Before committing to three years or more at university, many international students, understandably, are very keen to visit the country they wish to study in before they apply. Doing so presents an opportunity to get to know what the country and culture is like, and is a great way to soak up information about a location and generally start to feel comfortable there. There are a few problems, though. Firstly, visiting another country can be very expensive. Secondly, your experiences on a mini-holiday are no guarantee of how the country will feel throughout the year and your initial enthusiasm might cloud your judgement.
In our opinion, if you have the opportunity to do so then it’s generally a very good idea to visit your planned destination before you start studying there. If you are going to study abroad then there is a lot you will need to learn about your new surroundings, but being thrown into a place that you haven’t even visited before for three years can be very daunting, and it would be nice to get at least some idea of what a place is like before you visit. You can’t judge a place on a weekend; though it is a great way to start.
Many of our readers however, simply cannot afford to visit a location in somewhere like the UK or the US for a week just to check it out. Costs in the major study destinations such as these can quickly add up, flights and hotels and food are much more expensive there than they are elsewhere around the world, and if you haven’t started a course yet, then there are no student loans or grants to help with these costs. Fortunately, in this day and age you don’t necessarily need to visit a place to get to know it a little better – modern technology is a wonderful thing.
Looking at news reports, YouTube videos, adverts, and any other local bits and pieces about a city or university before you go might seem a little aimless, but doing so will give you a great idea about what to expect before you visit a certain place, and is certainly an excellent start if you don’t have the resources to visit a place in person. This won’t match the first hand experience you would get from physically visiting somewhere, but it’s not a bad substitute and is certainly a lot cheaper – about the same price as your internet bill.
There is also a strong chance that your chosen university will have a virtual tour available for you to have a look through, and will certainly have a large amount literature that you can easily obtain to learn more. Additionally, universities often have international departments that are geared up to provide support to their international students and there may be the option to talk to a member of staff on the phone or on Skype with your queries.
Attending university abroad from an international student’s perspective can seem scary, but more you do to learn about your new location, the more comfortable you’ll feel about the whole experience. Whether you have the opportunity to visit before you apply for your course or not, try to get to know the place one way or another. Arming yourself with tips on how to deal with homesickness and culture shock can do a lot to help your transition.
Read our recent article about the variety of sources of information that are available to you when you want to find out more about a particular university or college.
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