At this point, you may have received the confirmation from your chosen university. So let me congratulate you for overcoming the first hurdle of your journey of getting your degree overseas. Now, the real preparation phase begins! Here are five simple things you need to do before leaving the country.
1. Get all paperwork done
Secure your visa. Most likely, you have enough time to apply for a visa from the time you receive the notice of acceptance from your school. You must closely coordinate with the Graduate School Office in your chosen university to know more about the process and other required documents.
Make sure that your passport (either official or regular) is valid by the time you travel.Prepare your school documents. Do not forget to bring important documents (original and/or photocopies) you need to submit to your school. You will save a lot of money by avoiding sending documents via courier. You will need pictures for new IDs, so bring extra photographs as well.
Study leave or resignation. This is especially for those taking up their post-graduate degree. If you have not thought about this seriously, now is the time to decide which is best for you. Ideally, you should have informed your office management or supervisor about your study plans prior to sending your application. In that case, it would be easier for them to make adjustments accordingly as you leave. But certainly, you may opt to keep them out of the loop due to other reasons.
2. Manage your finances
Credit card and foreign currency. It is extremely important to have your own credit card as you travel abroad. In my case, I used it to pay for my first monthly housing rent. You would not want to bring loads of cash, even in “safe” countries, such as Japan. As for foreign currency exchange, you could do it in the airport in your home country or in your destination country.
Bank account and bills payment. You would be away for a year or two, so you must think of how to manage your bank account and bills payment. Almost all commercial banks offer online banking services, so you may want to enroll your bank account to such service. Also, auto-debit is a convenient way to settle your bills.
3. Look for a place to stay in (either for short-term or long-term stay)
If your university does not have any dormitory, most probably, you would need to find your own place to stay in. Although our school had dormitories (off-campus), scholars like me had very little chance of being given a slot. Thus, private housing companies recommended by the school was, I think, my only option at that time. There is other housing information available online, though.
When I was choosing my place, I had to balance the amount of rent with other costs I need to pay for on a monthly basis, like utilities. Also, the location of the house (or the distance from school) mattered a lot because it could spell how much my daily travel would cost me.
4. Start Packing
This is the most exciting part–packing your stuff. Knowing that you cannot bring everything in your closet, you need to maximize the space in your luggage and make sure to bring essential things.
If you are very particular about the fashion trend, you may want to bring fewer pieces of clothing and just buy at your destination country. In Japan, clothes are very cheap so I knew that I would do a lot of shopping for my casual and business wear.
Shibuya is one of the shopping districts in Tokyo, Japan
However, you should also consider bringing your traditional/indigenous clothing for cultural events. I brought myFilipiniana dresses (Philippine traditional wear for women) with me.
Taken at the ASEAN Festival 2015
Taken at the Tokyo Gundam 2015
More importantly, do not forget to bring weather-appropriate clothes. I was lucky that it was fall when I came to Japan. It was not freezing cold yet.
If you will travel to a non-English-speaking country and have not mastered the local language yet, bringing your own toiletries and medicine that could last for a week or two could save your life.
5. Know more about the country and its people
Do a little bit of research about your destination country to ready yourself for the changes you will encounter. Learn about their culture and laws, especially the dos and don’ts.
Photos were taken at a sushi restaurant in Tsukiji Market, Chuo, Tokyo. Foreign tourists must be aware of the proper etiquette for using chopsticks.
After all these, you are ready to go. You may encounter some difficulties as you step foot on your destination (such as riding the wrong train, not being understood in a restaurant, or getting lost), but learn to enjoy these moments as they are part of your adventures in the foreign land.
About the author
Ivory is currently a second-year Master of Public Policy student at the University of Tokyo. Before going to Japan for her postgraduate studies, she was a research analyst at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. She is also a mentor in A Friend Abroad, which is an online platform for students and professionals to mentor to those interested in studying abroad or at an international university. Apart from being busy with her studies, she finds time to go out with her friends to explore more of Japan.
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