Getting Organized for Your First Move Abroad


Updated on Sep 03 • 8 minute read

Your very first move anywhere can be stressful, but when you’re moving abroad, there are a number of additional things to take into consideration. Whether your plan is to take an internship or you have an exciting new job offer, being an expat will be an adventure that you’ll always remember!

As with anything, it’s always best to know before you go, and have a full list of tips for moving abroad before your big move. After all, you’ll need to find accommodation, learn about the language, know what to pack and decide how you’re going to get there, along with a variety of other essentials.

This moving abroad checklist will provide you with all of this necessary information, along with some ideas to make you feel like a local in no time.

Apply for an internship or work placement

The first thing you’ll need to do is begin filling out those applications, whether for an internship or for open employment opportunities.

Once you decide on the type of employment that you’re after, there are numerous ways to begin your search, including:

  • Online job sites
  • Employment agencies
  • University recommendations
  • Referrals from current employees

Be sure that you have an updated resume, and tailor it for each specific employer.


The application process can vary from one type to another, often depending on if the internship is paid. Therefore, always check to ensure that you are up to date on all of the requirements. Even though you may have your heart set on a particular placement, it’s best to apply to at least three to avoid disappointment.

It also doesn’t hurt to check with your school or university, as a good portion of internship recommendations begin there.


Freelancing opportunities are plentiful these days, and they’re all the rage, especially with platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. With most of these positions, you can work anywhere in the world, as long as you have a laptop and a good Wi-Fi connection.

This has also spawned the age of the digital nomad. Young people from all walks of life are packing up and traveling the world, all while earning a steady paycheck at the same time. This gives them the freedom to live in places they have only dreamed of visiting, much less relocating to, and they can also choose budget-friendly destinations to spend less on expense. Some move every few months, from Florence for a while, and then off to Madrid!


Perhaps you have finished your time at the university and have decided that you’d like the opportunity to establish your professional career abroad. Many young professionals opt to work with an agency to secure a position, while others search on online platforms for international openings, like Indeed or Monster. It can also be very important to have a good LinkedIn presence.

When to start: This is your first step to becoming an expat, so this will kickstart all that follows. Allow at least one to three months, or longer, to search for suitable employment, internships and freelancing opportunities.

Get your documents ready

Ensuring that you have the necessary documents is imperative. Few things can be worse than being in a strange country and realizing that you don’t have the documentation that you’ll need to open a bank account, sign your lease or set up phone service.

Some of these documents include your:

  • Passport
  • Visa information
  • Birth certificate
  • Medical records, indlucing immunizations
  • Insurance information
  • Travel records
  • Proof of inocome, if applicable
  • Letters of reccommendation

When to start: Begin gathering these documents as soon as you’ve made the final decision of where you’ll be moving abroad, and check with your university or online checklists to be sure you’re prepared. If you’ve lost your birth certificate, passport or other important documents, it may take some time to get a replacement, so don’t procrastinate! In fact, make sure to create both hard and digital copies of your documents before you move.

Learn about the locals


It’s always best to learn about the culture of the people that you’ll be living with, so as to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. Many things are not always taken the same way in every country. For example, while in some areas it may be considered rude not to greet strangers as you pass by, some might consider it presumptuous to strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know.

To begin to acclimate before you even arrive, join a few Facebook groups and learn everything you can about the local population. HousingAnywhere even offer guides that provide in-depth information on a number of destinations and the people that live there.


The good news is that, if you speak English, some countries have universities with courses taught in English, and it’s also a common language to hear spoken in the workplace. Or, chances are that you may be moving to a country where you already speak the same language.

If this isn’t the case, it never hurts to learn a few phrases to get you through. Think along the lines of how to ask for directions, a good restaurant or the nearest bank. There are so many apps available to help learn a language these days, like Memrise, Duolingo and HelloTalk. So, download a few and pick your favorite.

When to start: Once you choose your location, start right away! Rather than scroll through social media in your downtime, work on learning the language.

Look for Accommodation

While searching for housing in a big city like Barcelona or a more compact option like Brussels, there will be a few differences. However, there are some tips that can apply to any city in the world.

Set your budget

There’s no use looking at apartments that are out of your price range, so be sure to decide what you can spend. Don’t forget to factor in paying utilities and buying furniture.

Learn where to search

Not everyone knows where and how to begin searching for housing. You can always contact the university if you’re going to be studying there to see if they offer any options, but this can often put you on a waiting list, with no control over who your roommates will be. You can also check with Facebook groups.

Many expats opt to work with an agency, but this can be expensive. So, one of the best options is a trusted housing platform, where you can search for accommodation and avoid scams by dealing with verified landlords.

When to start: Begin looking at least three months before you move abroad. In many cities, housing can be hard to come by, so begin your search as soon as possible to secure your place and move with peace of mind.

Check Your Travel Options

Depending on where you’ll be moving abroad, there may be several different modes of transportation that will work for you. If you’re going to be traveling to a nearby country, friends or family may be able to drive you. Buses and trains can also be inexpensive options, especially if there’s a sale. Before you make a purchase, always search the internet to see if there are any discount or promo codes that you can use.

Sometimes there is no other alternative than to book a flight. Be sure to look at discount airlines, and always check other nearby airports to see if you can save money.

Additionally, if you can’t move your things yourself, you can look at platforms like Eurosender, that can send everything in advance (make sure to use the code STASHER10 for an extra 10% discount!). One less item off your to-do list can never hurt!

When to start: With most travel options, it helps to book as far in advance as possible. Regarding airline tickets specifically, avoid last-minute purchases less than two weeks out, as this is the most expensive time to buy.

Decide What to Pack

Once you get to your final destination, you’ll want to be sure that you have everything that you’ll need for your stay. As we’ve stressed several times, being prepared is one of the most important things to keep in mind whenever you’re relocating. Having a checklist for your packing can be a lifesaver!


Of course, what you’ll need will depend a lot on the climate. If the weather is mostly warm, be sure to pack shorts, t-shirts and other clothing made of lightweight fabrics. Also, bring a light jacket or two for cool nights or sitting in a cold-temperature classroom or office. You may also want to pack a pair of sturdy shoes if you’d like to get out and experience your surroundings, and perhaps do a little hiking or climbing.

For cooler climates, you’ll want to be particular with your choices, and bring warm clothing, but not necessarily anything too bulky that will take up a lot of room in your suitcases. Even though they will take up space, be sure to pack a pair of boots, especially if you’ll be in a locale that gets snow, such as Vienna or Berlin.

It gets a little trickier when you’ll be staying through more than one season, and will have to basically pack for two different climates. Think about clothing options that can be layered, so that you can re-use pieces in multiple ways, depending on the weather. And above all else, don’t forget to toss an umbrella into your suitcase, especially if you’re headed to Rotterdam!


This will include things that you use on a daily basis, such as your favorite perfume and other toiletries, as well as basics like nail clippers, a hair dryer, a sewing kit, etc. However, be choosy when deciding which things you prefer in a particular brand, and which items you can purchase once you arrive.

And don’t forget your reusable water bottle. You may be walking or biking as your preferred methods of transportation, so it’s best to stay hydrated and think about the environment while you’re doing it!


If there are any prescription medications that you take on a regular basis, speak to your doctor before you leave and see how many months out you can fill your medicine. This may be cheaper in your home country, but if there are medications that you’ll need to have filled on a monthly basis, you can still make those arrangements once you are settled in and see a physician. Also, be sure to pack any over-the-counter medications that you typically use, as that they could be slightly different in other countries, and always ensure that your medications are legal in the country where you’re moving.


Not only will you need to bring your favorite electronics, such as your tablet and laptop, but you’ll need all of your accessories. Be sure to protect your smartphone by bringing a durable, shockproof case. You’ll also need a charger and maybe even a backup, as well as your favorite earphones.

Additionally, you may need adapters for your plugs, so check to see exactly what you’ll need before you go, as it may be less expensive to order from home.


By now, you may be wondering how in the world to fit everything in your bags, especially if you’re going to be flying and worrying about weight limits. Here are just a few tips:

-Roll your clothing. Not only does it save space, but it helps prevent wrinkles. -Place heavier objects in your carry-on. While checked baggage is weighed, carry-ons usually only need to be a certain size. -Wear bulky items in layers. This way they stay out of your luggage, and you can remove them if necessary. -Pack items in your shoes. You’ll quickly find that your shoes can be great packages for smaller items. -Use the time-tried method. In other words, if you haven’t used it in six months, chances are you don’t need to pack it.

When to start: It’s never too early to think about the things you’ll need to pack, so start getting everything ready at least a week before your departure.

With these tips in mind, you have the perfect checklist for your move abroad. You just need to remember to:

  • Apply early for your internships or employment opportunities.
  • Have all of your documents ready to go, allowing ample time for replacements.
  • Learn everything you can about the locals, including the language and culture.
  • Look for housing with plenty of time to avoid disappointment.
  • Decide the best method of travel, whether it be plane, train, bus or car.
  • Make a list of what you’ll need to pack, and begin setting items aside.

Now that you are armed with these helpful tips for moving abroad, you can begin to look forward to your time as an expat. Whether you’re traveling to Helsinki for your dream job, or you’re going to intern abroad in Milan for a semester, you will rest easier knowing that you’re prepared.

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