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Survival tips for international students in the first year

You are about to start your life-changing experience of studying abroad. It’s a dream come true, but you may feel anxious or worried about how you’re going to survive your first year abroad, away from your family and friends.

Don’t worry! Here’s our ultimate guide to help you spend your first year abroad with confidence!

1) Learn what to pack

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Before you drag out your suitcase, one of the most important things to think carefully about is what exactly to bring with you. So, don’t pack the items and products which can be easily bought from the stores such as toiletries, stationary, or utensils.

You can free some space in your luggage by rolling off unnecessary outfits because if the weather at the destination country isn’t comparable to what you’re used to, you’ll throw in some new garbs which are suitable for the new conditions.

Pack your luggage to be handy for daily use, and don’t forget to mark it in an identifiable way. A lot of universities provide international student services like free airport pickup.

Check out our tips on what to pack before your leave.

2) Be tech savvy

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In such a digital world, you’d better load copies of documents, multimedia, and your preferred music to cloud storage to access them wherever you are and whenever you desire. Likewise, save important contact details and data in a Google document or similar software. At the same time, it’s ok to keep a hard copy with you for the most important information.

It’s also essential to download smartphone messaging apps so you can contact family and friends with access to Wi-Fi. You should also find yourself the nearest tech store to buy yourself a local SIM card or a phone contract.

Bring with you power strips/plug boards which allow you to plug in multiple devices. If the plug sockets are significantly different from your country, then you should aim to purchase a converter as soon as possible as you don’t want to damage your electronic devices.

3) Pick the right accommodation

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Remember, your choice of home can have a serious impact on your education and overall wellbeing. Hence, conduct an intensive online research before you apply for any halls of residence.

In fact, your IDP counsellor can help you explore the many accommodation options, such as host families, hostels, apartments, student halls, residential colleges, or private rental properties, and help you decide what best matches your needs and budget as well.

To become familiar with your new surrounding, try to run your new household smoothly via ‘open communication’ with others. Think of setting up sticky notes in an easy- to-see space (such as the refrigerator or the bathroom’s mirror) or create a WhatsApp group for instance to help share messages.

To cope with the different living habits, don’t be shy of establishing some clear house rules, arrangements and responsibilities since the beginning.

Find out more tips on accommodation and living abroad with new friends.

4) Spend your money wisely

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If you’ll be living at a high-end country that’s heavy on pockets, then you need to set your budget precisely right at first.

You should be able to save a lot of money by using student travel cards. But before purchasing one, get to know by heart the district zones where your home and university are located.

Most importantly and regardless of whether you know how to cook or not, you’d still certainly need to learn the basics of cooking your meals as this is one major point by which you can save several bucks daily.

Moreover, don’t shop whenever it pops into your head, you’d better wait for sales that are the best time to buy your needs. Also, always keep an estimated amount in your budget for emergency and unplanned outlays.

Check out some more useful tips to save money abroad.

5) Mingle with new people

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Most universities will assign fresher helpers or upperclassmen mentors who are responsible for making sure you blend in once you are there. IDP also organizes pre-departure events to help you meet students who are going to study at the same university or city as you.

You can also take full advantage of social media, for example, searching up group chats in your university and its host city. This way, you’ll get to know a few people whom you may potentially live or go to lectures with before you even get there!

Here are some good tips to help you develop your soft skills outside your classroom.

6) Practice your English with everyone

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Moving to a different country may seem really daunting at first and you might get anxious about not being able to immerse yourself into your new environment.

Try to be as active on campus as you can, not only in social events but with multicultural campus societies too. If you’re not feeling confident about your language skills, try expressing your ideas in English bit by bit at first.

Remember that practice makes perfect! So, don’t be afraid to look for opportunities where you can chat with other students there.

Along with socialising with new friends, you can also dig into the learning resources and additional study help allocated to international students by your university library. There will most likely be extra classes tackling common issues such as essay writing or grammar.

Don’t hesitate to ask for your professors’ help - the teaching staff aren’t as intimidating as you might think. You can always email them personally to set up an appointment to discuss your inquiry during their office hours.

7) Manage and Reduce Stress

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When you’re studying abroad, it’s normal to feel a little stressed or homesick occasionally. But sometimes, you might feel you need a bit of extra help – and that’s okay.

Our first advice to you is to try to figure out what causes the stress. Is it because you feel lonely and need to speak with your family and friends at home? Why don’t join a new society or club at your university to meet some like-minded people who can serve as new friends at the new place?

If you feel stressed because of your new academic assignments, you can try to manage your time more efficiently and save some time as well to explore new exciting places.

Find out more useful tips to deal with stress!

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