Life Lately: Study Abroad Preparation

It’s crazy how time flies. It just hit me that I’m leaving for my semester abroad in the UK in 28 days. That’s 4 weeks! It’s all a little crazy.

What do you need to prepare when studying abroad? Click through to find out and see where I'm at in my preparation process!

I recently asked you on Twitter how you wanted to see my study abroad preparation updates, as I am getting closer to my departure date, and most of you said on the blog. So here I am, with a special edition of my life update series. Want to know where I’m at in my study abroad preparation and what I still have left to do? Make sure to read on! 

I will pick things up right where I left them off in my first steps when you’re preparing to study abroad post. I had already mentioned a few things that I had done and was working on getting others done back then.

What I’ve done so far

Secured accommodation. That’s something I have gotten out of the way as soon as I received my acceptance letter. I will be living in the dorms sharing a flat with other students. Honestly, as I am overseas, this was the easiest option for me. Getting an apartment off-campus would have complicated and excruciating, so the dorms it will be. I’ve also never lived in the dorms as I live at home and go to my home university, so this is all very exciting for me!

Booked my flight. My flight to the UK has been booked since the end of June. If you’re going to Europe, it’s recommended to get your tickets about 3 months before you leave, so this is what I did. I will be flying to the UK from Montreal on September 16 and will arrive the next morning. I’ve never been on a plane before so this experience will bring a lot of firsts for me!

Sorted out my insurance situation. It took me a while to get it sorted out, but I finally received confirmation that everything is good! I’m covered by my mom’s and dad’s insurance, but I had to get my file validated by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec first, as all Quebecers are covered by this collective insurance. I asked for a validation at the end of June and only received my confirmation early August (!!!), so it’s a good thing that I started early.

Finalized my course choice. I have finally received my final course choice! I have gotten approved and signed by both my academic counselor here and abroad, so we should be all good to go. I’m very excited for the courses that I’ve chosen this semester, so let’s just hope they live up to my expectations! Here’s my final course list, in case you’re interested:

  • Advertising
  • Introduction to Journalism
  • Introduction to Media
  • Corporate Communications

Applied for airport collection and Overseas Students’ Orientation Program. When I found out that the university was offering to pick international students up from the airport, I screamed in delight. One of the things that scared me the most about the entire journey was actually getting there, so this option definitely pleased me. But I had to wait until I had my flight details to be able to apply. I have to admit that I applied a bit later than I had first intended to (I have only applied on Friday), but I had until September 11 to do so, so I was not too worried. Now I’m glad that I did it and I’m sure the orientation program will be SO helpful to me during my first week on campus!

Bought my Freshers’ Wristband. As I was doing research on the University of Hertfordshire (where I will be attending), I found out that the Students Union organize what they call a “Freshers’ Week”, which is basically an orientation week for new students. When I found that out, I immediately got excited. I took a quick look at the event calendar they had planned for that week, and Y’ALL, this is going to be LIT. There are many concerts, activities (including free stuff YAY!), and trips (to IKEA!) planned during that week. But the only way you can attend those is if you get a Freshers’ Wristband. This cost 50 pounds and allows you to participate to every free activity the Students Union has planned, and gives you a discount for paid-for activities. So I jumped on the opportunity even though I’m not technically a freshman (but I am at this university as this will be my first and only semester there). I didn’t want to regret not buying it, and it’s a great way to meet new people and make friends!

Bought a backpack. I will need a backpack while I’m abroad, if only to use as a school bag. I had one at home, but it’s old and beat up, so I thought I would get something new for my semester abroad. I found one similar to (this is is an affiliate link, which means that if you buy through me, I’ll get a small commission) this one, but in a different color scheme (I couldn’t find the exact one online). It has a lot of space, it’s water-repellent (which is essential since I’ll be in the UK), and it has a padded sleeve for my laptop. And I bought it for only $30 so I’m very happy.

What I have left to do

Open a bank account. Okay, I know what you’re thinking – Amelie, you don’t have a bank account? How do you get paid at work? In Quebec, we have this thing called caisse, which is a cooperative financial group. It’s like a bank, but it has the interest of the people at heart rather than the bank’s interest. My parents have an account there, my grandparents have an account there, and basically every French Quebecer I know does. And while it’s great when you’re in Quebec, it gets a bit more complicated when traveling abroad. To sum things up, I need a debit and a credit card with a 4-digits PIN code (the caisse has 5-digits PIN codes), which is why I need to open a bank account. I have made an appointment, and it’s next Monday.

Get a new credit card. When traveling abroad, it is recommended to carry two debit cards and two credit cards from different financial institutions. I currently have a VISA card, which is great. When I get my new bank account next week, I will also apply to get a MasterCard credit card, just in case.

Get my visa. I know you must think I’m crazy for not having my visa yet. I know I would be if I hadn’t done my research. After many hours of research and panicking, I have found out that I can get a short-term study visa at the immigration border once I arrive in the UK, which is what I’m going to do. It’s a bit more restrictive than the Tier 4 (General) visa, but it’s enough for my needs. The only thing I have to make sure of is that I have all the required paperwork to show to the immigration border officer.

Buy a suitcase. Is it weird that I do not own a suitcase? I’ve never really traveled before (and when I did, it was only for a couple of days, so I packed everything in a gym bag), so I didn’t really feel the need to get a suitcase. While I was living on the South Shore of Montreal this winter and summer, I used my mom’s, but now that I am going abroad, I really need to get my own. I have been shopping for one, but haven’t found one that I really love and that is affordable yet. If you have any recs, let me know!

Set up my scholarship payments. I have mentioned in this life update that I have received $4,000 in scholarships for my semester abroad. Well, it comes in the form of four payments (one for each of my month abroad). In order for that to happen, I need to register on my university’s website. I want to have the payments go to my bank account rather than my current account, so I’m waiting until that’s done to get that one done too.

Inform credit card companies that I’m leaving for 4 months. In order for your cards to be accepted (and not blocked!) while you’re abroad, you need to inform the companies that you will be in a different country for a certain amount of time. That way, you won’t get into any trouble and you’ll be able to use your credit cards without a problem! I’m waiting until it’s a week before I leave to inform them.

Buy clothes. I recently did a little cleanup of my wardrobe and realized that I don’t have that many clothes that I like to wear/am comfortable in. Most of the clothes I own are outdated or are items that I wear way too often, so I’d like to buy a few more pieces before I leave to make sure all the clothes I bring with me are some that I love and that I won’t regret bringing.

Complete accommodation induction. In order to get the key to your dorm room, you need to complete this accommodation induction thing. From what I’ve heard, it’s basically a sort of quiz about life in the dorms.

Get financial statement. One of the papers I need to show to the immigration in order to get my visa is a financial statement proving that I have enough money to live in the UK for the duration of my stay. I’m waiting until my bank account is open to make an appointment with my caisse to get that done.

There are probably other minor things I need to do before I leave, but this post is already over 1,700-words so I think I’ll just save it until next time, haha. I will try to write one last update the week before I leave so you know what I have done and what’s the last-minute stuff I still have to do! I also have a post or two about studying abroad planned before I leave, so be on the lookout for that! 🙂

If you have any tips for me about study abroad preparation, please make sure to leave them in the comments below!