Find below top tips by Southampton students who have studied or worked abroad as part of their University of Southampton degree:
Before your time abroad:
- Plan well and you’ll have a great time! Also, don’t go with the mindset that everything will go as you’ve planned, things will undoubtedly change along the way but if you establish a good working relationship with the exchange coordinators both at home and abroad then you wont have many problems figuring things out.
- Ask the Study Abroad and Exchange Team to put you in touch with past students, to know more about where you are going, plan where you will live and get first-hand support in filling out forms, knowing the culture etc.
- Plan and prepare early on and do as much research as you can from the websites, don’t be afraid to email when you need help and are confused
- Save up money before you go
- Plan your finances. Term abroad is not a party, you will still have to work hard.
- Be prepared for paperwork and constantly being out of your comfort zone.
- Save your own money in advance and be ready for mishaps
- Be prepared to send and receive a lot of emails
- Be organised and if you can, visit the country beforehand to get a feel for the place and sort out accommodation.
- Evaluate if you are prepared to live abroad- it is an amazing experience but you cannot escape homesickness or stress and it really is a true test of mental strength!
- Be prepared. If travelling out of Europe you must have experience travelling alone in order to be able to survive mentally. Initiative and people skills are a must in order to be able to communicate effectively.
- Keep track of any paperwork you need to do and do it all as early as possible.
- Contact your host institution for accommodation information.
- Find local people from your host country online and they can look at flats for you before you arrive.
During your time abroad:
- Don’t let yourself get behind but in the first few weeks prioritise socialising as it will help you settle in faster which will ultimately help your studies
- Try anything and everything new. Do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do back in your home country and really experiment with the clubs and societies. Don’t get comfy in your room when there’s an entirely new country to explore.
- Try to get involved in something that will put you in a group of local people, whether that is joining a sports team, a music group, going to a language exchange or whatever you are interested in. As an international student it is really easy to meet and make friends with other international students, which is great and an amazing and valuable part of the exchange experience, but you may have to work a little harder to make friends with local students – don’t let that put you off doing it, just try to get involved in something that interests you so you can meet local people that you have something in common with.
- Do everything!Take advantage of all the opportunities you have while on exchange; most are once in a lifetime. Get involved.
- Be smart with your finances.
- And budget well so you can afford to travel around your country and anything nearby.
- Do as much as you can while your away. Try not to worry too much about money, its worth it
- Have an open mind
- Make sure you apply for visas very far in advance!
- Try lo live with local people.
- Know that the experience will likely bring you different skills. Ones that you wouldn’t develop as much in the UK. By the same token you may not advance as much in other areas, had you stayed in the UK.
- Ensure that you can afford it!
- Make the most of every opportunity and get yourself in a routine with work and the library so you can still do cultural things and explore your new city and country.
- Enjoy the country you go to. Spend some time experiencing the culture and viewing the sites.
- When offered a challenge, take it!
- To not put too much pressure on yourself, and that people are probably more willing to help you than you think, so don’t struggle alone.
- Don’t worry about getting the language perfect, just do your best and be as confident with it as possible. Never be embarrassed to ask what a word means – it’s always better than missing out on something important.
- It’s also really great to get involved in as many work-related social activities as possible!
- Take every opportunity to travel within the country you’re in as well as abroad.
- Make the most of the experience!
- Only to have fun!
After your time abroad:
- Read our After your exchange section on the Study Abroad and Exchange website
- When you go back home you may suffer from the so called Reverse Culture Shock. Check the articles below for some advice on how to cope with it:
- Learn how to use and showcase the skills that you have gained abroad:
- Contact the University of Southampton Careers and Employability Service for advise on how to include these skills in your CV
More Study/Work Abroad advice:
www.realie.org (run by mission employable)