and work out how you’ll meet these, e.g. through savings or working alongside your studies in your new home country, if that avenue is open to you.
Investigate scholarship options
Scholarships are another possibility: competition is tight, and they are generally reserved for the brightest of students, but it’s definitely worth some research whatever your situation. Check scholarship information for the country you’re going to, as well as the specific institution you want to study at.
Pass language tests
If you’re applying to study in a second (or third!) language, you will need to prove your level for acceptance at the university, and possibly to get your student visa. There are numerous English tests available, including IELTS, TOEFL, CAE, and Pearson. Many universities also offer foundation study options, enabling you to progress your English and academic skills to the required levels to be accepted into your course.
Practice your new language
Take every chance you have to practice and improve your new language before you leave. You’ll not only need great language skills for your studies, but it’s also important for making friends and becoming a part of your new community. Read books, magazines and newspapers, watch movies and listen to radio and podcasts in your new language to give your skills a boost. There are great (paid and free) online resources, such as Language Perfect. Most effective of all? Talk to native speakers about your new country, to get a feel for where you are moving to!
Next step? Begin applying to the institutions you’ve selected simply and easily using Udify. Check out how we help you [link to How we help page] for more information on the process, or apply and get instant offers [link to Offer page] from your desired educational institutions right now.
You’ve been accepted? Congratulations! Now it’s time to start planning your coursework. Think about your career goals – what are the steps you need to take on the path to achieving those? Even if you don’t need to select all your subjects yet, it’s worth considering the implications your choices for the first year of studies will have down the track.
Where you live will depend on your destination country and university. Some places offer on-campus accommodation, while in others it’s common to share a home with fellow students. Research the city you will be living in and contact the international student department of your university if you have any questions or need some help.
Prep for a different
University life can look significantly different from country to country. Teaching styles and learning methods vary greatly, not to mention when the school year starts and how students are graded. Check out the wealth of online information and talk to graduates about what you can expect from the post-secondary education style at your chosen institution.
While you’re studying overseas
Become an independent learner
Especially if you will be doing your first post-secondary studies abroad, the challenge of moving from a very controlled study environment to complete liberty can be a big one! This is a great opportunity for you to become a more independent adult as you take responsibility for your academic success and make your parents, family, and most of all yourself, proud.
Deal with culture shock
Get ready for some cultural lessons
It’s not just about classroom education – you will learn a great deal from living in a different culture. This is not always easy: the customs, behavior, societal norms or religious practices in your new country might be unfamiliar. How people interact and what they eat can seem downright weird. And simple things like grocery shopping or navigating the city may leave you feeling a little lost.
It’s totally normal
It is absolutely normal to experience culture shock in a new place. In fact, few international students do not go through any culture shock, even if their background seems really similar to their new country! Practically everyone will struggle with a sense of displacement in a new environment. You are definitely not alone.
Stick with it!
If your initial excitement gives way to frustration and homesickness, don’t give up. Stay true to the reasons you decided to study abroad in the first place, and connect with new friends. Talk to locals to understand why things are different and get a better appreciation for their customs. The importance of sharing cannot be overstated, so reach out!
Get your social life on track
Build your life in your new location
Many international students report feeling isolated and lonely when they first arrive. You might be physically distant from family, friends and familiar surroundings. Language or cultural barriers can make things even harder. This makes it extra important to speak the local language, so you can forge some new friendships.
Capitalize on opportunities
Your university will offer a bunch of ways to meet new people and connect with fellow students: attend orientation week, and go on tours of facilities like libraries and gyms. Check out clubs and societies – even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone or you wouldn’t usually join a club, it’s a helpful space to meet like-minded people. Platforms like Meetups are also a great way of finding others with common interests.
Joining a sports team or finding some friends to go to the gym with is an awesome idea – not just for the exercise and the endorphins, but also for the social experience. And resist the temptation to spend your whole time on social media, feeling sad and isolated (we all do it!). Get out there and be a part of the world around you.
Of course, you want to focus on your studies – that’s why you came, right? It can be easy to forget, but it’s just as critical to build a strong social network around you. Friends help in difficult times and are there to explore and share with. Connect with locals, as well as others from overseas, to strengthen your sense of belonging. Say ‘yes’ to invitations, even if you’re shy, and you’ll soon feel the benefits.
If the going gets tough
If you’re struggling, again, you are absolutely not alone – it is entirely normal to feel disoriented and down. Formal support is available for you: universities provide counselors who are well-versed in the challenges faced by international students, so don’t be afraid to inquire at the international student desk. Getting support will empower you to get through a challenging phase.
Enjoy and feel proud!
Once you’re established in your new country, take time to be proud of what you’ve achieved. Studying abroad is no mean feat – aside from the academic challenges, there are all kinds of new situations you will find yourself in and challenges you will overcome. But with good planning, an open mind and a positive attitude, studying overseas will be the best decision you’ve ever made. Go for it!
Studying abroad is life changing