Published on 16 Dec 2019 by Federica
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020
Reading time: 25'
Moving abroad could truly change your life. With so many exciting and breathtaking experiences, for many young people relocating to another country is no longer a choice: it's a necessity.”
In fact, moving abroad has become such a popular path for young people to take that if you too are thinking of grabbing your passport, you’ll be happy to find yourself joining the ranks of plenty of other expats across the world.
As with any new challenge, moving to another country requires some careful planning. There’s much more to it than packing your bags and booking your transport, and really, there’s simply no such thing as being too prepared. So it’s a good thing you’re here, because this guide is packed with advice and tips to help you get organized for your move abroad! So make yourself comfortable, grab a cup of coffee, and be sure to take notes as you read!
When it comes to relocating abroad, there isn't one specific reason why young people decide to make the big move. If you're still unsure whether you should leave your comforting, cozy nest, to fly into the big wide world, here are some perks and benefits that will make you want to spread your wings.
Broadening your horizons - Nothing helps a person stepping outside of their comfort zone as much as moving to a new country — and on their own. It’d be way too easy to indulge in your comfortable routine, and stick to what you know. But that’s not what life is about! When you’re riding public transportation at midnight in a foreign country, trying to find your way back to your new accommodation on the other side of the city, you really learn a thing or two about resilience!
Experiencing a new culture - Maybe you’ve always loved the idea of mingling with the locals in Bologna’s best bars, or perhaps you’ve envisioned yourself exploring Helsinki’s top secret spots. Whatever the image you have in your head, you’re definitely not at home anymore, so it’s time to observe the rituals and rhythms of your new home. Learning what time tea is, or trying out your new roommates’ weird hangover cures, is just the tip of the iceberg when immersing yourself in a foreign culture and the customs of its people. The key to adjusting quickly is to simply embrace everything about your new surroundings, right from the very start – even if it's brilliantly bizarre! You’ll have more stories to tell after all.
Making lifelong friends - Being an expat in a bustling, vibrant city with a large population of young internationals has a lot of benefits. While you’re stepping out on this big adventure, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are in the same situation as you. The opportunities to meet people and make new friends are basically endless. If you can throw together a few basic phrases in the native tongue, chances are that you’ve probably just made a new drinking partner.
Improving self-confidence and self-awareness - Meeting new people from other places and cultures can help you see your own roots from a different perspective; you can develop a newfound awareness and appreciation of your very own culture, which will strengthen your self-esteem.
Starting an exciting career - Getting an unexpected job offer is definitely a valid reason to relocate to another country. It may be the position you’ve been thinking about all through school, or it may be a stepping stone to your dream job. However this relates to you, thousands of people choose to work abroad, whether it be temporarily or on a more permanent basis. Joining a startup can be an especially exciting way to launch your career.
Studying at a world-class university - If you’re planning to move abroad to study at university, it’s good to know that there’s so many students like you that decide to participate in an exchange program for a semester or two. Choosing a university that offers a unique perspective to your field of study can be so beneficial when you return to your home university, and the experience itself is priceless.
Beginning an internship - There are several reasons to do an internship when you’re living abroad. It can be advantageous for your program of study, or can potentially lead to permanent employment. An internship can also provide valuable professional connections that you wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.
Clearly, you have plenty of reasons for moving abroad; whether you are relocating to work or study, we have collected some tips to help you get a bit more organised and less stressed! Thank us later…
One of the first things that you’ll need to do before you book a flight, look into travel insurance and secure accommodation is to ask yourself: what will I be doing during my time abroad?
There’s a completely different world out there for expats to explore. Before you discover how to live like a local in Florence, or how to eat your way through the delicious food in Amsterdam, you’ll need to figure out your purpose and your aspirations. There are more opportunities now than ever, so it’s best to thoroughly explore each option, and decide which path will most positively impact your future.
An internship isn’t necessarily about running errands, battling with photocopiers and pouring countless cups of coffee. Today, many dream of kickstarting their career with an internship abroad, because it can provide connections that ensure that you’re on the right career path — both locally and internationally.
Depending on the program that you’re in, you may be required to complete an internship or work placement to expose you to real-world experience before graduating.
When you begin making plans, note that there are several different types of internships. Some may only last for the summer break, while others for a whole semester. You’ll have to decide between an internship at a startup or an internship at a well-established company.
There are also some eye-opening volunteer placements to consider. Few things can change your life quite like volunteer work. Many students are making the decision to volunteer internationally, often in between finishing their studies and beginning their careers.
Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa are the most popular areas to look for volunteer placements. The type of work available includes public health, environmental, sports, construction, teaching and much more.
The most popular reason for moving to another city is to study abroad, typically as part of an exchange program. You’ll be choosing your courses, joining student associations and meeting like-minded individuals who will turn into lifelong friends. But what is it like to study abroad?
You’ll need to keep in mind that a university abroad may be different than what you’re accustomed to at home. This includes the programs, how your lectures and seminars are presented, and the grading systems. Knowing before you go will help to avoid any confusion or disappointments. Imagine celebrating a high grade only to discover that it only means a marginal pass back home!
While every country is different, the structural and educational systems in both the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain can help paint a clearer picture of what you might expect when you move abroad to study.
When you begin to explore the facets of studying in the Netherlands, the first thing you should look into is the tuition fees. In the Netherlands, students will pay one of two types of fees:
Of course, there are other things to consider beyond fees. The Netherlands offers a host of very renowned universities, and its grading system is simple. You can expect to receive grades in the form of points, ranging from 1 to 10, with 10 being outstanding.
But the most appealing thing about studying in the Netherlands is the student culture. There’s a ton of international student events and a thriving nightlife scene, plus a packed calendar of festivals and events. In other words, the Dutch know how to party!
If you’re contemplating studying in Germany, then you may already know about the pricing structure for its public universities. If not, we have great news! As of 2014, the tuition fees for both international or native students were abolished, leaving only a minimal “semester contribution.” Just imagine getting an impressive education, but with no tuition fees!
When it comes to the grading system, it’s also easy to get your head around. However, unlike the Netherlands, it works on a five-point system, with one actually being the highest mark.
The cost of living in German student cities is quite low. And as you can imagine, the nightlife is off the charts, with a never ending supply of beer gardens to explore, and the world-renowned samba and techno festivals.
Unbelievable food, fantastic weather and astonishing art are only some of the reasons why you should study in Italy. The country also offers a great number of world-class universities you can choose from.
Moreover, Italy’s tuition is considered to be relatively low. Additionally, there are several scholarships offered to reward students for their academic results, or given for financial reasons. At at a public university, for example, you can expect to pay between €900 and €4,000 annually.
Keep in mind that Italy uses a 1-30 grading system, with 18 being the passing grade. Each number illustrates varying degrees of exemplary performance or the need for improvement.
Luckily for you, Italy’s housing and living costs are quite low as well, so you can spend the rest of your budget exploring the country’s most popular bars and nightclubs.
So many young peoplemas choose this fascinating destination for an exchange semester or year, and rightly so! The Spanish higher education system offers such rewarding opportunities, that some even decide to stay longer to work toward their Master’s.
Spain is filled with young internationals who are taking advantage of learning and growing at some of the world’s best universities, especially in its larger cities, such as Barcelona and Madrid. As that many of its residents can speak a little English, it’s also a great place to step outside of your comfort zone.
Along with its moderate pricing, you can also expect a large number of courses to be offered in the English language. The tuition fees vary by university but, when compared to other countries, are considered quite moderate. To give you an estimate, at a public university, you can expect to pay between €700 and €1,400 annually for your Bachelor’s degree and €1,300 and €1,500 annually for your Master’s degree.
And to wind down, you’ll find a thrilling nightlife scene, with a mix of high-energy dance clubs, laid-back bars and cozy local hangouts.
It’s becoming more and more common to hear a friend announcing that they’re moving abroad to work. That’s because there’s plenty of opportunities for young people who are willing to relocate and change their lives for good!
For example, have you ever heard of the term “digital nomad”? It describes an individual who can work remotely and doesn’t stay in the same place for long. They’ll hang about in a hip co-working environment for a few months in Berlin, and then they'll be off to the warm weather and low prices of Bali. As long as the cost of living is right and the Wi-Fi signal is strong, they can basically work anywhere as a freelancer.
When choosing other more conventional types of work, you’ll need to decide between a corporation and a startup. Both have their benefits:
Startup - Working for a startup may not pay what you hope for initially, but the prospects of what may come further down the road are often much higher than you anticipated. Plus, you’ll get the experience and the pride of helping to build something from the ground up. Teams are usually smaller, and the more informal vibe usually means you get cool perks, like rocking your new pair of jeans at work, or free beers on Fridays!
Corporations - If you want to start off with a bang, then applying to large corporations may be the way to go. There are typically more positions available, and you’ll work in larger teams and have a more defined role in the company. The pay will generally be higher, but you may miss out on that big boom when a startup finally hits its stride. However, if adding a recognizable name to your CV gets your blood pumping, then a corporation it is!
Selecting the right city when moving might seem overwhelming at first, especially with so many attractive options. Yet, each city will appeal to different people. Some may be looking for a busy student city with tons of nightlife venues, while others may be looking forward to a historic spot with winding, cobblestone alleyways and rows of vintage shops.
The perfect place for your move abroad is out there! Your first step should be getting a quick overview of some of the most popular cities among expats; once that is done, you can see which attractions, amenities, cultures and destinations appeal to you the most. We’re here to help you out!
Rotterdam is the second largest city in the Netherlands, and it boasts a population of around 620,000. It’s a modern, exciting city, void of the some of the scenery that is considered “typically Dutch”. Still, it’s incredibly rich in culture and art. Most people speak Dutch, but English is widely spoken as well.
The city center is packed with buzzing areas where young people meetup. After its bombing in WWII, this neighborhood was promptly rebuilt, which is why it is known for its unique architecture, appreciated by its students and interns.
This fun-filled city is also extremely innovative, being the very first city in the entire country to have a metro system, which has developed into an extensive network of public transportation. But don’t forget we’re still talking about the Netherlands, so you’ll see most people riding bikes, of course.
The cost of living is relatively high, and expats can expect to spend between €800 and €1100 on monthly expenses, including housing in Rotterdam, with rooms priced around €550 and apartments around €1.280.
When it’s time for some relaxation, you can take a walk in one of the many parks or even a boat tour. Don’t miss the 12-day International Film Festival in the winter!
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, as well as the largest, with a population of over 820,000. When you think of the beautiful canals and the stunning architecture that the Dutch are known for, then you’re probably envisioning Amsterdam.
This culturally rich city is a huge promoter of the art scene, and home to some of the country’s most inspiring galleries, including the Van Gogh Museum, the stunning Rembrandts at the Rijksmuseum, and the modern art scene at the Stedelijk. Both Dutch and English are spoken by most.
The cost of living is a bit more expensive than in Rotterdam, and young internationals should budget to spend somewhere between €900 and €1400 for their monthly living expenses, with housing in Amsterdam costing beween €600 for rooms and €1650 for apartments.
And once again, get ready to find a second-hand bike, as in most of the other Dutch cities, cycling is a must!
Berlin, the stunning capital of Germany, is a city full of attractions with a population reaching over 3.5 million. Even though it is filled with large buildings and structures, there’s still plenty of space for parks, rivers and forests, which makes it easy to find a place to relax and take in some nature, even in a busy city.
German, of course, is the official language, but you’ll hear English spoken regularly in the larger districts, especially those with large expat communities.
You’re going to see some scraps of Berlin’s turbulent past, including a few remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall, now covered in paintings and colorful graffiti. Full of wonderful galleries and museums, you’ll see that art is such a big part of Berlin!
The cost of living is fairly low when compared to other capital cities, and you can expect a range between €700 and €1,000 for monthly expenses, including housing costs, which span from €560 for rooms to €1125 for apartments. There is also an affordable semester ticket available for public transportation, including the U-Bahn.
Among the events to keep in mind are the Carnival of Cultures, full of parades, costumes and dances, or the Berlin Marathon which attracts over 30,000 runners every year!
Vienna sits on the banks on the Danube River, so it offers some pretty amazing views, not to mention the stunning architecture. It has a population of 1.8 million, and it can be very busy, even though its size makes it easy to get from one place to another.
With German being the official language, Vienna is mostly known for its art and its stylish lifestyle, with numerous museums, theatres and festivals for just about any interest.
The cost of living is affordable for most expats, ranging monthly between €800 and €1100 per month, including housing in Vienna, from €475 for rooms to €960 for apartment. Public transportation options include annual and semester passes.
The holidays are especially spectacular in Vienna, with the Vienna Ice Dream, a gigantic ice rink that completely takes over Rathausplatz, and the Christmas markets, some dating back over 800 years.
Milan is one of the largest cities in Europe, with 1.3 million people within the city limits and a total of five million including the suburban residents. While you’ll find a variety of historic buildings and monuments, Milan is also an extremely trendy technological hub for finance, fashion, healthcare and the arts.
It’s best to learn a little Italian, because although English is spoken in many of the student areas, it isn’t as common as in German or Dutch-speaking countries. So when you’re looking for the 500-year-old Duomo di Milano or Teatro alla Scala, the famous opera house, knowing how to say “Dove posso trovare…” (where can I find) can come in handy!
In Milan, the cost of living is quite high, with monthly expenses between €1,000 and €1350. Housing in Milan alone costs between €630 for rooms and €1150 for apartments, depending on the location. Fortunately, the public transportation is inexpensive, and you can purchase a monthly pass to get you from one side of this sprawling city to the next.
Milan Fashion Week draws in celebrities from all across the globe, and this is where you’ll see all of the upcoming trends for the new year. The city is full of designer stores and unique boutiques, which makes it the perfect choice for fashion victims!
Florence is home to over 380,000 residents, as well as to the Italian Renaissance. This vibrant city has produced artists like Da Vinci, Dante and Machiavelli, just to name a few.
Italian is the official language, but English and Spanish are also widely spoken in tourist and student areas. However, as with Milan, learning some Italian before your big move isn’t a bad idea at all.
The cost of living is moderate, ranging between €800 and €1100 for most of your monthly expenses. Housing expenses in Florence can vary broadly, but are generally between €440 and €965, with larger spaces ideal for sharing with flatmates. Public transportation costs are affordable, and you’ll be zipping around Florence like a local in no time!
Florence is also a wonderful city to explore, with a number of events and festivals throughout the year. If you can tear yourself away from the impressive art galleries, you’ll probably want to take in the splendor of the annual Carnival and the Florence Dance Festival.
Barcelona is the sparkling capital of the beautiful region of Catalonia, with a population of 1.6 million in the city and about 5 million including the suburban areas.
Barcelona is unique in its mix of both the historic and cosmopolitan, as well as its two primary languages — Spanish and Catalan. With stunning architectural wonders like the unfinished La Sagrada Familia and the warm coastline, you’ll also have plenty to keep you occupied!
The cost of living can be somewhat moderate, and you can budget to spend around €800 to €1,100 on monthly expenses, including housing, where you can find rooms for €500 on average and apartments for €1230. Monthly passes for public transportation are cheap, or you can always cycle!
Barcelona also hosts its share of exciting events, including the Primavera Sound music festival or the Mobile World Congress, which focuses on the latest technologies. And, of course, be prepared to taste some of the most amazing food in the world!
Madrid is yet another viable option in Spain, with a population of over 3 million people in this capital city, and just as many more in the surrounding suburban areas.
Madrid is a city that is just bursting with culture. Filled with museums, galleries and historic buildings, it is also a rising technological hub.
Madrid is located in the center of Spain, and its main language is, of course, Spanish, so you should make an effort to learn a bit before you move. However, you can definitely get by in the student areas by speaking English.
As with Barcelona, the cost of living is moderate in Madrid, and monthly expenses are between €700 and €1,100. In terms of accommodation, you can expect to spend around €525 for a room €1,100 for an apartment on average.
Madrid also has a full calendar of local events, meaning that you’ll have plenty of time to immerse yourself in the local culture even more. Madrid’s Pride celebrations are known to rank among the top in the world, and Noche en Blanco is a cultural event filled with literature and art.
Brussels is the capital city of Belgium, with a population of 1.6 million in its compact parameters. When including its surrounding suburban areas, the population reaches a total of 2.1 million. The official languages are French, Dutch and German, but it’s likely that you’ll hear your fair share of English as well.
Brussels is known for its craft beer, its delicious Belgian fries and the world-renowned chocolate, so if you have a sweet tooth or enjoy a good pint, then this could definitely be the place for you! You can also explore its 100+ museums and marvel at its historic architecture.
The cost of living is average when compared to other European cities, but things like dining out and entertainment are considered somewhat higher. Monthly expenses can usually total between €800 and €1150, including housing costs between €570 for a room and €950 for apartments.
At the end of summer, you can indulge in the Belgian Beer Weekend, where you can sample away to your heart’s desire. The holiday season brings in Winter Wonders, along with a Christmas market and an ice rink.
Helsinki often ranks as one of Europe’s most popular cities, especially in Scandinavia. With its natural beauty and hip cultural scene, there are numerous ways to spend your time in this innovative city. Both Finnish and Swedish are the official languages, but you can also get by with a pinch of English in most tourist areas.
Public transportation can run a bit high, but purchasing a pass makes it more affordable. Many residents opt to cycle when living in Helsinki, or they even travel on foot when it’s feasible.
Helsinki is slightly above average when it comes to the cost of living, and you should budget between €850 and €1200 on monthly expenses, including housing costs which range from €660 for rooms and €1380 for apartments.
Helsinki is big on arts and musical events, with Night of the Arts as a veteran art festival, drawing in attendees from all over Europe. Pop-up events, concerts and even restaurants are also popular throughout Helsinki.
As you begin to narrow down the top spots for your move abroad, finding LGBTQ-friendly locales may be at the top of your list. Even though there are a few countries that still manage to uphold laws against same-sex relationships, the world as a whole is moving toward a more open-minded, tolerant objective, which means that there are countless cities that open their arms wide to young expats of all orientations.
A few of the counties that have particularly large LBGTQ+ communities and want to spread the love include:
One of the most important things that you’ll definitely want to consider is the safety of the city you’ll be relocating to. If crime is a big problem in your neighborhood, it doesn’t matter how cool your new flat is, or how many connections you’ll make at your new internship.
Thankfully, some of the top cities for expats are also some of the safest spots to live in. In fact, the 10 highest ranking include:
Of course, one of the main reasons that you’ve decided to move to a new city abroad is probably that you want to experience a new culture. However, just remember that a little adaptation will probably be in order as you begin your new life. But the faster you begin to acclimate to your new surroundings, the sooner you’ll be feeling like a local. You’ll be giving out directions and even offering recommendations in no time! Here's how to cope with moving to a new country.
Even if you’re super prepared when you make your big move, chances are that you’re going to experience some culture shock. Maybe you’ll need to deal with extreme heat, or unbearable cold, or perhaps you’re trying to get used to cycling everywhere — literally, everywhere. But regardless of the circumstances, there’s going to be that moment where you realize that you are far, far away from home.
But don’t despair, there are ways to survive culture shock and go about your day without missing home 24/7. Start off by learning everything about your new city so that you know what to expect before you even arrive. Join a few Facebook groups and begin to look forward to some of the customs and fun things to do.
Once you arrive, join a real-world community group, such as something in your neighborhood, a sports team at your new job or a student association at the university. Make sure you take some personal items with you from home, or pick up some small souvenirs in your new city, to give your home a personal touch! It won’t be easy, and it won’t be immediate but, sooner or later, you’ll manage to feel at ease in your home-away-from-home.
Perhaps there’s no better way to really jump in feet first than by learning the language of your new home country. While it’s definitely possible to get by speaking English and knowing a few basic phrases, it does tend to make a person feel a little left out when all of the best jokes are told in the native tongue.
You can get by in a handful of European countries by learning German, and speaking Dutch can be a whole lot easier with a few helpful tips to get you started. When it comes to other languages, you might download your favorite app and have fun with some of their learning games that help you get down the most-used phrases and words before you even move.
Moving by yourself to a new city can be a little overwhelming at times, but if you plan on living alone, that can make things even more stressful. Homesickness might be something that you experience at some point, but keep in mind it’s just a phase, and it won’t last for the entire duration of your stay abroad.
The benefits of living with flatmates can be way more advantageous than your need for absolute privacy at all times. You’ll get to share your experiences with your new roommates, and you’ll never feel as if you’re in this new phase of your life alone.
Plus, you’ll get to split all sorts of things you’d probably rather not do alone, such as:
When you first arrive, even if you have a very good relationship with your new roommates or perhaps you already made friends on social media, you’re going to need to think about expanding your network to make the most of your time abroad. Just like you need a support system at home, you’re definitely going to need one when you’re hundreds — maybe thousands — of miles from anything remotely resembling your typical Friday-night crowd.
Try to find accommodation in a social area that’s popular among other expats, where you can make new connections at the local bar or the Saturday morning market. Some really vibrant neighborhoods may occasionally even host block parties or other social events to urge everyone to meet their neighbors.
By now, you are probably well aware that you’re going to have to fill out some forms and provide a few pieces of documentation before you can uproot and move to another country.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to this is not to procrastinate! That’s why it’s best to learn what you’ll need and then prepare everything as soon as possible. You won’t want something silly like a missing stamp or a lost certificate to keep you from living your dream, or arriving late to the party!
Depending on your individual situation, most students or workers will need a residence permit and/or a work permit, or perhaps even a visa. If you’ll be attending a university, sometimes they will apply for your student residence permit on your behalf. It’s best to consult with your university or employer, and they will be able to offer exact information for the type of visa that you will need, should it be a requirement. Most visas last for six months.
If you plan on working or studying in a country for longer than three to four months, then it is very likely that you will need to register with the government agency that handles registration in that particular country.
In the Netherlands, if you’ll be staying for over four months, you’ll need to register at the Municipal Personal Record Database, which is located at the Town Hall. You will need to make an appointment, and it is definitely advisable to do this well in advance of your move to the Netherlands. You will also need to register your Dutch address, so always be sure that it is eligible for a tenant’s registration before you finalize your rental agreements.
In Germany, you must register as soon as you move into your accommodation, but you can buy another two weeks when making your appointment. However, if you are staying temporarily with friends or in a hostel until you find a permanent residency, you will not need to register until you have signed a contract.
The documents that are required for registration may differ slightly from country to country, but most will require a:
When moving abroad, almost all countries will require proof of health insurance. The specifics will vary from place to place, but a lot of the particulars are based on your country of origin.
When you’re relocating to the Netherlands or Germany, if you’re a student and you’re from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, and you have your own health insurance or coverage from your own home country, you can continue to use the European Health Insurance Card that covers your basic medical costs in the Netherlands.
If you are working in the Netherlands or Germany, you will be required to sign up for the public healthcare system, which will typically run about €90 each month.
You may also opt for private coverage, which will be considerably more. Additionally, you can also opt to purchase supplements that will cover more than basic health coverage costs.
You may already have an idea of a monthly budget for your time abroad; if not, then it’s time to start crunching those numbers! With the right budget, you can even live in more expensive cities, such as Dublin.
One of the absolute worst things to happen when you’re living away from home is to run out of money. No one ever wants to make “that” call back home! Therefore, it’s best to know what you’ll be spending and the funds that you’ll have to cover those expenses.
Your monthly living expenses make up the majority of your budget, but you should also keep in mind all those impulse buys that are sure to happen when you’re shopping at your favourite Christmas market.
It’s possible that your sole reason for moving abroad is for employment, so you may already have this covered! However, if you’re relocating to attend a university or take on an unpaid internship, then there are quite a few ways you can earn money while studying abroad.
Some of these include:
As you are making the preparations for moving to a new city, keep in mind that this adventure may kickstart your career, lead to educational benefits and expose you to new cultures and places that will inspire you for the rest of your life. Good luck as you set out on this exciting experience!