So preparing for a departure of this magnitude can be a crazy and overwhelming process. I want to help. This list can be used for travelers and exchange students alike, as it has helpful information that can be useful to anyone planning a large trip.
Ensure you are accepted to your home university’s exchange program.If you do not receive formal acceptance into the program, you may not be! So this is the first thing that you should do.
Ensure your application to your host university has been received. It is a good idea to send your applications both through email (scan them and send them to the exchange coordinator) and through courier mail. You should take photocopies of the items that you are sending, just in case your package gets lost or does not arrive. Make sure that you are including all the documentation they are looking for!
Ensure your study plans are approved. Make sure that the courses that you have selected to take correlate back to your program (so you are not taking courses that will give you no benefit!) and courses that you are eligible for in your host university.
Ensure you have received an acceptance letter from your host university. This is also very important, as, without this, you have no guarantee of the exchange. This can come in the form of an email or in the mail (or both!). I received mine in late November. This can be frustrating as you wish to book your flights ASAP to get the cheap deals, and you may be eager to begin your search for a flat, but your premature purchases can cause you loss! If you purchase flights or commit to anything financially in the UK prior to your acceptance, you will likely not be refunded and therefore be out of pocket the money that you spent. Be careful!
Create a budget. This is extremely important as it will decide your flexibility in your living situation. See my Creating a Budget page for help!
Book your flight and arrange for housing for your stay. This is the exciting (and frightening) part of planning. A good website to see for cheap Canada-UK flights is Canadian Affair.If going to Edinburgh, it is often cheaper to fly into Glasgow and then make the 45 minute trip to Edinburgh (provided this works for you). My aunt lives in Edinburgh, so she could pick me up if that was my flight destination. Luckily for us, Luke and I managed to find a cheaper flight that flew directly to Edinburgh through a sale. As for housing, this is a process, so please see our Finding Your New Home page.
Ensure you have completed your home university requirements. Some universities require a mandatory pre-departure seminar before you leave. This seminar can be very valuable, and can provide you with answers to many of your questions.
Get an International Student ID Card (ISIC). This card can get you discounts around the world, and it is a very useful little card to have. Your school may offer this card out of it’s student’s union for free, you can often find it at many travel agent locations, or you can order it online from the ISIC website. It’s quick and simple, and can save you quite a bit of money if you use it often.
Purchase health and travel insurance. This is to be done at your own discretion, but your school may require it for their risk policies. Investigate to find what works best for you. You can often find it through banks, travel agencies, and when you are purchasing your flight tickets.
Make plans how to access your money overseas. You should decide how much money you wish to bring with you off the bat and how much you wish to keep at your bank account at home. It often makes sense to open a free student bank account at a local bank to manage your money. It is unwise to keep a substantial amount of cash on hand.
Record important information for relatives at home. This information can be crucial in an emergency, and it is very important that you do this. You should record:
- Passport information
- Credit card information
- Applicable telephone numbers/addresses
- Health insurance information
- Banking information (if you wish)
- Photocopies of important documents you are taking with you (e.g. visa, passport, prescriptions)
You should leave this information with a trusted relative or two for them to put in an important place. Include anything you think they could need, including any special requirements you may have (for example, if you have a medical condition, information regarding special needs should be recorded).
Make an appointment with your lawyer. This is a step that many people do not think is necessary, but it is one of those things that doesn’t hurt to have just in case. Your lawyer can provide you with notarized copies of your passports (one for you to take with you and one to leave with your important information with family) in case of loss or theft, and they can arrange for power of attorney. Power of attorney is important in case something were to happen abroad and you needed a trusted person to make financial or health decisions for you. Your school may have a lawyer that provides free guidance to students.
Discuss safety and emergency procedures with your family. Again, this is something that we hope you won’t need, but is very important. Many students decide to arrange for a set time each week (or however often you like) to have a phone call or video chat with family back home. This can alert family members if there is something wrong (as you would likely not be available to take the pre-set call), and also acts as a tether to your family back home. This can be very helpful in avoiding homesickness, as you can maintain a relationship with those back home.
Alert OSAP or other financial assistance of your trip. Your school may do this for you, but it is important that you make sure this is done. This is important because OSAP will often alter your funding requirements to reflect your change in living situation. Even if they were to not alter your funding requirements, they need to be alerted to any changes in your study plan.
Ensure your school fees are paid. Make sure that you have paid any school fees for your semester abroad, as this will likely alter your ability to complete programming.
Contact your exchange coordinator at your host university. They often wish to know your travel plans so that they can keep tabs on all their students. This is done just in case you have an issue in your travelling, and they need to alert your family of your delay, or they may need to alert the school to your delayed program start.
Once you have arrived, you should alert your family of your arrival. I’m sure they want to hear that you have arrived safely!