A Beginner's Guide to Studying Abroad!
2022-09-08

Photo of EmmaAre you studying abroad next year? Perhaps considering studying abroad in the future? Preparing to study abroad is very exciting but also a little bit stressful; finding accommodation, booking flights, managing your budget, learning a new language perhaps, not to mention the usual highs and lows of studying! I’m writing this article to share some tips I learned from my time abroad to help you get ready to travel safely and make the most of your experience!

When I started university, I was honestly unsure if it was the right place for me. I had considered taking a gap year but, in the end, decided I could always take a gap year after my degree. But then, at the beginning of semester two in a student newsletter, I saw an opportunity to receive a scholarship to study abroad the following year in USA. I just knew I had to apply! The only requirements for the McNeil Scholarship is that you are entering your second year, passed your first year courses and were either born in Scotland or have lived in Scotland prior to coming to university – click here for more info on the McNeil Scholarship! If you are worried about whether you can afford to go abroad it is worth checking out the Go Abroad website for funded opportunities.

I was lucky to be selected as the McNeil scholar for 2018/2019 and I spent the year studying at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, USA! I had an incredible time both in my studies and in my personal life. I made friends from all over the world, learned about American history and culture and I even got to travel to other American cities – I went to New York City six times! I loved being a Drexel Dragon for the year and of course I had to get a photo of me and Drexel’s iconic mascot, Mario the Dragon! You can check out my Instagram, @emma_cathro, to see more photos of my travel adventures and more travel tips and tricks!

Whilst it is incredible to go abroad, there can be challenges and there is prep work to do to make sure you can have the best time possible! Here’s some of my top tips for before and during your time abroad.

Get your Student Visa

All UK students now need a visa to study outside the UK. You will need to pay a processing fee for your visa and book an appointment at the relevant embassy. For my US visa I had to travel to the London embassy, and I had to book an appointment a month in advance – so make sure you start your visa arrangements as soon as you can!

Buy travel insurance

University of Aberdeen students studying abroad are entitled to the university’s travel insurance free of charge, however it is still highly recommended that you purchase your own insurance too – some host universities might even require you to do so. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, from cancelled flights to stolen phones, so it’s really important to be covered by comprehensive travel insurance!

 Taking medications abroad

If you are on prescribed medications, you will need to research the healthcare system in your country of study. Even if you’re not on prescribed medication, you may still need to access a doctor so it’s good to check the Travel Advice and have some prior knowledge of how the healthcare system works. You are not entitled to free NHS prescriptions out with the UK! The FCDO have a handy A-Z Country Guide which can help you start your research. You can ask your GP for 2-4 weeks of your medication to take with you so that you have enough medication until you are registered with a doctor and have your prescriptions set up. It’s also worth checking whether there are any restrictions on taking medication into another country as some countries may limit or ban certain medications.

Take care of yourself mentally!

Being in a new country, often for the first time, can be overwhelming. The chances are too you have not abroad and away from your friends and family for more than a week or two. It is okay to feel sad about being away! Just like your everyday life studying at home there will be highs and lows. My top tip is to make time to regularly keep in touch with your family and friends at home with texts, photos and video calls. Don’t pressure yourself to be happy just because you are studying abroad and feel you should be! You can find some help and support on how to look after your mental health abroad on the FCDO Travel Advice website.

Take photos of EVERYTHING!

Okay, so maybe you don’t need to take photos of everything, but the time will fly by and you will want to remember as much as possible! One thing I wish I had done during my studies abroad was create a separate Instagram account to document more of my time abroad, so maybe this is something you would want to do!

If you are studying abroad soon, I hope you have an amazing time! There is plenty of support available for you before, during and after your time abroad from the Go Abroad Team here at Aberdeen and travel advice available from the FCDO can help you too!

Published by Students, University of Aberdeen

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