• Lavanya Nair

5 Steps To Studying Abroad

Everybody dreams of the day they finally manage to spread their proverbial wings and experience all of the milestones that are deemed necessary to grow as a person. To be able to do that in a foreign land is even more of an accomplishment! Here's a brief guide on what to look out for and keep in mind when planning to study abroad:

1. Research, Research, Research!

This may seem self-explanatory, but there are a myriad of factors that can hinder you from attending your 'dream school'; simply because you didn't read ALL of the facts. We've all been in similar situations which is why it is vital that you keep into account all of these factors:

Money: The big worry since most of us don't have a million bucks, collecting dust in our bank accounts. Schools in the US are known for being outrageously expensive with students racking up over $200k upon graduating! Not to worry though! Here are a few websites that can help defray the cost of tuition. Also look into schools that offer scholarships based on either merit or other talents. Some consider you automatically when you apply so no secondary application is required.

Fulbright: (For UK/US based students only)


MPower Financing: (Loan website: Check your eligibility on the website)

Scholarships Canada:

American Association of University Women: (For eligible Females only)

The Schlumberger Foundation:

Margaret McNamara Foundation:

Ranking: Even if you're only thinking about enrolling for a semester, a university's ranking still proves to be a swaying factor for most people. Don't worry if your GPA isn't high enough or if you haven't done many extra-curriculars! There's always a university that will accept you based on other factors such as the number of applicants, your enthusiasm for the course and of course, your entrance exam results.

Here's a link that will enable you to compare, hundreds of universities.

Entrance Exams: Most institutions require incoming applicants to have sat for an entrance exam, depending on the course to which they are applying. For example: GRE, GMAT, LSAT, TOEFL etc.

These exams require practice as they demand a high command of English, efficient quantitative and essay writing skills.

2. Country Environment:

Normally I would advise you to not let any thing scare you away from experiencing a new country, but with the rise of political tensions as well as extremism and economic instability, it may serve you well to conduct a brief PESTLE analysis on the country of your choice.

Political, Economic, Social, Technology, Legal & Environmental factors that help evaluate the conditions of a country.

This tool is most often used by business owners who are thinking of expanding a new business but works amazingly well in this situation too, so why not make use of it?

More information can be found here:

3. Personal Statements:

It's always difficult to write a compelling and unique personal statement that doesn't rope in all of the clichés that college admission boards have seen time and time again. The trick is to write from the heart in a way that sounds authentic and professional.

Some applications require a CV/Resume so make sure it is up-to-date! It's fine if you don't have many jobs to list, although certain graduate programs require at least 2 years of work experience. Which is why I have to reiterate, DO YOUR RESEARCH. It ensures you won't waste your time perfecting an application for a major for which you do not have the right credentials.

4. Legalities:

If you are lucky enough to be admitted, the next step is to get your documents in order. The school will have to send you a sponsorship form which may have different names according to the country. For example, in Japan, universities issue a certificate of eligibility, where as in the US, it may be called an I-20 or DS-2019. With that form, you may then apply for a visa at the required embassy in your home country.

These documents need to be in order:

Passport/Evidence of residency: Note the expiry date

Photos: ensure they comply with the regulations put forth by the government.

Financial Documents: You may need these to prove that you can provide the sufficient funding for the duration of your study.

Fee receipts: If you have paid any fees during the process of applying for a visa, bring proof of payment.

Appointment page: To prove that you have booked a slot for an interview if necessary. (The USA insists upon it for candidates from 14-79).

5. Packing-Do's and Don'ts:

Do bring an Adaptor: When I was on my study abroad in Japan, a lot of my friends had to buy these tiny but very necessary appliances as they had either brought the ones with the wrong voltage or hadn't brought them at all.

Don't overpack: I made the mistake of bringing two large suitcases with me on my trip to Japan and it made transporting them very difficult. Needless to say, I should have packed light with only the necessities. You can always buy what you need when you arrive.

(Applies to Asian countries in particular) Do bring your own cosmetics or underwear etc. Sadly countries such as Japan and South Korea do not cater to people who have larger frames and/or darker complexions. This makes buying skin products and clothing much more difficult so bring your own with you or make sure you can order these products online.

Don't forget rainwear: You never know when rain will start to pour so having a raincoat or an umbrella will really be a lifesaver-especially if you have your luggage with you at the time.

Do bring a phrasebook: (or at least download an app like DuoLingo so you can learn some of the target language) if you are going abroad as part of a language course then bring some advanced material with you so you can practise on the plane or once you touch ground. I was forced to speak Japanese at the airport as my immigration official did not have a good command over English. As daunting as this experience was, it was highly beneficial.

That's it! I know first hand how overwhelming this process can be so I hope this article will be helpful.

Feel free to contact me through my site for more information

Lavanya Nair

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