Studying abroad? 9 essential things to remember before you go

You've picked the city you'll be studying in. You've been accepted to an overseas university. And you're eagerly awaiting your trip abroad to meet new people and study while you are immersed in a new culture. But hold up, there's a few essentials to remember before you go. And we don't just mean booking a flight and kitting your wardrobe out. Here's 9 things to remember, that might have slipped your mind with all the excitement.

1. Passport
The most obvious one, but forgotten surprisingly often. Find your passport and make sure it’s in date. It may seem like an obvious to-do but it’s surprising how many of us forget where we stashed our passport, or suddenly notice that your passport photo (and valid from date!) really is ten-years-old.

Another common error is skipping over the Emergency Contact page. Hopefully it’s never needed but you make sure that these details are up to date. Better to be safe than sorry.

Head over to GOV.UK if you need to update your passport. Leave more than enough time – “it should take 6 weeks to get your first adult passport once your form has been received. For all other application types, it should take 3 weeks”.

2. Insurance
Yes, you probably don’t have tonnes of cash to spare. And yes, you might not end up ever needing insurance. But travel insurance really is a must – especially when you’re travelling alone.

Double check that you’re not already covered by your host or home university’s insurance – this can sometimes be the case with student exchange programs. And if you’re not covered, it’s time to take out your own policy.

Make sure your policy covers: the length of your stay, your destination and any sport or winter activities you're planning.

If you’re preparing to study across the channel in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, this acronym might have caught your eye once already. Well, this would be a good time to read what it means.

A valid European Health Insurance Card gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland.

The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until your planned return home. Treatment should be provided on the same basis as it would to a resident of that country, either at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free.

It’s free to get the card so read more and apply here.

4. Visas
Check if you need a visa before entering the country. Places like Turkey require you to purchase a visa before you enter the country. Take a quick look online and book your visa before you travel.

Your university should be able to help you figure out what you need. You may need a special student visa and if you plan to do any form of work while you’re abroad you’ll almost certainly need a work visa.

5. Paying fees
You’re going to need to pay for your accommodation whilst you’re studying, and you’ll no doubt need to pay university fees too. Don’t default to using your bank or high street Bureaux de Change for these payments as you could be ripped off. Do some research before you go and see if you can make your payments when the exchange rate is in your favour.

FairPay is a simple and hassle-free way to make international payments. The service offers market leading exchange rates, no transfer fees or commission and access to a secure, simple online system.

To find out a good time to make an international payment, sign up to our Rate Watch service.

6. Keep copies
Record important phone numbers and addresses somewhere other than your phone and purse – these are prime targets for thieves and you never know when your phone will run out of battery.

You should record the details of the nearest embassy/consulate, the lost/stolen phone number of your card provider and the emergency and non-emergency police numbers for the country you are visiting.

Keep copies of your important documents such as your passport, insurance policy doc, travel documents such as visas, etc. - and again keep separate from the originals.

7. Managing money
Opening a bank account in your destination country will be difficult, if at all possible. Using your debit or credit card from the UK could be very expensive – due to the fees and rates that come with spending abroad. Prepaid currency cards on the other hand often offer better rates and lower fees.

A FairFX Currency Card comes with award-winning exchange rates. It helps you stick to budget. It’s chip and PIN secure, with no rip-off fees. And you can use it wherever MasterCard cards are welcome (in over 210 countries).

You should also take a back-up payment option with you. You can get a Family & Friends card which links directly to your primary FairFX Card. If you lose your card whilst you’re away, ensure you can still access your funds. Find out more here.

8. Culture
Heading to another country to study can sometimes cause a culture shock. Whether you’re heading across the English Channel or half way around the world, customs and cuisines are going to be different. But that of course, is not a reason to stay at home.

So you’re not completely overwhelmed when you get there, have a little read up on where you are heading to. Find out about some of the common customs and best foods to try before you go. You don’t need to read every travel guide under the sun of course, but a little preparation will prevent you wanting to come back home in the first week.

9. Talk to your university
Your university should be a key source of knowledge before and during your studies. If you’re unsure or anything regarding studying abroad ask the exchange, placement or study abroad team at your university.

Whether you’re doing a placement year or your whole degree abroad, make sure you know about all of the support that your university can provide. If you face any difficulties whilst you’re abroad they may also be able to help.

Award-winning exchange rates mean more to spend, order a FairFX Currency Card.

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