Hey. Are you about to move to a new country or city? Maybe you want to study in abroad for four years, maybe you just want to do an exchange for a semester. Well, regardless of where you are going, hopefully at some point in your life you’ll have the chance to move to a new place away from home and thus may want to take into consideration some of the following tips.
1. Start your visa application early. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. If you do need a visa apply for it as soon as you get your letter of acceptance. Seriously, go celebrate you getting into college at an embassy. The process for getting a visa, particularily a student visa can be quite long and nerve wracking so make sure to get a head start. Even though many countries won’t allow you to apply too far ahead of your travels, the wait between the moment you ask for an appointment and the day you acutually show up at the consulate can be of several months, specially if you are applying during the summer when everybody else is travelling, ex: I applied in May and got an appointment for the end of July when getting my frech visa. Applying for a student visa is different for each country you are applying to and the country you are coming from. But the process almost always includes a plethora of hoops such as providing an extensive list of various forms which are not always clear or easy to fill, requirements such as proof of knowledge of language or medical exams and different types of financial statements, all of which may need to be translated and photocopied. It’s imperative that you follow everything down to a T and make sure you have all your documents when you show up to your appointment. Also, I’ve seen that they generally dislike staples at consulates and the like, so I recomend you gather everything with paper clips so you don’t have to frantically sacrifice your nails while the immigrations person looks on.
The processing times can vary and although some people can get their visa in a month, others (i.e. me) may receive theirs two and a half months later. Again, you want to start this process as soon as possible, because believe me, you do not want to be all excited about traveling and have all your hopes and dreams come crashing down (as well as miss the first few weeks of activities or class) when you don’t get your passport on time.
2. Do your research. My thought process when packing to move to Toronto was the following Canada= Winter = Very Cold, thus bring warm clothes. So what did I pack? 4 pairs of boots, 10 coats or jackets, 3 sweaters, long-sleeved shirts, and a single pair of shorts. And lo and behold, during the first 3 weeks the temperature remained at a toasty 32 degrees celsius, but I had a single pair of shorts and boots. Was I in danger of dying of heat stroke? Yes I was. Did I wear the same clothes for 5 days strait without washing? Maybe. Was I happy about it? Not so much. Same goes for place of residence, phone services, and if you need it, bank accounts. Often there are phone providers that are better than others and offer better deals to students, so make sure to look them all up to see which one suits you best.
3. Pack light but smart . In this case less is always, always so much more. Let me tell you something about dorm space that will hopefully not surprise you, it is limited. You do not want to struggle with opening your door because the fridge you bought is too big and won’t let you pass. If you are coming from a country with a different climate it’s a good idea to wait until you get to school to buy clothes, not only because fashions and styles differ and this might help you fit in (if that’s what you want) but also because most places south of Vermont won’t sell a coat that can withstand a Canadian Winter. Same goes for pillows, comforters, books (a kindle or e-reader is worth 3 thousand novels), and others. If you are one of those people that love being surrounded by their favourite stuff and decorating their rooms, think hard about what you really need with you and if you’re willing to lug it around for the next four years. When summer comes around you likely won’t have anywhere to put all of your stuff anyways (if you go back home) and you’ll likely be moving out on your own, so take only essentials and maybe wait until you have settled into your new living quarters to decide if you are missing anything. I think you’ll find that between textbooks, kitchen wear, knick knacks, gifts and whatnot you will end up accumulating a lot of new stuff throughout the year anyways. So maybe leave the globe of the world and your complete set of A la recherche du temps perdu at home.
4. Residence, phone, bank account Like I said before, it’s a good idea to research these ahead of time because they are most likely the first things you need to settle in a new country. Particularily finding a place to live ahead of time can be a great weight lifted off your shoulders during the first weeks of school, not only because you have a place to go when you get off the plane, but also because it can be hard to find a good place if you don’t know the city and as the the start of classes get closer with many other students also moving back. This is when you may want to look into living in university residence for your first year. Glendon for instance walks you through the entire process of applying for residence and assures you a room if you apply by a certain date thus aliviating you from the stress of being homeless come September. It is also a great way to meet new people, take part in more activities and elude many of the annoying “grown-up responsabilities” for a little longer, as you likely don’t have to clean bathrooms or cook. Finding a place to live before you arrive in the country can likewise greatly aid the aforementioned visa application as you will be asked multiple times for your place of residence.
5. Ask This is one is pretty simple and relates to #2,talking with people who actually live where you are planning to move is a great way to get acquainted with a new place. Locals have all the best inside tips on anything from best way to move around the city, to great places to go eat or things you must try, and advice on how to stop frostbite. It is also a good way to meet new people!
Protip: taking pictures or personal memorabilia with you may contradict tip #2 (although an iPad travels way better than a photo album) but are great things to show friends and help battle homesickness.