Imagine you’ve found a great study abroad programme, have been accepted, and all that’s left is to prepare for your trip. You might have questions like “What should I pack?”, “Do I need travel insurance?” and “How much money should I bring?”. That’s normal and there’s no need to panic. You have time to get your answers and we’re here to help you as much as we can.
Keep on reading to learn about everything you need to know for your study abroad adventure.
Passport and visa
You must have a valid passport to travel and study abroad. If you already have one, double check to make sure it’s not expired and that it won’t expire within 6 months of your intended return home. Also, make sure that you have blank pages in your passport if you’ve travelled abroad before.
In addition to a passport, you may need a visa to study abroad. Different countries have different visa requirements. In Germany you’ll need a German Student Visa. The best time to apply for a German student visa is immediately after receiving the admissions letter, while we strongly recommend to book the appointment already before, so that you have the appointment shortly after receiving the admission letter. On average, it takes up to 25 days for your application to be processed.
It’s important to have a reliable travel insurance policy. Travel insurance provides coverage if your flight is delayed or cancelled, your luggage is lost, your personal belongings are stolen, and if there’s an evacuation in the case of a health emergency or a natural disaster.
Health care insurance
When you’re researching your new home from home, make sure you check out the health care arrangements. Don’t be fooled to think this is not important because in the case that you get sick and need a doctor, you’ll be glad you have health care insurance. In most countries, you’ll need some form of health insurance.
Health insurance in Germany is mandatory by law, regardless of your residence status or your income. There are two types of health insurance plans: public health insurance and private health insurance. The cost depends on the type of insurance plan you choose.
Once you’ve confirmed your place in the study abroad programme, you’ll need to arrange your accommodation. There are many things to take into consideration about where to live, starting with the cost, the facilities you want or need and the location. Being close to campus can make life easier in many ways, but choosing home stay accommodation can give you an opportunity to experience the local culture first-hand. Likewise, living in accommodation with shared facilities can help you socialise easier and build new friendships through shared meals and experiences.
International students in Germany either live in a student hall of residence or a private accommodation. Student hall or residence is the more affordable option of the two. There are a lot of student dormitories across Germany and they’re almost always located near a university campus. If you choose private accommodation, you can either rent an apartment by yourself or share it with others.
Next thing to do after getting accepted to the programme is to find a flight to your destination. Book as early as you can to benefit from discounts and seasonal offers. Don’t forget to sort your local transportation as well, whether it’s a taxi from the airport or a cross-country train travel.
You can reach Germany with low-cost airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air, or there’s Lufthansa, Eurowings, Austrian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Alitalia, and many others.
There are a few steps to take in regards to finances before heading off.
Set up an account. If you don’t already have an online bank account, definitely set one up. It’s the easiest way to manage your money while abroad. Most international travellers use their debit or credit cards to get cash in the local currency from an ATM.
Notify your bank and credit card companies you’ll be abroad. Otherwise, you risk getting locked out of your account while abroad because they might flag the activities as fraud.
Pack some extra cash. For the first few days, you might want to have some cash on you just in case. Finding an ATM or bank in Germany is very easy. If you’re unable to obtain EUR currency at home, the airport is a great option to withdraw cash at an ATM right as you arrive.
Local customs, culture and people
Dedicate some of your time to better familiarise yourself with your study abroad country if it’s your first time there. By knowing even a little bit of the country’s culture, history, geography, economy and politics, your study abroad experience will be enriched and your time spent more meaningful. Once you get there, engage with your fellow classmates and locals and seek opportunities to learn more about the culture. Go watch movies, visit festivals, museums, etc.
Knowing even the most basic of phrases in the local language can make a world of difference in overcoming your adjustment period. Enrol in classes, ask locals for help, or download apps, like Duolingo, and podcasts to use on your daily commute to university. Every little bit helps!
Depending what type of person you are, this is either the fun part or the most stressful one. First and foremost, check the weight and size restrictions of the airline you’re flying with to avoid any additional fees. Secondly, don’t over pack!
Here are some useful packing tips:
Bring travel sized toiletries to get through your first weeks.
Plan to buy cheap towels and/or sheets on arrival instead of wasting space on that.
Don’t go overboard with the pairs of shoes, pack only the ones that you need (comfortable sneakers, night shoes for going out, everyday shoes).
Bring power adaptors for your electronics.
If you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure to bring an extra pair with you.
Pack a few mementos from home to help with homesickness.
Cell phones and staying in touch with home
During your study abroad adventure, it’s worth getting a local SIM card. Before you depart, check with your network provider about roaming costs and data plans, so you won’t get a huge phone bill after you return. You can get Wi-Fi in a lot of places, but it might be nose to also have a way to be reachable when you’re not near a hotspot. This is where the local SIM card comes in handy. You can stay in touch with home either by using your cell phone or a laptop, if you’re bringing any.
There are so many things to think of and do before you go study abroad, especially if it’s your first trip. But no matter how many times you repack your suitcase or say goodbye to your friends and family, don’t forget to be excited about the unforgettable adventure you’re about to embark on!
Thanks for taking the time to read our ways and tips to prepare for your study abroad experience. If you’ve received an admissions letter from our university, or are planning to apply to study at PFH, feel free to reach out to our International Office at any time.
At PFH we make sure your study abroad adventure is a positive experience!