Preparing to Study Abroad
By Wong Hoi Kei
Bachelor of Professional Communication
Hello! If you are a student looking to further your studies abroad in the near future, you have come to the right place! Why? Because this blog will answer most of your questions regarding the study abroad preparation process as well as some handy tips that I have picked up along the way while preparing to study in Swansea, Wales.
Now, preparing to study abroad is like that moment when you’re in line, about to get on a fast-speed roller coaster. Simply said, it is a moment filled with excitement and anticipation but nerve-wracking at the same time.
1. Thorough preparation of documentation
Students who will be studying in Wales will need to fill up the Erasmus form. Along with it, students must prepare a series of documents, including:
• Copy of your passport
• A completed academic reference from any of your lecturers
• Copies of your previous qualification certificates and partial transcripts
• Copy of financial evidence (to prove that you are capable of funding your expenses while abroad)
• Your vaccination certificates
• Your IELTS certificate (from a UKVI-approved IELTS centre)
It is vital that your passport remains valid throughout your time abroad. Suppose your passport has expired or will expire during your time abroad. This is a sign to head to your nearest immigration office and renew your passport.
TIP: At the immigration office, present a copy of your university offer letter, proving that you are a university student, and you will receive a student discount allowing you to renew your passport for RM100 instead of the standard RM200.
2. IELTS examination
Studying in a country where English is the native language, like the United Kingdom, requires international students to pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). It consists of four papers: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. There are TWO (2) forms of the test: online and written. While online tests are done with the computer and take only 3 to 5 calendar days before the results are released, written tests are on paper, and results can only be viewed 13 calendar days from the test date. Regardless, both test formats are executed in a UKVI-approved IELTS centre. The bands for IELTS can go up to 9. Still, different places would have different minimum passing bands required of their students; in my experience, it was Band 6.
Essentially, students should register for the test, select a suitable date, and ensure that the results will be released before the Erasmus Form submission deadline (Refer to Tip 1). Next, like every other test or examination, revision and early preparation are necessary to familiarise yourself with the IELTS papers’ formats. Typically, students can find a wide range of practice papers and revision materials to prepare for their IELTS test online (E.g. the IELTS official website) and books from bookstores.
3. Pack smart
One of the most crucial things about travelling abroad is packing. Try to start identifying the basic necessities and items you want to pack and make a list at least 2-3 months prior to your departure date – this gives you ample time to search for those items. Based on my experience, as you go along, you will find that certain things have been left out of your initial list. Packing in advance gives you plenty of time to buy those extra items on the packing list.
TIP: Know your destination country’s season and weather during your time there! This is of utmost importance as it ensures that you have appropriate clothing if you’re going during cold winter months or have an umbrella and raincoat ready if your destination country gets frequent rain.
Many people may struggle with “packing smart” because it means packing everything you need without overpacking. Although it is great to pack something “just in case,” it can be inconvenient to drag around heavy luggage as you commute from the airport to your accommodation not to mention the possibility of exceeding your check-in baggage limit at the airport. Many of us might be tempted to fill our luggage with food because we may miss our home country’s cuisine, and for some, it may be hard to find food suitable to their palette or diet.
For this, research and contacts in the destination country are the heroes that will save the day. Look for shops, restaurants or markets that have what you need, and pin those locations. Ideally, contacting a friend or a relative who lives/has lived there will give you insights into the lifestyle and environment on a more personal level. You can also get some of the items you need from them, saving you time, energy and money shopping there. Hence, from your list of things, identify the ones that can be acquired in your destination country and those that must be brought from home.
4. Prepare yourself (mentally & emotionally)
As much as leaving to study in a foreign country can be exciting and full of adventures, it is inevitable to feel the reluctance to leave home for an extended period. So, before your departure, find time to enjoy the delicacies of your home country, take trips around the city, and meet up with family, relatives, and friends to spend quality time together.
Visiting a new country will undoubtedly provide new surprises and experiences for us as its environment and lifestyle vastly differ from our home country. Take time to read up on the places, culture, and important information about the country to reduce culture shock and to make it easier to adapt to the new environment. This allows you to familiarise yourself with the place and set foot there more easily.
All in all, the most important part about preparing to study abroad is to enjoy the process and anticipate the future because new adventures await you. As I write this, I, too, am missing my family and friends in Malaysia, but this blog has allowed me to tap into the memories I had while preparing to come to Swansea for my current academic semester. Looking back, there indeed were some rocky paths leading up to my time here, but regardless of it all, support from my loved ones helped!
I hope these tips will serve you well in your preparations to study abroad, and all the best! Trust in the future and overcome obstacles with confidence! This has been Wong Hoi Kei, a 2nd-year student in Bachelor of Professional Communication.