The Complete Guide to Study Abroad

We've put together the complete guide to study abroad to prepare for your international study abroad program.

Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to experience a new culture abroad while enhancing educational and career goals. While it may be one of the easiest options for considering a life abroad, there are some tricky things that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. We’ve compiled a complete guide to study abroad so you can organize and plan well in advance. 

1 Year Before Studying Abroad

Apply for a Passport

The passport is always a priority document when you move abroad. Either to renew or apply for a new one takes time, so it's important to understand the process, documentation required and in addition to that, always check whether your passport is valid for the duration of the travel. The timeline varies from country to country-- usually in the USA, it takes 8 weeks on average to get a passport. To avoid a last-minute rush, apply for a passport before a year and have it ready, as you’ll need your passport number for various things.

Research Study Abroad Programs

Researching takes time, so it's important to know the best countries to study abroad, compare the programs, quality of life and cost of living in advance. Keep the resources handy to check country requirements before considering studying abroad:

Throughout your studying, it’s good to keep track of the latest news on the official websites. Once you found the best resources, subscribe to their newsletter or get alerted for any new scholarships, financial aid and important dates. 

It’s also a good idea to network on various expat groups or forums to connect with alumni or to get more details on the program, student life, job opportunities and more.  

Types of the Study Abroad Programs 

There are different types of study abroad programs, which cater to a field of study and can grant a student visa. 

The student visa depends on the program type and the duration. So, it's important to research well and take proper guidance so you don’t miss anything for your visa application and can have a smooth study abroad experience. Here are the most common types of the programs:

  • Bachelor degree
  • Masters degree
  • Exchange programs
  • Research programs
  • Language learning 
  • Summer programs 
  • Intern abroad
  • Volunteer abroad 

if you aren’t sure what study abroad program you should consider, you can speak with our free personal moving assistant to narrow down your options and go through the entire visa application process. 

Clear your Language Tests 

Most universities and schools require proof of a local language certificate confirming you are proficient in the local language or English, if the program is taught in English. Before applying to study abroad programs, it's important to prepare and have a good level according to the university or school requirements. Universities generally ask for any of these three tests before considering your application:

  • IELTS - International English Language Testing System 
  • PTE - Pearson Test of English 
  • TOEFL- Test of English as a Foreign Language 

Some universities might also require additional tests in English to prove you are proficient for the program. 

Learn a New Language  

Studying abroad is an unique experience to gain a lot of exposure but, sometimes it can be complex to survive in non-English speaking countries. Though the program might be in English, you still need some basics or intermediate level to survive; and also, learning a local language is a huge plus for job opportunities, ease of life, and getting a student part-time jobs. 

Here are few resources to learn languages: 

The best way to learn and practice a language is to use a private tutor, enroll in an academy and immerse yourself in the language whether by listening to movies, music or podcasts in the language or joining a Whatsapp group. Having the motivation to reach a certain level is a great way to reach your goals and achieve the level you need for your study abroad program application. 

Once you arrive in your host country, you can immerse yourself in the culture and improve your conversation to improve your level as soon as possible. 

8 Months Before Studying Abroad

Start Applying for Study Abroad Programs 

Once you have cleared language tests, you can be prepared to submit all the required documents to the universities and programs of your choice. Universities/schools usually request the following documents for the application: 

  • Statement of purpose/motivation letter 
  • Previous educational documents 
  • Translated official documents (if applicable)
  • Recommendation letters 
  • Language test certificates 

The best advice would be to apply within the deadlines, and double-check information on the official university website and ensure you’ve met all the conditions. By doing the double checks, you can avoid any misunderstanding or last-minute hassles. And of course, check if you're able to apply for financial aid and scholarships.

6 Months Before Departure

Book your Flights 

This is the area where you can save a lot of money with good research techniques. Always prefer to use incognito tabs while booking tickets and use the sky scanner application to compare and get the best fare. The experts can guide better and research on behalf and keep it ready with travel insurance (if applicable) 

Apply for Student Health Insurance 

Health issues can be expensive to treat while abroad, so it's important to secure health insurance. To ensure you have the right insurance coverage as a student and while traveling, you’ll want to compare different insurance offerings, as they aren’t all the same. 

On our relocation platform, you can speak with experts, explain your medical issues, customize and cover your needs accordingly. Few countries may ask for submission of  health insurance coverage to apply for a visa. Here are a few things to consider before choosing insurance:

  • Tenure 
  • Coverage benefits 
  • Coverage abroad 
  • Plan renewal options 

The main point you’ll want to make sure is that your health insurance covers you while abroad and is sufficient or recognized in order to secure your student visa. 

Find Student Housing

Housing and accommodation can be quite tough, especially when you don't have guidance or anyone in the host country. Every country is different when it comes to securing student or off-campus housing, so it’s good to know what it’ll be like in your destination country. 

You may need to secure temporary housing to secure a visa, but once you get the visa, it's important to start looking for best accommodation options at a cheaper price for peace of mind upon arrival.

How can I find student housing options?

  • Join expat groups
  • Try to find a mentor 
  • Search in Facebook marketplace 
  • AirBnB 
  • Search local housing websites 
  • Speak with moving companies and agencies 
  • Read related articles about housing in host country 
  • Search for sponsorship with international student identity card 

Few universities will help international students with scholarships and housing, so dedicate time to research to find destination guides, related articles about student visa benefits, financial aid to save money. 

3 Months Before Departure

Make Copies of your Documents 

Now that you have made the arrangements coordinated in preparation for your study abroad experience, it’s important to organize and make copies of your documents. Having everything nicely organized will make it much easier for applying for your visa and keeping track of your official documents throughout your study abroad experience. 

We recommend keeping 4-5 sets of copies safely, giving one to your family and leaving one in your school locker upon arrival (if it’s safe). In fact, you could buy a water and fire-proof case to put all your documents to make sure everything is safe in case of an accident. 

Having your documents in order will make the process easier for your visa application. 

Start your Student Visa Application Process 

Once you obtain the university confirmation letter and are ready with all the required documentation, you can start applying for the visa in the embassy or consulate. Normally the visa decisions take time depending upon the country. Things to consider before applying for visa 

  • Required paperwork
  • Fill visa forms 
  • Check visa fees and exchange rates 
  • Be prepared to face-to-face interview (if applicable) 
  • Translate documents (if applicable) 

Apply in advance and get ready with a student visa so that you can plan to look at other required things. It's important to review the details properly of your student visa once you receive it. 

1 Month Before Departure

Apply for Travel Cards 

Immediate transactions may not be possible on arrival, so it's necessary to consider applying for a travel credit card with travel documents and use it for emergencies. Contact your local bank, check exchange rates and get a card filled with some money according to your living expenses. 

There are also some great online bank options where you can convert currencies at market rate, which you can get setup on our relocation platform. It only takes 2 minutes and can make it easier transferring money abroad in different currencies so that you have access to your funds when you arrive in a foreign country. 

2 Weeks Before Departure

Download Useful Apps 

As a foreigner, these mobile apps can save you research time. As a student, you may experience various hurdles while living abroad, but these apps can really save you time, energy and frustration: 

  • Whatsapp 
  • Duolingo
  • Trip Advisor 
  • Google Maps 
  • SkyScanner  
  • Google Translator 

Arrange Airport Pickup 

Depending on the distance of your study abroad program, you may feel some jet lag and be bombarded with culture shock, so it’s best to arrive at your destination safely with minimal chaos. 

Speak with your study abroad program director to see if they can arrange airport pickup. If you aren’t able to get this service, then be sure to have your university’s contact details and someone to contact upon arrival - and not just on your phone. Write it on a piece of paper and have it with you in each suitcase, so that you have a back-up in case something doesn’t go as planned. 

Ultimately, prepare in advance so you can have a safe and comfortable arrival. 

Upon Arrival 

Purchase a SIM Card

Having a local SIM card will make communication much easier; and in many countries, it’s the only way you can communicate or arrange other services. Once you arrive, purchase a SIM card to get a local number and good reception for your cell phone. 

In fact, you can even purchase one online before arriving in case you aren’t able to get one upon arrival -- but many times they are sold in airports and train stations.

Take Public Transportation

It’s natural to want to take the most convenient forms of transportation like a cab or private transport, but as a student on a student budget, the best and most economical way to travel is via public transportation. 

Look into the benefits of purchasing a monthly or yearly public transportation pass so that you can take advantage of student discounts and save in the long run. 

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience, so do your research, connect with other students abroad and take advantage of free resources like our personal moving assistant on Avvinue that can help guide you on your move abroad. It’s 100% free - so you can get started now.

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