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Study Across The Pond US Blog

15 Pieces Of Advice For Americans Studying Abroad From Former ATP Students

Posted by The ATP Advisors on Nov 4, 2015 6:00:00 PM

UK college student

Preparing to leave to study in a new country can be a little nerve-wracking. Don’t worry, we’ve been there! That’s why we have gathered some tidbits that should help you as you get ready for your time in the UK!

Some helpful hints when preparing to leave:

1 - Visit your doctor/s

Make sure to get copies of your medical records to take with you, along with a list of any medication/s you are on and the reason you have been prescribed it/ them. You will need to give whichever GP (general practitioner) you choose to visit while you are studying overseas this information, if you wish to stay on your current medications.

2 - Start looking into an overseas bank account

Some US banks will have the possibility for an international account, but some personal banks don’t have this option – check with a representative at your bank to see what kind of options are available.

3 - Don’t forget about your phone

International calling and texting is expensive. You will most likely not want to spend all that extra money on your US phone plan. We recommend cancelling or suspending your US plan while you are in the UK and getting a British student plan.

Unlock your handset before you leave and you can use this in the UK. While abroad, you can also use “Whatsapp” that is only a dollar a year and allows you to text other people with the app for free, even if they are overseas – this is worth looking into!

4 – Make a photocopy of your passport

And your visa just in case you lose your actual passport. This will come in handy when trying to get a new passport and might help with any difficulties you may face if you lost the passport while traveling outside the UK.

Let’s hear some advice from student, Beth:

5 - You may be excessively nervous

and anxious in the weeks leading up to your departure to study abroad in the UK…and all of your worrying will be for absolutely nothing! I planned everything out and to excess to save myself any trouble on this end of things.

And I am happy I did…but I also know now that all the preparation in the world couldn’t have prepared me for actually being here -- you cannot actually be 100% prepared to experience life in the UK if you’ve never been here. And that is ok!

6 - When you get there

Make sure you get out of your flat/ dorm room! Even if it is just in the neighborhood in which you are living, get out and breathe the city in! So please do not be shy! I’ve had lovely conversations with total strangers in coffee shops, the sales clerks in retail shops, and standing in the queue for the post office!

7 - You will probably get homesick…at first

Then it gradually goes away. Every time my mom and I Skyped, I was blubbering and doing the ugly cry! I quickly made friends, though, and began to get into a new rhythm of living in Britain.

I do have the occasional feeling of homesickness, but I know I can always fire up Skype to see my mom and hear her voice. Know that the homesickness will pass as you find lovely friends to be around and get into a routine with university.

Stephen has some wisdom on differences in grading systems:

8 - When looking at schools overseas

You need to keeping in mind that there is not only going to be a difference in the way you will be expected to write papers and study material, but the grading is very different. Grades even vary from program to program at my university: most programs have their scale posted on the program page. 

9 - If you want to get an idea of the difference

In the UK grading scale compared to the US scale, you can google “UK grading scale” but again, I would be very careful, because depending on the university, the program, and whether you are going for an undergraduate or graduate degree, there are going to be variations on how you will be graded. 

10 - With that kept in mind

When you do settle in to your courses and start receiving marks, do not panic when they seem much lower than what you are used to – remember, the UK scale is set at a different gage than ours.

Just because the number is lower, it doesn’t mean you received a lower grade. Check to see how it corresponds to the US grade – it will make you feel a lot better.

11 - All in all, grades will likely stress you out

The same way as back home. That won’t be much different. But you shouldn’t have the extra stress of worrying about the differences in the grading scale. That is no big deal. Honestly.

Don’t forget that moving overseas can be stressful!

12 - Dealing with stressful situations

Can be hard when you are in a different country and your usual lifelines are an ocean away. Even your go-to comfort foods are nowhere to be found (don’t trust the Kraft Mac and Cheese – if it’s not in the blue box, it’s not truly Kraft).

13 - Comfort food is a big way

A lot of us help to combat the anxiety of life.  It’s hard when we are in a place that does not have peanut butter readily available (and when you do find it – it’s just not the same).

However, you can find comfort in new foods. And it’s not like you won’t be able to find mashed potatoes or french fries, just remember they will be known by different names (mash or tatties and chips).

14 - And that lifeline to friends and family back home?

Well, it’s a really good thing we live in the age of the internet. Skype is wonderful for those moments when you really need to see a familiar face and talk to those people you need most. Facebook messenger and Twitter are also awesome ways to communicate with your support network overseas.

Voxer is an awesome app that allows you to “walkie talkie” with friends back home, which makes it easier to talk with the time difference as your messages are saved as one long conversation.

15 - The most important thing to remember is

To take care of yourself. Don’t get too bogged down in your work. Take breaks and clear your mind. Get some sleep. Get out and walk around. Don’t let yourself become so overwhelmed that you miss out on the opportunity you’ve taken in whatever new city you are experiencing. You’ll be just fine.

If you want to learn some more tips about how you can live and study in London, download our guide below (it's full of insider information).

Download London Living: Insider Tips from the UK Study Experts

Topics: London