Studying abroad at a prestigious foreign university is a goal for many Singaporean students. But many get intimidated by all the work they need to do and all the papers they need to compile to get accepted into the university of their choice.
Moving to a foreign country for the first time and leaving the comfort of the parental nest behind makes the prospect even scarier.
However, studying abroad doesn’t need to be so intimidating. This article will tell you about the important factors you need to consider before making this choice so that one of the first major steps in your adult life goes as smoothly as possible.
Make sure to submit all the necessary documents in time.
All respectable universities have websites nowadays where you can find a detailed guide for international students. The faculty page will list all the necessary documents you need to compile and submit until the deadline is up.
The list of required documents and deadline for submission vary from one university to another, so if you are applying to different universities, make sure to submit the right documents at the right time. If you have any questions regarding your paperwork and you cannot find an answer on the website, you can contact their international admissions office (there will be an email on the website).
You also need to make sure that your passport is valid for the duration of your stay and that you are eligible to get a long-term study visa (you may need to contact the embassy of the country where you plan to study for more information regarding visa requirements). You can also refer to this article "How to I get a Visa to study abroad"
Some students feel shy and avoid contacting the admissions office. But it is better to write a lot of emails and ask for as much detailed information as possible, rather than be denied admission because of a technicality or because something in the paperwork was filled out incorrectly.
Some universities have special admission exams for international students (especially if you plan to get your master’s degree or the Ph.D. abroad), whereas others may not require them.
And most importantly, don’t… I repeat, DO NOT leave it until the last minute!
Submit your application as soon as possible so that if there is any problem with one of your documents, you will have enough time to fix it.
If you plan to apply for a scholarship, you might need to submit a separate set of documents to the scholarship fund. Should you decide to get a local Singaporean company to sponsor your overseas studies, we have a complete guide to Singapore scholarships article.
Sort out the flight and accommodation.
The internet is a very helpful tool when it comes to looking for accommodation. If your college has dormitories where students live, then you won’t need to scour the net and look for a place to stay, but unfortunately, not all educational institutions offer this option. To save money, you might opt for a flat-sharing scenario (be safe and beware of the scammers!)
Related guide: International Student Accommodation by TopUniversities
As for your flight, it is better to book it at least two months in advance. Not only will it be cheaper this way (about eight weeks in advance is the sweet spot), but you will also not have a hard time booking a flight on the exact date you need it.
Get the local SIM card.
Roaming charges are eye-wateringly expensive, so the first thing you should do when your plane lands at the airport is getting a local phone number. You can research all the local service providers online weeks in advance. Make sure to tell your loved ones at home how to contact you as soon as you get the number.
But with the emergence of mobile apps like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Skype and Wechat, all you need is a data sim card to connect your tablet or handphone to and start making cheap phone calls and messages.
Get a debit card or credit card you can use abroad.
If you already have a card, contact your bank and find out if it functions abroad, and what are the fees. If your card can’t be used in the country where you are moving, then you will need to get yourself one that does.
Carrying large sums of cash with you (especially in a foreign country) is not safe; it is much better to have it on your debit card (which you can block if it ever goes mission). Alternatively, you may even want to get a local debit card if you are eligible. The transaction fees on local cards will be lower. It will not save you thousands, but when you are a student, every penny counts.
Get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC).
ISIC proves that you are a student and gives you access to many different types of discounts and special offers around the globe. You may save as much as 50% in restaurants, amusement parks, concerts, museums, etc. And obtaining the card is very easy and cheap.
Brace yourself for culture shock and homesickness.
Culture shock is what a person may experience when they come into contact with a foreign culture and realize that the way things were done back at home may be very different from the way foreigners do it. The expression says, “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” but in my opinion, that would be an overkill.
Your culture is what makes you who you are, and you should cherish that, but at the same time, you should meet the locals midway and respect their way of doing things.
Initially, you may find your life abroad hard to handle, and you will be homesick (even if you can’t wait to be out of the house right now); but eventually, you will get used to it. The transition will be much easier if you make friends with the likeminded locals and your fellow classmates.
All of this may seem overwhelming, but if you start planning way in advance and take one step at a time when the moment of departure comes, you will be ready to take on this new chapter of your life.
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