Study Abroad Tips

How to prepare to study abroad

How to prepare to study abroad - Students

How do you prepare to study abroad? Do your research and plan for your exams, visas, funding and accommodation first.

Planning for things can be such a chore. But when it’s for your future student life abroad it can be quite exciting, right? The first thing students look out for when planning for their Bachelor’s or Master’s abroad is to find the right programme or university. Thinking about all the other fussy things get put aside – like visa situations, proficiency tests and looking for housing. These factors are quite crucial. Planning for them alongside your search for the perfect university will save you from a lot of pain later on in the process!

So, what do you need to study abroad? Here’s a handy list.

Visa: Getting into the Country 

Getting a visa comes at the top of this list is because of how complex it can get. So many factors come into play – like your age, where you’re from, what your educational background is and where you hope to go. There are also different restrictions on how long you can stay in the country before and after your studies, and whether you can work during or after your degree. 

Do your research ASAP. We can’t stress it enough! Narrow down your options on this first, and it will prevent huge disappointment if you only find out much later that a visa would prevent you from attending your dream programme.

Once you’re ready to apply for one, send out your application at least two months in advance and remember to make copies of everything. You can’t be too careful, not getting your visa right can jeopardise the beginning of your whole international student life.  

Generally, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Passport
  • Sponsor letter from the university
  • Written proof that you have sufficient funds in your bank account
  • Biometrics
  • Passport quality photos

Proof of English Proficiency: IELTS or TOEFL

Almost all international university programmes will need you to prove that you can handle the coursework in English. While some other tests are acceptable, this usually means you need to have taken either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) if you want to study abroad.

The scores that you need to have vary from school to school. The good news is if you come from a native English speaking country like the United Kingdom, India, Canada and Australia, or if you already have a degree from a programme done in English, you could be exempt from this rule! 

Proof of Graduate School proficiency: GRE or GMAT 

Even if you’re not applying for a post-graduate programme, like an MBA or Master’s, right now – it’s never too early to think about the GRE or GMAT. These are exams that post-graduate and business schools require in order to process your applications. But what are they, and what do you need them for?

If you’re thinking of getting into graduate school, the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an exam majorly required by schools in the US and Canada. It is a fairly standardized test that measures the verbal, mathematical and general analytical skills of the candidate. Here’s a way to check out some test questions, if you’re curious. 

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is more for anyone looking to study management (read more about what is the GMAT and who is it for), so maybe a Master’s in Business Management or an MBA. It might come across as a pretty daunting exam, but there’s nothing to fear if you’re well prepared for it.

Funding: How to Afford Student Life Abroad

Money makes the world go round – and will absolutely make student life more comfortable. It doesn’t fall from the sky, and most international students don’t have access to deep pockets. Smart financial planning will help you in preparing to study abroad. 

Besides grants or scholarships offered by schools or governments, you could think about student loans or perhaps working while you study. You could get a student loan from the government or a bank from your country or the country you plan to study at. It’s normal to co-sign for the loan with your parents. Loans from the government usually have lower rates, so remember to do your research.

Also, don’t overlook the double benefits of working as you study. Not only will you be earning some cash, but you’ll also be gaining experience at the same time. This will be more impressive in your CV. Do your research and you’ll find some countries have limits on how much you can work, so be careful if you’re particularly depending on money from part-time work.

Accommodation: Where to Stay

The easiest way to find out what options you have for accommodation is to reach out to the school. Depending on the housing situation of the city you will be studying in, prices and difficulty of finding an apartment will vary. Also, chances are, if you’re studying in a capital city, the housing will be expensive and difficult to find. So remember to start looking early.

That said, remember to beware of scams and be wary about the lease. If deals seem too good to be true or if the landlord seems to be avoiding your questions, maybe ask a local to help with the apartment hunt. You can never be too careful!

Health: Get Protection to study abroad 

Something that students often overlook when planning for student life overseas is insurance and vaccinations. Health insurance depends from country to country. In Sweden, if you are a fee-paying student, the school covers your full insurance. However, in some countries like Germany or the USA, you are responsible for your own insurance.

Researching the health and safety concerns in the country you’ll be studying in is also a good idea. It’s not necessary in most countries but it’s worthwhile to do your research about the specific vaccines you may be required to have. Since many immunizations require more than one visit to a clinic or cannot be taken together, you should plan appointments in advance.  

All the Best!

There’s much more to think about ahead of you, but all the hard work is going to be worth it. Student life abroad is a great adventure! And remember whether you’ve decided where to study or not, we’re here for you to help make your decision. 

• Student Advisor

With a wide-ranging professional and educational background, Anna is passionate about travel and learning. Originally from Poland, she considers her time studying abroad in Italy one of the most valuable experience she's ever had. Today Anna lives in Stockholm and loves helping other international students succeed in their academic journey.