By ERICA McQUEEN.
#1. Read up
It’s great to gain as much knowledge about your destination as possible before you depart. Lonely Planet Travel Guides are a good place to start, but remember, you’re not going as a tourist. Try and find blogs from other students who have studied in the city you’re heading to. It’s also good to find a local newspaper online and see what the latest happenings in your city are. It might be helpful to know if bus drivers have been striking regularly and anything to do with politics is a good conversation point.
#2. Personal information
There are so many things a smartphone is handy for! Keep a copy of all tickets on there and maybe even snap a pic of your passport. Make a habit of saving contact details all in one place so you’re not scrolling through past emails in an emergency. Try to think of things you may never need, but would be a life saver if you did, such as the number of your home country embassy.
Just be careful that there’s nothing that could be compromising if your phone were to be stolen. There are some great apps you can download to password protect information on your phone, so that’s a good thing to look into.
See if you can get your doctor to prescribe any medication for the whole time you’re away. Either way, the names and dosages of anything you take are another great thing to have handy on your phone.
#3. Fitting in
Whether we like to admit it or not, first impressions are a big thing. In a new city you may want to feel like you fit it in. Do some research of the fashion trends in your destination city and decide if you want to have a little revamp or not. A few key pieces will do the trick! Leave any expensive jewellery at home, it’s not worth the risk.
#4. Join a club
Joining a club or five on campus is a great way to make friends! You’ll get to spend time doing something you love and meet people with similar interests. Maybe even try something you’ve always wanted to do, or something you’ve never done before.
#5. Be law-abiding
Some cities have weird and wacky laws. Others just don’t find certain things acceptable that might be at home. Have a look into any things that foreigners have come into trouble with before. The last thing you want is a ride in a cop car or night in a foreign prison.
#6. Get insurance
Check what your home country insurance company covers while you’re overseas. You may want to look into getting some additional insurances. Make sure you know what’s not going to be covered and have a little extra money set aside for unexpected expenses.
#7. Register your trip
As well as of course letting your friends and family know where you’re heading, it’s good to register your trip with the government online. This just means that should an emergency such as a natural disaster occur, they know that you need to be accounted for there and can provide help putting you in touch with family – plus anything else you may need.
#8. Live in the moment
Remember to enjoy your trip, take in the sights and live in the moment. Your friends back home don’t need to see photos from every minute of your trip and neither do you need to view everything through the eyes of your camera or smartphone.
#9. Prepare for adventure
The last thing you want is to come home wishing you’d done more. Be prepared to say yes to trying new things. Heading overseas is all about having a great time and adventuring a little. Sure, you might end up in the odd awkward situation, but you’ll always come out with a good story to tell. And the local food probably isn’t going to kill you! After a while you might start to feel like you’ve settled in and your new city is ‘home’, but don’t forget your exchange will come to an end. Keep getting out and about and seeing more.
#10. More is less.. or something like that
It’s good to budget and pack lightly, but don’t cheat yourself. Be frugal, but allow a little extra spending money for eating out, day trips and other local experiences.
When it comes to packing, as well as the necessities, consider taking a few things to remind you of home; photos for friends and family to decorate your new room or even your favourite book. Neither are going to take up much room, unlike that 5th pair of shoes you probably don’t need. Also, think about what you can purchase when you arrive. Do you really need to take three months’ supply of facewash, shampoo and conditioner? Bulky items like winter jackets are also good to get when you arrive, and it’s likely shops over there will have ample choice when it comes to their climate-appropriate clothing.
Allow time to travel around the region you’re in. You don’t want to come back having been to the other side of the world and only seen one city. Plan a little time before or after your exchange to explore. Weekend trips are a good option, or maybe you get a mid-term break. It can be good to book tours and flights before you go but you might also like to travel with friends you’re yet to make.
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