Thinking about Study Abroad during your course?

Aaran Kotecha, Philosophy and Spanish BA
Aaran Kotecha, Philosophy and Spanish BA

So, by now you’ve probably seen, heard and read an awful lot that will prepare you for studying at uni. So how about we skip ahead a year or so, and talk about the opportunities that you could have at King’s College London? The big one for me, and definitely for a lot of other people too, is the Study Abroad.

There’s a number of options that fit all different degree types – it’s not just for language students! It’s pretty flexible, and there are options of summers, single semesters or even an entire academic year.

Rewinding about 7 months or so, I was told I was going to Quito, Ecuador for my first semester. I think my thoughts went something along the lines of:

“Great! Wait, no. What? What do I do now? Help…”

So how on earth do you prepare to temporarily move your entire life to the other side of the world? Here’s my little guide of top tips.

Smaller equador pic

First step is to get all the Administrative stuff out of the way early. KCL have a very helpful study abroad department who will help provide you with what you need to get the VISA, health insurance and other travel documents you might need. You’ll also be able to lean heavily on the coordinator of the university you are going to, even when in my case that meant frantic emails the morning of my VISA appointment… (don’t do that). Definitely earlier the better when it comes to the VISA –  it can be a real hassle. Imagine trying to travel to that dream country just a few hours away, only to find out that you’re not allowed back in to the country upon return. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this happen. Moral of the story? Find out early, and get one if you need it!

Start to think about Packing. I decided my normal idea of chucking in some sun tan and swim shorts then hoping for the best probably wasn’t the best approach here. Try thinking about these 3 different things to make sure that you haven’t left anything behind:

  1. What are your day to day clothes, toiletries and electronics?
  2. Will you need anything weather specific? Don’t pack that great new pair of trainers if you’re going to be in the South American rainy season. (Top tip, check the general forecast for each month you are going to be there)
  3. What will you be doing there? Unless you do some homework and know you’ll be able to get exactly what you need, bring the basics of the more specific activities like hiking. This is where it definitely helps to do your research and know where you’re going, and the sorts of places you might like go and explore in and around your destination.

There will also be many people going abroad to further their Language studies. From experience, it’s something also best prepared for a little. Years of A Level and university classes will never quite prepare you for that first time someone talks to you full speed, mumbling, littered with local slang, and laughing between every other word. That’s when you realise you’re not quite as fluent as you thought. Don’t worry though, give it time and before you know it you’ll wonder why that was ever a problem, it all comes with exposure. My top tips here are to watch the news, as that will be the clearest version of the local accent. Then see if you can find out anything region specific. In Ecuador, for example, (for those who know a bit of Spanish) they don’t refer to groups of people with the “vosotros” form, but “ustedes”. That took a bit of getting used to for me. Get to grips with it early and avoid those steep learning curves.

For those who aren’t going for language studies, why not think about giving it a try? You might surprise yourself with what you learn with a little bit of effort.

Last but not least, is the emotional side. It can be a really daunting thing leaving friends and family, and going somewhere completely new, with strangers and an unfamiliar country. This is a little more individual, so all I’ll say here is at the end of it all, don’t forget to get to prepare yourself a little for the culture shock, or homesickness. Know you might feel like that, remember that it’s completely normal to miss home. Most importantly though, don’t forget to enjoy the entire experience and take advantage of every moment you have!

I hope that sheds a little bit of light about what it means to get yourself ready for study abroad – I think it’s definitely one of the best things I’ve done. Let’s see where it takes you.

 

 
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