There’s so much to learn out there and, yes, South Africa has a lot to offer, but it’s still only a small part of the world. If you are lucky enough to have the resources to study overseas, there are a few things you need to prepare for before you leave.
There is no area of your move to study overseas that cannot or should not be researched. Course resources, nearest grocery store, emergency contacts, parking options, banks, commute to campus options, campus facilities, local police station, rules of the road, yoga studios, landlord preferences, and, and, and. But some of the more important things to research include:
- Area: You need to research the area you will be living in. Figure out how far away it is from your university campus, where your local grocery supplier will be, your nearest hospital and other public government institutions. Get to know the main roads, back roads and side streets and start listening to the local radio now already to get an idea of your morning and afternoon traffic. If you’re staying on the campus in a dormitory, then you need to research what utilities are available and how much space you’ll have to work with so you can prepare your room before you even get there.
- University: Find a map (or ask for one) and get to know your campus. Try your best to know which buildings are relevant to your course and where the actual lecture rooms will be if possible. Find out what clubs and societies are available for you to join and start making some contacts for the ones you’re interested in. And, if you go to their website, be sure to get hold of the rules and codes of conduct to make sure you don’t cross any lines when you arrive.
- Course: Then, when you’re comfortable with campus and university protocols, it’s time to research your chosen course. If you’re doing a marketing course, make sure you order the necessary textbooks in advance (or know where to get them on the other side), have all the stationery you need, have the necessary software, and know your lecturers’ names.
- People: And another important research area is the people in the country you’re going to be staying in. Culture shock is bound to hit you, as well as homesickness. If you can find people you know in the country who are, by some miracle, in the same area as you, try to make contact with them. Otherwise, the best you can do is research the people of the country you’re going to be living in. Find out what the customs are and general interests with regards to community involvement and find where and how you can fit in. Make sure to make an effort in your new society.
So the bulk of the preparation is done if your research is done, then it just comes down to the smaller (but still rather important) details.
You’re going to need all your travel documents in order. This includes your visa or passport (depending on where you’re going), travel insurance and medical records.
- Visa/passport: You’re going to have to make sure you’re passport is A for away before you can even think about going abroad for anything. And not only that, but you’re going to have to go through the process of applying and acquiring your travelling visa. Depending on where you go, there will be different costs, requirements and waiting periods involved that will affect when and if your application will be successful. Make sure you do everything by the book and get the visa as soon as possible.
- Travel insurance: This is just for precaution and peace of mind, but in the case of an emergency it will prove rather life-saving. Talk to your insurance company and find out what their travel insurance policies are and do what you need to do.
- Medical records: Bringing a copy of these with will make the process of finding and trusting a new doctor a lot easier for you. Talk to your GP first and find out if they have any contacts in the country you’re living in and maybe you won’t have to go trial-and-error doctor-browsing when you get there.
Now it’s time to head to the bank and convert your money to the necessary currency. Just be sure to keep enough rands on hand for your last few days in your home country and for airport snacks.
Then, when you get to the other side, find a bank. You should have researched this. Open an account and move your money across. This is quite an important step in the transfer from SA to foreign lands.
Be open to new things
Lastly, prepare yourself and your mind to experience new things. It’s going to be different and you’re likely going to find yourself in strange places, surrounded by strange people, but this is your new home now. And different isn’t always a bad thing.