It’s August and with it, the end of Summer. Long gone are the days of pool lounging, nights around a bonfire or if you are like me, thinking as little as possible about the impending new academic year. But alas, it’s here and compared to previous years, this year you are ecstatic… because you’re finally going abroad! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and momentum of going abroad and miss key to- do’s so we’ve put together a simple list of tips and tricks to help prepare you for a fantastic study abroad.
Spend time with friends and family
You probably thought I was going to start with serious/important things like convert your money to British Pounds or notify your credit card companies of your travel abroad, and yes while you should be doing those things, it’s most important to spend time with your friends and family. You’ll be gone for a whole semester, or year depending on your program, busy making new friends, trying new things and going to new places. Take time now to catch up with friends over coffee or entertain the idea of having dinner with your parents, relax it’s just one night, and genuinely enjoy yourself as it’ll be the last time you will see them for a good, couple of months. Ok, now the important bits…
You absolutely need cash for your journey to the UK. I recommend about £100 to cover a meal and drink, a transport card (depending on your study abroad location) or taxi money to help get you to campus. If your university offers a free airport pick up, take them up on that and confirm your place and details before travel. Be sure to call your bank and credit card institutions to put a travel notice on your accounts so they know purchases made in the UK are you and not fraudulent. Also, check with your bank to find out if they have partner banks abroad so you can access your money from ATMs without a charge.
Your Phone (aka Lifeline)
Of all the topics covered during pre-departure planning, nothing incites hysteria like not being able to use your phone abroad, or at least the idea of it. First things first, yes, you can use your phone in the UK just like in North America and yes, it’s going to cost you an arm and leg. Many North American carriers offer international plans at extraordinarily high prices with loads of country restrictions
I recommend buying a very inexpensive ‘burner’ phone, one that you can call and text from and that’s about it, to use in the UK. You can buy these cheaply anywhere throughout the UK for about £20-40, check out Carphone Warehouse for your local store. You will get a UK based phone number so you can chat with your new study abroad friends and can ‘top up’ credit as you use/need it so you aren’t tied in to any contract/commitment. To surf the web, check out Instagram or Facebook or to Skype/Facetime friends back home, jump on Wi-Fi and use your smartphone from North America. Tablets, computers, mobile phones or anything that connects to Wi-Fi can be used in the UK just as you would back home so don’t waste your money on super expensive mobile plans when Wifi is plentiful, and usually free in most all areas of the UK.
You aren’t even abroad yet and I’m already talking academics to you. In this case, I’m talking about your home academics/university! Be sure to check in with your home institution, remind them you are going abroad with anupdate of your new accommodation address or UK university email address if you have it. If you have a mentor or department head you are close with, it’s always good practice to write them saying you are going abroad and that you haven’t fallen off the map and you’ll be back next semester/year when you might be looking for an internship or grad school recommendation, so you want make sure you’re kept at the front of their minds.
Have a Treat Yo’self Day!
You’re paying a lot of money to go abroad so don’t waste it binge watching Netflix shows, tied to your computer/phone all day when you could be out getting involved in your new abroad life. Take time now to finish up your must-see shows, blog or book reading or like me, watching interviews from this summer’s Comic-Con. The future you will appreciate a bit of a rest period before traveling and studying abroad so you can fully appreciate living in a new place with new friends. Additionally, while the UK isn’t drastically foreign to life here in North America, if you want to do, eat, drink or see anything local, best do it now. Even little things like sugary cereals, my personal favorite being Luck Charms, will cost you 5-10 times more abroad than what you are used to at home. So, treat yo’self today and be open to trying new things tomorrow, like blood sausage or haggis!
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