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12 Tips for Living Abroad for the First Time

14 min read
12 February 2021
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Are you thinking about or ready to make the move abroad? It’s at these moments that you realize the scale involved in picking up your life, whether for a few weeks or months, and setting up somewhere else.

Just remember it’s natural that the closer your move date gets, the more likely you are to feel a mix of anxiety and excitement. Rest assure that the change of scenery is incredibly refreshing and the excitement contagious!

In the midst of feeling all these emotions there is a lot of tangible things you need to think about. Here’s a list of some top priorities you might want to consider.


Months in Advance

You won’t be able to physically pack up your things until your move date gets closer, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t loads to do beforehand.

1. Write lists

Writing lists is a therapeutic way to sort out your thoughts and make the task at hand seem more manageable. Write them on your phone – you never know when you might remember something to pack, buy, sort out or research.

2. Get your paperwork and documents ready

Many of our students will need to get a visa and there is quite a bit of paperwork to get ready. Look into the requirements, the cost and how long it will take so you can feel more prepared and get ahead. If you’re planning to spend any time traveling and want to be able to hire a car and explore further afield you could look into getting an international drivers’ licence. Ensure you also have travel and medical insurance and copies of your passport and ID.

3. Organize your accommodation

If you haven’t already, now is the time to make sure you are organizing your accommodation – you can do this with Kaplan. Choose from either a student residence or a homestay family. There are benefits to both. Living in a residence allows you to feel independent and live amongst other international students (not only those studying at Kaplan). You’ll share common areas of the residence and be able to cook up delicious meals with new friends. Choosing to live in a homestay means you’ll be able to live with a local family in their home, which provides you with a very warm and welcoming environment. Both options have all you’ll need covered, including a place for you to study, a bed, sheets and linen. Not all residences provide linen as standard but many have these as an add-on so the pack is waiting for you when you arrive.

4. Save money and be realistic about the costs 

You might have a budget in mind of how much money you want to take with you. Make sure you stick to a savings plan and cut your expenses where you can. There is a lot of temptation of nice things to do and buy when abroad – although don’t forget many of our schools offer an amazing social program, with discounted tickets for a range of excursions.

Your ticket, visa application, transfer costs and all the extras you might need can add up quickly so its important you are realistic with the costs and how much money you should have. It might be worthwhile getting an emergency credit cards for any unforeseen expenses you might have while abroad.



Weeks in Advance

Now the date is getting closer, you can start to think about what you need to pack and anything you might need to buy. Here are a couple starting points below. 

5. Make sure you've got all the medication you need

If you take medication daily, you will need to get a supply for all the time you’re away. This might involve chatting to a doctor or visiting a health store. It’s also worthwhile thinking about what first aid essentials you want to pack. You don’t need to take every medicine and cream but a couple essentials in case you get food poisoning, a headache or wake up one morning with a sore throat is useful. Just remember you’re going somewhere where there are pharmacies and shops.

6. Cancel or pause any contracts you no longer need

If you live alone or are going away for a number of months you need to think about all the contracts you have that could potentially be cancelled or put on hold. These could include a gym membership, or monthly rolling expenses like travel cards or film club cards. If you have a car could you freeze your insurance or move it over to a family member who might be borrowing it?

7. Redirect your mail to a friend or family member

You will need to ensure any important mail goes to a friend or family member so they can look after your affairs while away. If you don’t respond to letters you may get fined. So designate someone to be opening up all your mail.

8. Let your bank know 

Don’t forget to let your bank know you’re travelling abroad, the dates you’re gone for and how long, so that they don’t block your card. You should also do some research into how you’ll be managing your money once abroad, it’s unlikely you’ll need to open up a bank account in your new city but it might be useful to get a contactless travel card which won’t charge you for ATM withdrawals or to to use in shops.

9. Think about your phone and sim card

If you’re travelling abroad for long what will you do about a sim card and your phone bill – can you freeze it? Some providers require you to switch on and use your phone every 3 months to keep your number in service and other phones may be locked to a specific network provider. It can easily be unlocked but you should schedule in time to have a chat with them and find out what your options are.

10. Research the culture and learn some basic words

It’s not uncommon for expats to experience a bit of culture shock when moving to a new place, especially somewhere completely different to where you’ve been before. One way to combat this is to do a bit of research around the culture of where you’ll moving. What are the normal practices, any quirks or need-to-knows about life in these places? What’s the food like and what can you expect to be eating? It’s also worth researching the immediate area around your accommodation and the school.  Learning some basic words around travel will help a lot when you first arrive.


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While Abroad

Many people can feel lonely in a new place and not having a grasp of the native language can make things a bit more challenging. The staff at Kaplan schools understand that many of our students might be feeling homesick, with many staff members having felt these exact feelings themselves. This is why our program is designed to help students make friends from the very first day of school and feel inclusive. Many previous students have said studying at Kaplan is like joining a family and our caring school staff do everything they can to help students feel comfortable.

11. Join the social programs and say yes to more things 

The more social programs you decide to go on and the more group activities you partake in, the less lonely you will feel. You’ll also quickly assimilate and become friends with the other students. Enjoy the sights of the city as you arrive and make friends from the very beginning, this will help you to feel excited and less anxious as soon as possible.

12. Be open-minded

Moving abroad means you may no longer have your old routine, and don’t stress about this. Try to be flexible and open-minded. By choosing to move abroad and learn a language is already challenging yourself so don’t be afraid to try new things, new foods and do it with new people. You’ll find these things are only scary in the beginning but afterwards it’ll quickly become the new normal and once you’re home, you’ll even find yourself missing your newfound independence abroad.

At our Kaplan schools, students will be shown area the local area on the first day. Staff will point out useful spots, ATMs, nice restaurants, parks and transport close by.

Moving abroad to learn a new language is a huge challenge within itself and you should feel proud of getting as far as to make the decision to even go! One thing is for sure though – you will make great friends and have the most unforgettable experience.


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