What do I need to know before going abroad to study?

Studying abroad offers many young people the opportunity to secure a good career and find an interesting job. However, before they can do so, they must complete their studies, which requires good preparation and careful planning. Here are a few tips to help you study abroad with peace of mind.

Finding accommodation

Once you have enrolled at the university or institution of your choice, you have to move on to an essential stage in your life as a future student in a foreign country. This is the search for accommodation. This search can turn into a real ordeal if you don't prepare for it sufficiently in advance. There are several accommodation possibilities for a student abroad, the most economical and the simplest is to take advantage of on-campus accommodation. This reduces the need to travel, which is a definite advantage in a city you don't know. Depending on your budget and the availability of accommodation, you can also opt for shared accommodation, renting a flat in a private home or in youth hostels, which only exist in some countries.

Managing your money

Studying abroad is usually expensive. According to a study carried out by HSBC bank in 2014, the average cost is $36,564 or €28,300 for one year of study in the United States compared with $35,045 or €27,100 for the United Kingdom and $42,093 or €32,500 for Australia. With such a cost, obtaining a scholarship is an opportunity to be seized, but one must persevere because there are often many candidates. The Erasmus+ programme, which succeeds Erasmus for the period 2014-2020, is essentially intended to cover the difference between the cost of studying abroad. If you wish to continue your studies in the United States to obtain an MBA, for example, and you are already at Master's or PhD level, "graduate" in English, you can apply for a grant from the Franco-American Commission or the Fullbright Commission. You can also apply for an international mobility grant to be awarded by the higher education institution where you are registered. This grant, which amounts to €400 per month for a maximum of 2 to 9 months, is paid in addition to your scholarship. You also need a bank account to manage your budget. An account opened in the host country will make life much easier for you, particularly because it is close to a branch and you will be able to meet with an advisor if you need one. Many banks also offer advantageous conditions to students, such as an interest-free overdraft. In addition, you should be aware that if you use your French bank card to pay for your expenses abroad, you will have to bear a significant financial burden. These include exchange commissions and fees for its use abroad.

Getting organised as a minimum

Far from being an adventure to be experienced on a day-to-day basis, studying abroad requires meticulous preparation and a great sense of organisation, even before you leave French soil. Among the tips to remember is that enrolling in your chosen institution is an essential step to which you must pay particular attention. It is important to make sure that you do so well in advance as places are usually very much in demand. It's also a good idea to apply to several universities and courses of study so that you have an alternative in case your application is rejected by your first choice of institution. Don't forget to photocopy all your documents. Whether it's your passport, your confirmation of study, your birth certificate, or even your itinerary, it's always important to keep a copy. At the same time, take care of all other administrative procedures such as obtaining a student card or the one for local transport. If possible, scan them and then post them on Google Docs or another cloud computing site. If necessary, simply open them and print them out.

Take out a suitable insurance policy

When studying abroad, even for just a few months, you are not immune to illness or accident. Taking out student health insurance before you leave allows you to approach your stay with peace of mind. The quality of care differs from one country to another, but with this insurance, you have optimal coverage. You can be sure that you will receive the best care or be hospitalised in the best facilities if you need it. It makes sense to take out insurance that includes repatriation assistance. Civil Liability insurance as part of an internship is also recommended if you have to do an internship as a VIE. In some cases, contracts include a clause if you have to interrupt your studies because your tuition fees are too high.

Feeling surrounded

The last thing you should do when studying abroad is to isolate yourself and stay behind your books all day long. Take advantage of every opportunity to get to know other students, whether during classes, in the library, at the university restaurant or on campus. This open-mindedness will allow you to discover new cultures and make new contacts. Universities often organise integration evenings or outings to discover the region, an opportunity for you to visit your host country while making new acquaintances. Whenever possible, get out of your circle of French friends in order to make the most of this linguistic bath to master a foreign language. Finally, most higher education institutions have accounts on social networks and regularly publish events, outings and exhibitions. All you have to do is consult them to keep yourself informed and meet other students.

Don't give up

In the beginning, loneliness may weigh on you and you will certainly miss your loved ones. You may be tempted to want to go home as soon as you have your first weekend off. However, if you resist your desire to see your parents and friends again, you can quickly adapt to your host country and enjoy its cultural and human richness. Keep in mind that many students are in the same situation as you are and that a smile or a handshake is often enough to make friends and lay the foundations for a beautiful friendship. Be patient and wait until you are well integrated before you finally go home. And if you are homesick, advances in technology allow you to communicate with your loved ones at a relatively low cost. Studying abroad is a real springboard for working life. They are far from being a mere formality because of the many difficulties that await candidates. The main advice you can take away to overcome these pitfalls can be summed up in two words: preparation and organisation. Discover on the ACS website the specific student insurance policies that will allow you to continue your studies with the greatest peace of mind.
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