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Study Abroad: 10 things to know before you take off

Last updated on: May 21, 2014 18:05 IST

Image: How can you ensure that your first trip abroad will be a
Photographs: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters Courtesy

If you're travelling abroad for the first time, here are some things you should be prepared with.

Your decision to pursue your higher education in a foreign country has been based on myriad factors such as how the country is the centre of academic excellence, has state-of-the-art infrastructure, offers a flexible curriculum and research based teaching methodology etc.

Your overseas education experience will, however, not be restricted to four walls of your classroom; it is going to be much more enriching than you think.

There is an old saying -- 'Travel broadens the mind' -- and studying abroad is an excellent opportunity to explore fresh avenues and develop a new perspective.

Nevertheless traversing a new topography may leave you feeling outlandishly unsettled but the moment you decide to rise above your preconceived notions, judgement and prejudices, you will gradually start feeling more at home.

Accepting a new culture doesn't mean that you are rejecting yours; it simply means you have walked an extra mile to accommodate something new and exciting.

For a safe, thrilling and motivating overseas experience, follow these ten effective tips!

1. Try to familiarise yourself with the host country

To be well versed with all aspects of your host country is the first thing you must set your hearts on.

For instance, if you're going to the US, pick up a guidebook like Lonely Planet or Forbes' travel guide to get some insight into the US history, culture, weather and political set up.

Talking to your seniors and relatives in the US will also aid your understanding.

No matter how much homework you do, there will always be an element of surprise; therefore, keep an open mind and assimilate whatever comes your way.


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2. Equip yourself emotionally

Image: Be prepared to accommodate the new environment.
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A sudden feeling of being uprooted from the known will overwhelm you if you do not anticipate an unacquainted surrounding coming your way.

If you prepare yourself emotionally for new cultural adjustments, the transition will be smoother and swifter.

If you remain single-mindedly focused on the real purpose of moving to a new setting, you will be able to surmount feelings of helplessness and frustration and perhaps embrace an experience of a lifetime.

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3. Keep an open mind

Image: Don't hesitate to start a conversation with your seniors and fellow batchmates.
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters

While you may go through countless emotions ranging from enthusiasm to curiosity to frustration to denial once you land in the host country, always strive to keep an accommodating mind as you prepare yourself for an impending international experience.

Make a sincere attempt to connect with your seniors, batchmates and professors.

From study tips to travel, they can give you first-hand information on how to feel at home in a foreign country. 

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4. Travel light

Image: For a hassle-free journey, pack only the most essential stuff you'll need.
Photographs: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Packing light is not only a smart move for hassle free journey, it also helps you save some money.

When it comes to packing your suitcase for an overseas trip, stick to bare essentials.

It is advisable to check your airline luggage policies and retractions to cut down on unnecessary expenses on luggage.

Making a checklist of must-haves and packing in advance also will make your life much easier.

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5. Carry your drugs and prescriptions

Image: Do not forget to carry the doctor's prescription of your essential drugs.
Photographs: Reuters

Never forget to take your medicines that come as part of your prescription.

Remember there are medicines that may be banned in your host countries or not readily available over the counter, so always declare your drug at the customs and port of entry to avoid any inconvenience later.

Don't forget to carry your prescription along, just in case you are asked to produce them.

Also, don't forget to carry a first-aid kit and pack in your regular drugs like Dispirin and Crocin.

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6. Certificates of immunisations and vaccinations

Image: Check for terms on mandatory vaccination and immunisation.
Photographs: Reuters

A good number of universities in the US expect their students to have immunisation against communicable diseases and vaccine for preventable diseases.

It is, therefore, advisable to take the vaccination shots for MMR (immunisation against measles, mumps) and Hepatitis and the ones made mandatory by the university.

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7. Make photocopies of your important documents

Image: Always carry an extra set of photocopied documents in a separate file.
Photographs: Reuters

At all times remember to secure photocopies of all your important documents ranging from your tickets to your passport to your credit cards and id proofs.

It is a good idea to carry one set of photocopied documents with you in a separate bag and leave another set back home in a safe location.

You might also consider getting these documents scanned and sent to yourself as attachments in an e-mail.

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8. Health and travel insurance

Image: A health insurance policy is crucial.
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You want your overseas stay to be stress free and, therefore, it is highly recommended that you take health and travel insurance from a reliable insurance company after taking into consideration all aspects of insurance coverage and benefits.

While applying for a health insurance, you must consider the network of hospitals covered under the policy, the deductibles, coverage of pre-existing ailments, terms of co-pay, customer services and flexibility of claim process.

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9. Keep essential documents ready

Image: Secure all your essential documents in a file and keep them handy to be produced.
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Prepare a travel file and include the following documents in it:

  • Passport and Non-immigrant visa
  • I-20 and I-94 form
  • Birth certificate and marriage certificate
  • Medical documents
  • Academic transcripts
  • College or University acceptance letter
  • Emergency contact information of your home, university officials, and Indian embassy.

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10. Look for a companionable roommate

Image: Reserve some time towards finding the right roommate for you.
Photographs: Tulane Public Relations/Wikimedia Commons

Staying with an incompatible roommate in an alien land is the last thing you would want to do.

Leave no stone unturned to finalise on your roommate before you depart for your study abroad.

Touch base with students from your city headed for the same college, hunt for roommates on or network with your seniors, spare no efforts in zeroing in on a like-minded roommate. Remember to take into account factors like monetary constrains, lifestyle and responsibility distribution before signing on the dotted lines.

Overseas education is a training ground for gaining awareness, developing expertise and acquiring skill-sets towards becoming a dynamic and knowledgeable global citizen.

This indeed is an investment for life and is sure to reap worthy rewards.

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