“Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons, with the greatest for the last” – Sherlock Homes
Although the famed fictional detective was speaking about education in a broader sense, it also rings true for the formal type of education we know of. Whether it is a recent high school graduate or someone who has been working for a few years, there are plenty who very much look forward to grabbing their hands on a university degree or two.
And despite our local Malaysian universities having recently improved on their global rankings, the appeal to study abroad is still pretty much there. After all, the experience of living in a different land and culture forms part of real-life education too!
If you are planning to study abroad, here are 10 smart tips you can follow:
1. Learn the language
Even if the course you are taking uses English as its medium, you’d be better served if you know the language of your new country. Ideally, you would already have learned the basics before you touch down there.
A grasp on their language allows you to blend in and communicate better with the locals. Failure to do so and you already set up a barrier with the new world around you. You can easily learn in your free time through an online course or mobile app.
2. Be familiar with local culture and laws
This is an extension of the previous point but perhaps carries much greater importance. Remember, once in that country, you are subject to its laws so you do not want to risk ending up behind bars!
For example, many of us already know about the ban on chewing gum in our neighbouring country Singapore, but how many know that feeding pigeons in Venice can lead to a fine of up to RM2,925?
Even if something is lawfully legal, it can still be offensive to the locals. So, be sure to study up on local culture and customs.
3. Arrive with the currency
Although more and more countries are becoming a cashless society, it is still wise to have some physical cash with you. Be sure that you have the currency of the country you’ll be staying in before setting foot there.
Related: 4 Major Benefits of Going Cashless!
4. Set a weekly budget
Our local Ringgit isn’t exactly the strongest currency, so spending money in a foreign land can easily get out of hand. A little careless spending here and there and you’ll be left to wonder what happened to all that money!
Allocate a realistic weekly budget, keep track of your spending, and remain financially disciplined and responsible.
5. Figure out a phone plan
Communicating with family and friends is no longer a major issue, no matter where you are in the world. Free texting apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger make it both easy and affordable to stay in touch.
However, all these apps require a Wi-Fi connection, which is not available everywhere. You will need a phone data plan sufficient enough for your needs. It can either be a cheap prepaid phone from your new country or even an abroad phone plan from your current network provider. Figure out which is the best option.
6. Consider investing in a good camera
As we mentioned earlier, part of the appeal of studying abroad is the experience of living in a foreign land. It offers invaluable life education plus cherished memories. One of the best ways to document these memories is through photography. Invest in a good stand-alone camera or at least make sure that your phone camera is of high quality.
7. Mix around
One big mistake students always make when studying abroad is only hanging out with people from their own country. Instead, broaden your horizons by mixing around with the locals and students from other countries too. This is the type of education that you’ll receive from outside the classroom!
8. Explore the country (and beyond) as much as you can
Maximise your time there by exploring the country as often and as much as possible. You can even spend your semester breaks by visiting neighbouring countries! Remember, even the most expensive countries can be experienced on a shoe-string budget if you’re a savvy traveller. Travelling in groups, using trains and buses, staying in hostels, etc. will help you save money!
9. Don’t get careless with important documents
Be it your passport, student visa documents, or other important documents like degrees, dissertations and certificates — be extra careful about them. Investing in a waterproof zipped passport holder and never leaving them unattended, keeping photocopies, etc. are a couple of helpful tips.
10. Lastly, don’t ignore your studies
Yes, that’s an obvious one. But it’s not uncommon for students to lose track when they’re in a foreign country, far away from their family. Have fun, and loads of it, but not at the cost of your studies — the main reason why you’re there in the first place.
Wish you a bright future!
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