Pre-Departure 2: The Panicking

My friend has just arrived in Australia where she will be studying abroad for the next year.  As excited as I am for her, I'm also a little frustrated that I won't be joining her until October.  I've got my flights booked, my visa taken care of, but now I just need to make some money.  But her anxiety before heading out reminded me of a few more things it's worth considering before you make the move abroad.

1. Bring a sleeping bag
It's bulky but can be one of the most useful items you bring.  You'll likely be going away for the weekend pretty often, and whether you're camping or crashing on someone's couch, it's all the better if you're equipped.  But more importantly, moving abroad is not like going on holiday, so while hotels and hostels might provide you with sheets, eventually you'll be moving into your own accommodation and you'll need bedding.  Even dorms generally don't provide sheets, duvets or comforters, although they might sell you a bedding pack.  If you're lucky, your housemates might have brought cookware, cutlery and crockery (or if you live in catered housing that's not an issue) but bedding you will have to buy, so it's good to have something comfortable to sleep in until you get the chance to buy it.

2. Bring a weekend bag as well as your large suitcase
The sensible way to travel is with a small suitcase or duffel bag as hand luggage and then one (or two if you want to pay extra) large suitcases to bring everything you need.  The smaller bag should be where you keep the things you will need immediately, like passport and boarding pass, as well as items for the next few days, like toothbrush and night clothes.  Have the most important documents in your hand luggage in case the suitcase gets lost.  This smaller bag will also come in handy for mini-breaks, for instance domestic flights where it's cheaper to fly without a stowed case.  In Europe it's very easy to find cheap flights with short journeys, and not checking a bag makes it even quicker to get to somewhere new and exciting.

3. Make a wishlist of where you want to go
If you're studying you'll have set holiday time, over Christmas and summer plus whatever extra breaks your university has scheduled (e.g. in the US you have Spring Break).  Think ahead where you would particularly love to go and why, so that when it comes the time to plan your next trip you already have a destination in mind.  This is a good idea because sometimes it's hard to choose from so many exciting places, and your travel companions might not agree with your suggestions.  If you've shortlisted a few different destinations and can also think of things you'd like to do there, it will be easier to find common ground within the group, and mean that you really get the most of your time abroad.  Also, be aware of the limits of your visa: for many student visas you are allowed to remain in the country for some time after your studies have ended, but if you go abroad you cannot re-enter unless you procure a tourist visa.  So be sure you've done all you want to do in your host country before you take off at the end.

4. Be selective with your personal effects
Definitely bring some things from home, but don't go overboard.  Photos are a great because they're very personal but don't take up much space - the poster you had on your bedroom wall is not a good idea.  You will need the odd thing to stave off homesickness or make you feel closer to the people you left behind, but bear in mind that you will be collecting new keepsakes and mementos of all the new friends you make, and you'll eventually have to fit it all in a suitcase to bring home.  Not to mention all the clothes you'll buy (if you're anything like me anyway...)

5. Find somewhere to live!
If you're at university you'll often have the option of going into campus housing which makes things much easier.  I lived in the uni's self-catered housing which was the easiest thing to arrange, but with the freedom of a self-contained flat rather than dorms.  But if this isn't an option, still try and organise something before you go.  The security of knowing you'll have a place to live will relieve a lot of stress.  If, however, you would rather not commit to accommodation without having looked around or met your prospective housemates (which is entirely understandable), still do some research before you go so you'll have some idea how much you can expect to be paying, and what your money can get you - will you be sharing a room?  Which area do most students live in?  Does the city have a good public transit system, do you need to be near university/work or can you commute?  Ask all the same questions you'd ask if you were looking for housing in your own country, even if you'll only be abroad a few months, because you might imagine you'll be busy non-stop but especially if you're going to be at university, it's important to have a good place to live.

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