Ah, June 2015. It was a very different time for me, and I was working many hours every week at my retail job trying to save up as much as I could before I jetted off for America. If you’ve been a long time reader of my blog, you will remember my posts before my year abroad that were filled with the nerves and excitement that every student about to embark on the biggest adventure of their life feels. In hindsight, although I had what is sure to be one of the best years of my life, there are many things I wish I had known before I left that I’d like to share with students from the University of Leicester and beyond as they prepare to leave.
I’m sure every student has used skype to keep in touch with friends, family, and pets whilst at University. It’s a great resource that still leaves my Grandmother (who doesn’t have a computer) in awe when she Skypes me from my parent’s house. Skype isn’t just good for keeping in touch with friends and family however, you can also make calls to landlines for FREE (or a small per-minute fee depending on the number). This is great if you need to call your bank back home, Leicester University to sort out something, or a prospective landlord for final year. If I’d have known you could do so, I’d have saved countless dollars in international calling fees!
One of the biggest #YearAbroadProblems is getting your student loan from your UK bank account to the one you’re using in your ‘host country’. I spent all year in a constant cycle of figuring out the quickest, cheapest ways to transfer money only to discover TransferWise when I returned home and needed to move the last of my money out of my US bank account in order to close it. I was able to move my remaining balance in ONE WORKING DAY (that’s right) for just $3. Simple.
It’s not always going to be the best year of your life, and that’s ok
Hearing reports from returning students and department staff, it can sometimes seem like the year abroad is nothing but fun and there’s often such pressure to be enjoying every single moment. I wish I’d have known beforehand that there would be many unhappy moments (more than made up for by the happy) and that it was okay if some nights I just sat in my room and watched Netflix. You will be both happy and sad, and will probably cry because of both emotions, so be prepared for that slump to come.
I packed virtually my whole life into my suitcase, and was right on the weight limit when I left for Arlington. Please don’t make my mistake, you accumulate so much stuff while abroad that the more space you can leave for the clothes you will buy and the mementos and souvenirs you’ll need to bring home the better.
If there’s something you might want to do, do it on day one.
It took me a whole semester to get involved with Multicultural Affairs where I made my best friends in the States, this meant instead of spending two semesters with them I only got one. Throw yourself in to anything and everything the day you arrive so you don’t have to regret not meeting people sooner.
Don’t buy stuff straight away
This goes for everything from clothes hangers to textbooks. Your host institution will likely have some supplies you can borrow, or maybe your roommate will. Try and not buy anything you’ll have to leave unless you really have to (you probably will need bed sheets!) and you’ll save lots of money. The same goes for textbooks, give yourself one or two weeks in class to see which ones you’ll actually use, and search the Leicester University Library as well as your host institution’s for free e-books of the texts you need.
So that’s about it; I’d like to ask my fellow study abroad bloggers to share what they wish they knew before they left for their year abroad in the comments!