Guide to moving abroad: 10 things to do before you leave

Going to live in another country, whether it’s for a year off from school or to study in a different place, is super cool and full of adventure. But, it’s not something you can just decide to do one day and hop on a plane the next. It takes some serious planning and thinking ahead. Whether you’re going abroad to learn a new language, work in a different culture, or study at a foreign university, getting ready and thinking about what challenges you might run into while you’re away is important!

Imagine you want to go to another country to study for a year. You’re excited about all the new experiences you’ll have, like meeting new people, trying different foods, and exploring cool places. But, before you go, there are things you need to think about and prepare for.

1. Research your destination

Are you unsure about where you want to travel to? Delve into the vast sea of information available online to learn all about your upcoming destination. Look into its culture, the people who live there, the delicious food you can try, exciting cities to explore, breathtaking natural sights, and, of course, the language spoken there. 

If you don’t already speak the language, consider signing up for an introductory course before you go. For instance, you can sign up for an online language tutor or use language apps to get started. This way, when you arrive, you’ll have some basic understanding to help you communicate and navigate your new surroundings. As you spend time immersing yourself in the local culture, your language skills will improve even more. But having that initial preparation will boost your confidence during those first few days in a new place.

2. Understand Your Visa Choices

Before you move to a new country, it’s crucial to know about the different types of visas available to you. A visa is like a permission slip from the government of the country you’re visiting, allowing you to stay there legally for a certain period.

Let’s break it down:

  • Tourist Visa

This visa is for people who are visiting a country for leisure or vacation purposes. If you’re planning to explore famous landmarks, relax on beaches, or experience the local culture without working or studying, a tourist visa might be suitable for you. For example, if you’re going to France to visit the Eiffel Tower or Italy to taste authentic pizza, you’d likely need a tourist visa.

  • Study or Work Visa

If you’re planning to study at a university or work in a foreign country, you’ll need a visa that permits you to do so legally. For instance, if you’re accepted into a university in Canada or have a job offer in Australia, you’ll need a study or work visa, respectively. These visas typically have specific requirements and may involve documentation from the educational institution or employer.

Once you’ve chosen the right visa for your situation, it’s essential to understand the process for renewing it:

Renewal Process: Find out whether you can renew your visa while staying in the country, if you need to return to your home country for renewal, or if you can temporarily leave the country and renew your visa upon re-entry. Knowing this information in advance can prevent last-minute disruptions to your plans.

For instance, if you’re studying in the United States on a student visa and your program extends beyond the expiration date of your current visa, you’ll need to apply for a visa extension within the U.S. Otherwise, you risk falling out of legal status and encountering difficulties later on.

Understanding your visa options and renewal process ensures a smoother transition to your new home and helps you avoid unexpected complications along the way.

3. Save as much money as you can

  1. Visa Costs: Moving to another country often involves getting a visa, which can be expensive. You might need to pay for the initial visa application, as well as any fees associated with renewing it. Sometimes, you might also need to factor in the cost of traveling to a consulate or embassy for visa interviews or appointments.
  2. Passport Renewal: Make sure your passport has enough validity before you move. Some countries require your passport to be valid for up to 12 months from your intended departure date. Renewing your passport can be pricey, so it’s wise to budget for this expense.
  3. Flight Tickets: Booking flights to your new destination can be one of the biggest upfront costs. Depending on your situation, you might need a one-way ticket or a round-trip ticket if you plan to return eventually. Flight prices can vary greatly depending on factors like the time of booking and the destination.
  4. Vaccinations and Health Checks: Before moving abroad, you may need to get vaccinated against certain diseases or undergo health screenings. Vaccinations and medical exams can incur costs, so it’s important to budget for these expenses.
  5. Prescription Medications: If you rely on prescription medications, it’s a good idea to ensure you have an ample supply before you move. Depending on your destination, accessing the same medications may be challenging or expensive. Budgeting for prescription refills can help you avoid running out of essential medications.
  6. Rent and Upfront Deposit: Securing accommodation in your new country often requires paying rent and a security deposit upfront. The cost of rent and deposits can vary depending on factors such as location, property type, and local rental market conditions.
  7. Furniture and Household Items: If you’re moving to a new home unfurnished, you’ll need to budget for essential household items like furniture, kitchen appliances, and bedding. Consider whether you’ll buy new items or opt for second-hand options to save money.
  8. Living Expenses: Even if you’re not working immediately upon arrival, you’ll still need money to cover your living expenses until you find employment. Budget for essentials like food, transportation, utilities, and other daily necessities.

Saving money before moving abroad can help alleviate financial stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new life overseas. By planning ahead and budgeting for these various costs, you can set yourself up for success in your new adventure.

4. Leave a paper trail

  1. Personal Documents: Gather important personal documents like your birth certificate and passport. These documents are crucial for identification and legal purposes in your new country. Make both paper and digital copies of these documents to ensure you have backups in case of loss or theft.
  2. Health Documents: Collect health-related documents such as medical history, vaccination records, and any prescriptions you may need. These documents are essential for accessing healthcare services and obtaining medication in your new country. Like your personal documents, make sure to keep both physical and digital copies of your health records.
  3. Degree Certificates: If you have academic degrees or certifications, keep copies of these documents handy. They may be required for job applications, further education, or professional accreditation in your new country. Ensure that both physical and digital copies are accessible in case you need to provide proof of your qualifications.
  4. Cloud Storage: Upload all your important documents to a secure cloud storage service. This ensures that you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. Popular cloud storage options include Google Drive, Dropbox, or iCloud. By storing your documents in the cloud, you can easily retrieve them if your physical copies are lost or damaged.
  5. Share Copies: Give copies of your documents to a trusted friend or family member. This provides an additional layer of security in case you lose access to your own copies. Choose someone reliable who can assist you in case of an emergency or if you need to retrieve your documents remotely.

Having a comprehensive paper trail of your important documents is essential for a smooth transition to a new country. By keeping both physical and digital copies, storing them securely on the cloud, and sharing copies with a trusted contact, you can ensure that you’re prepared for any situation that may arise during your international journey.

5. Get health checks

  1. Dental Check-up: Before you move, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist for a check-up. They can ensure your teeth and gums are healthy and address any issues before you embark on your journey. This way, you can start your new life with a clean bill of dental health.
  2. General Practitioner Visit: Make an appointment with your regular doctor for a general health check-up. They can review your overall health and address any concerns you may have. It’s important to start your new adventure feeling physically well and knowing that any health issues are being managed appropriately.
  3. Specialist Consultations: If you regularly see other healthcare professionals such as a chiropractor, eye doctor, or dermatologist, consider scheduling appointments with them as well. These specialists can address specific health needs or concerns you may have before you move.

By getting these health check-ups before you leave, you can ensure that you’re in good health and address any medical issues proactively. Starting your journey with a clean bill of health will give you peace of mind and help you make a smooth transition to your new environment.

6. Tie up loose ends

  1. Cancel Subscriptions: Contact your phone company, gym, and any other service providers to cancel your subscriptions. It’s best to do this well in advance to avoid unnecessary charges after you’ve left. Make sure to inquire about any cancellation fees or processes.
  2. Notify Your Bank: Inform your bank about your plans to move abroad. Cancel any direct deposits or automatic payments you may have set up. Also, familiarize yourself with any fees or charges that may apply to your debit while using them overseas.
  3. Redirect Mail: Arrange to have your mail redirected to a trusted friend or family member’s address. This ensures that you don’t miss any important correspondence while you’re away. You can set up mail forwarding services through your local postal service.
  4. Belongings: Determine which belongings you’ll take with you and which ones you’ll sell, donate, or store. Consider the practicality and cost of shipping items overseas versus replacing them later. Downsizing your belongings can make your move more manageable and save you money on transportation costs.
  5. Housing Arrangements: If you rent your home, make arrangements to give up your lease or sublet your apartment while you’re away. This is important to avoid unexpected bills for utilities or rent payments after you’ve left. Make sure to notify your landlord or property manager according to the terms of your lease agreement.

By tying up these loose ends before you leave, you can ensure a smoother transition to your new life abroad. Taking care of these practicalities in advance will help minimize stress and avoid any financial surprises while you’re away.

7. Cultivate your emotional health

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: As your departure date approaches, it’s normal to experience a mix of emotions such as excitement, stress, confidence, and worry. Recognize that these feelings are part of the process of moving abroad and that it’s okay to feel them.
  2. Stay Connected: Make an effort to spend time with friends and loved ones before you leave. Surrounding yourself with familiar faces and revisiting your favorite places in your city can provide comfort and support during this transitional period.
  3. Engage in Self-Care Activities: Take time for yourself to engage in activities that promote emotional well-being. This could include writing, reading, meditation, or simply taking quiet moments to reflect on your upcoming journey. These activities can help you process your emotions and mentally prepare for the changes ahead.
  4. Consider a Going Away Party: If you feel it would benefit you, consider throwing a going away party to celebrate your upcoming adventure with friends and loved ones. Alternatively, if you prefer smaller gatherings, you can opt for intimate gatherings with select groups of friends. Choose the option that feels right for you and helps you feel emotionally ready for your move.

By cultivating your emotional health and taking steps to care for yourself during this time of transition, you can better prepare yourself for the changes and challenges of moving abroad. Remember to be gentle with yourself and to reach out for support if you need it.

8. Make new connections

  1. Seek Guidance from Others: Keep in mind that many people have gone through similar experiences before you. Reach out to friends of friends who have lived or are currently living in your chosen country. They can offer valuable insights and advice based on their own experiences.
  2. Join Expat Communities on Social Media: Look for groups on social media platforms specifically designed for expats living in your destination country. These communities are great places to connect with others who are going through or have gone through the same transition. You can ask questions, share concerns, and gather useful tips and recommendations from fellow expats.
  3. Tap into Local Knowledge: Expats in these online communities can provide valuable information about various aspects of life in your new country. They can recommend great neighborhoods to live in, share their experiences with local employers, offer tips on navigating healthcare systems, and provide insights into dealing with culture shock and other challenges that may arise.

By making new connections with expats who have already established themselves in your chosen country, you can gain valuable insights and support as you embark on your own journey. These connections can help ease your transition and provide you with a sense of community in your new home.

9. Scout out your neighborhood

  1. Explore Your Surroundings: Once you’ve settled into your new home, take some time to explore your neighborhood thoroughly. Besides the obvious essentials like supermarkets, pharmacies, and parks, many local gems are waiting to be discovered.
  2. Local Businesses: Look out for quaint local businesses such as bakeries, cheese shops, tailor shops, sweet shops, and cafes. These places often have unique offerings and are run by interesting characters who add charm to the neighborhood.
  3. Artisanal Finds: Keep an eye out for artisanal shops that specialize in handmade goods or unique crafts. You might stumble upon a second-hand store with hidden treasures or a boutique selling locally-made products.
  4. Community Interaction: Visiting these local establishments not only helps you integrate into the community but also provides opportunities to practice your new language and engage with locals. Spending time people-watching and chatting with shop owners can lead to memorable experiences and new friendships.

By scouting out your neighborhood and exploring its local offerings, you’ll not only find convenience but also uncover hidden gems and create fond memories of your new home.

10. Have a goal in mind

Before embarking on your journey abroad, it’s crucial to define clear goals to guide your experience. Consider what you truly want to achieve during your time away from home, whether it’s exploring new cultures, mastering a language, advancing your career, volunteering, reconnecting with your heritage, pursuing education, or gaining life experience. Regularly revisit and reassess these goals while you’re abroad to ensure you’re staying focused and making the most of your time. 

By staying true to your purpose and making decisions aligned with your aspirations, you’ll feel more satisfied and proud of your accomplishments when it’s time to return home. Celebrate your achievements and the memories you’ve created, knowing that your preparation and determination have led to a fulfilling overseas experience that will be remembered for a lifetime.


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