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Study Abroad: 7 things you must do before you go

Last updated on: August 14, 2012 06:52 IST

Study Abroad: 7 things you must do before you go

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Counsellor Navneeta Sen Gupta from EGE Global Education tells you why it is important to plan in advance and interact with as many people as you can, before you take that trip abroad.

When I first reached the US, I was awed by the giant size of their coffee cups", says my colleague in the EGE team who went to Boston to pursue graduation not so long ago.

But well before he got there, he had been inundated with horror stories about foreign travel.

These included waiting for long hours at the London airport to clear immigration, visas or luggage that often arrived only after the college term had started besides the indifferent or hostile attitude of Westerners towards international travellers to name a few.

Fears put aside, most students are excited by the mere feeling of travelling abroad to study. A bit of anxiety is considered normal, especially if they are leaving their home and country for the first time.

Seeking to address these concerns and to minimise hassles on the journey, here are some pointers that students must bear in mind before they fly abroad.

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1. Check your passport and visa for validity

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Caring for your passport is essential, since it is the most important ID anywhere in the world.

Before applying for a visa one should ensure that it has at least three (preferably six) months validity. Also ensure that the details on the visa sticker are accurate.

Keep the passport in a protective holder and carry it in your hand baggage while travelling.

Leaving a few prints and soft copies with your family members while you are away, in case of emergencies is a good idea.



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2. Check for travel deals

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Many students are dependent on agents for air-tickets, but some do check out websites like Cleartrip.com or Yatra.com to compare prices.

The websites of various airlines might also provide you with information on travel deals.

My colleague says regretfully that when he reached the college, he was dismayed to learn from other Indians how much more he could have saved on his travel had he availed of similar deals.


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3. Keep local currency handy

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Money is usually a major cause for worry for most students. Do carry enough currency to meet initial expenses at your destination, as well as contact numbers of the university and those you can contact in an emergency.

One of our colleagues who studied in the UK recalls being stranded at the airport for several hours.

The friend who was supposed to receive him had failed to turn up and this colleague was afraid that taking a taxi might strip him off his cash. Having no coins to operate the public phones he waited helplessly until he was rescued by his friend after two hours.

Another safer alternative is to have a debit card issued in India which allows you to withdraw cash from ATMs abroad without paying a stiff premium.


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Photographs: Reuters
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4. Opt for a good international mobile service provider

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Talk to people you know in the country who can suggest you a good international mobile service (Matrix is one of them) which you can use when you land in the host country.

Once you get there, you could subscribe to a suitable plan of service, but for the first couple of weeks, a cheap, prepaid SIM-only deal is best.


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5. Use social networking to research

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It helps to do a thorough research about the university, courses, ratings, feedback, quality of teaching etc, beforehand from the information available on the university or embassy websites, reputed ranking tables, reliable and knowledgeable consultants. But do also check out other facilities available at the university for international students, eg accommodation.

University Residence Halls are the best bet for ensuring a healthy cultural exposure for international students. However in many cases, the university accommodation can be more expensive when compared to private accommodation.

While seeking private accommodation, social and professional networking websites are a great way to connect with current students and alumni alike.

It's not uncommon to even find prospective flat-mates/course-mates on forums like Facebook and LinkedIn.

It helps to know what the others have done with respect to any issues that one may be facing.



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6. Keep your family closer

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It's only natural that there will be times when you miss your family, even if you were one of those kids who couldn't wait to get away.

Find a way to deal with those feelings, such as making a phone call or sending some email home. Rest assured that you can stay in touch via video chat.

Check out free services such as Skype, Fring, or Viber for placing free calls back home.

If your parents are technically challenged, do ensure you teach them how to connect to the Internet, how to start the computer/laptop, how to login to Skype, GTalk etc before leaving.

Sometimes you may feel homesick at awkward times -- like when it is midnight in India. So, consider taking along a couple of family photos with light frames.


 


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7. Feel at home

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Racism, real or perceived, may be an outcome of one's own reaction to culture shock.

Missing your country, family, friends, favourite food and television shows could lead you to feeling depressed at times.

This culture shock might occur when the initial excitement of moving to a new country subsides and the challenges of a different cultural environment evoke a hostile reaction.

At this point it is important to avoid labelling everything as good or bad. Try to assess and understand others' opinions before making a judgment.

Gradually, one will start to make new friends, socialise and, believe it or not, even start 'feeling at home'. This process of overcoming the initial discomfort will largely depend on how open you are going to be to your host country, the people and their customs.

But through the entire process of getting ready, be prepared to feel overwhelmed. There's a lot going in your life right now. Expect to have moments where it seems a bit too much.

As one of our students says, be prepared to feel completely unprepared. The trick is to know that you're not the only one feeling that way.



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