9 Essential Skills to Develop Before Going to University Abroad


Updated on Mar 21 • 5 minute read

Getting ready to go to university is probably going to be one of the most exciting times of your life. However, far too many young people become overwhelmed with preparations and what they’ll need to learn, especially if they’re scheduled to study abroad. But this doesn’t have to be the case! You can easily learn a variety of essential skills for your undergrad course to ensure that you have everything in order before you relocate.

In this article, you will learn that as long as you’re prepared, finding housing, mastering an unfamiliar city’s public transportation, building connections and much more are all within reach. You may have heard the expression “know before you go,” and it couldn’t be more applicable to moving abroad, especially when it involves attending a university and living out on your own for the first time. There are so many essential skills that will ensure you are ready to meet adventure head-on, and smoothly transition into university life.

Let’s jump right in!

1. Choosing Your University

First things first, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to select your university from hundreds of world-class institutions. There seem to be two distinct ways in which international students make their decision:

  • They select a university for the courses it offers.
  • They choose an institution in the region they'd like to study in.

If you already know the path you’d like to take, you’ll find that there are particular universities that will offer more courses geared toward your goal. Your school guidance counselor will be able to help you, and there are numerous groups and organisationsto which assist students in making a final decision on their university.

Keep in mind that whilst you are moving abroad for your studies, it’s also important to be comfortable in your surroundings, so be sure to check out our rankings for the top 100 safest European cities for internationals. Data could help you narrow down your options! Be sure to also look at things like the city’s climate, culture and geographical location.

2. Learn to Budget Wisely

One of the more difficult things to learn is how to set up your budget. Most students will set out on their university journey with a certain amount of financial support, so it’s important to note every outgoing expense when budgeting those funds.

Always consider:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Household items
  • Cell phone costs
  • University essentials
  • Clothing
  • Transportation
  • Food
  • Entertainment

Additionally, it’s important to cut cost corners whenever possible. Who doesn’t want a little extra for weekend beers or city breaks? Popular European capitals for weekend excursions include Berlin, Madrid and Vienna.

3. Finding Housing

Once you’ve chosen your university, the next important decision is selecting the right housing. While you can try to look for listings independently, it’s always best to rent a place on a secure, trustworthy and protected platform. Student housing is always in high demand, so rooms and apartments can lease quickly. With HousingAnywhere, you can set your rental preferences and even be notified as soon as a listing matching your requirements becomes available. How great is that?

Try to look for neighborhoods that are popular with other internationals, taking into account your commute to the university. If you’re on a budget, look at safe neighborhoods outside the city center that offer convenient modes of transportation.

And most importantly, before you sign anything, always be sure that you completely understand the rental agreement, especially the fine print. Also, confirm who will be responsible for house utilities like Wi-Fi, electricity and water.

4. Adjusting to Having Roommates

You may be accustomed to your private space at home, but when studying abroad, almost everyone opts to share space with a few friends or other students. This is because there are numerous advantages to living with flatmates, including:

  • Having an instant support system
  • Saving money on rent and utilities
  • Being able to share household chores and responsibilities
  • Splitting cooking costs and taking turns preparing meals

5. Understanding the Public Transportation System

Public transportation can be a university student’s best friend. Even if you are within a short walk of the university, inclement weather may have you looking for other options. Furthermore, you’re going to want to explore your new home, and there’s no better way to do that than taking a few bus routes.

The good news is that there are numerous online guides that can help you become better acquainted with the system for your particular city, such as transportation in Brussels, or getting around in Rotterdam. You can also visit the transit system’s website and download a map to get familiar with station names.

Europe is known for its many cyclists, with Amsterdam and Copenhagen being the top bike-friendly capital cities. A lot of students opt to purchase a second-hand bicycle when they arrive in such cities, and then, when they move back home, they can sell it to another incoming, international student. Most cities also offer affordable bicycle rentals.

6. Adapting to Your New Surroundings

Unless you’re pretty familiar with your new home-away-from-home, then you’ll likely need to acclimatize to your surroundings. Some international students experience a bit of a culture shock at first, but that can be easily remedied by studying up on your new locale before you move. You can also plan a trip or two to close cities at home, so that you can get used to feeling the vibe of an unfamiliar setting.

Moreover, asking a few local students or professors at the university is also a good way to learn about the best areas for expats to hang out, or where you can experience some of the things that the city is actually known for. You’ll see that people typically love to talk about their home, and before you walk away, you’ll have recommendations for dinner, museums and even places to shop for groceries.

Speaking of shopping, a nice way to begin to understand a city’s culture is to visit the local market. It’s also an inexpensive place to shop for food, clothing and more.

7. Expanding Your Network

It’s always nice to see a few friendly faces in an unknown spot, so that’s why it’s important to start expanding your network as soon as possible. Look for Facebook groups that help connect students who will be attending the same university.

Plus, once you’ve arrived, try to be as social as possible. Student associations will regularly arrange parties and other social events, providing plenty of opportunities to not only make friends but to build connections that could assist you in your chosen career.

8. Looking for Employment

Depending on your budget, you may be thinking about looking for a side job to give you a little more spending money. If you haven’t already selected your university, you may want to also look into the available jobs in your university city, which can also come in handy after receiving your degree.

Different countries will have different stipulations for students who would also like to work a part-time job. Typically, you’ll have to apply for a work permit. Some jobs are available on campus, but working at a local restaurant or shop is also a popular choice.

9. Avoiding Homesickness

While you want to live your new life to its fullest, it’s also important to stay in touch with friends and family back home, for several key reasons. It’s a fact that one out of every 10 college students may find it hard to function at times, due to being homesick. However, picking a day or two for reaching out to people back home will give you something to look forward to throughout the week, as you’re mentally making a list of all of the adventurous details that you can’t wait to discuss.

Additionally, there are a number of other ways to avoid feeling homesick, including:

  • Keeping your social calendar full
  • Working or volunteering in your spare time
  • Being a tourist
  • Embracing the culture
  • Reaching out for help when you need it

With an arsenal of essential skills for undergrads in your pocket, you are now ready to greet your exciting new reality, with a little time set aside to explore, make friends and rack up a lot of thrilling experiences. Studying abroad is about much more than the education that you will receive, even though that may be the primary reason for your relocation. Whether you choose Germany, Italy, Spain or a host of other culturally diverse countries, you’ll be able to broaden your horizons in a way that you never thought was possible.

The world awaits!

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