If you are moving abroad soon to start your studies, you surely have your brain full of things to take care of right now. Besides applying for your student visa and booking your flights, there is a host of other smaller but essential things you must remember to do before it is time for take-off. Here’s our checklist.
- Get travel insurance
You may have bought a health insurance plan from your new university, but this insurance usually doesn’t kick in until the first day of school. Thus you may need to get additional short-term travel insurance that covers you from the time you leave home until the day you start your studies, whether that’s at the Canadian University Dubai, the London Metropolitan University or the University of Chicago. Visitorscoverage.com and Insubuy.com are some of the cheapest options out there: basic 5-day travel insurance policies start at around Rs 300.
You can also take out an insurance plan for the whole 4-month semester for around Rs 6700, which is likely to be cheaper than what your university offers. Other popular travel insurance sites are WorldNomads.com and TravelGuard.com. If you are worried about a family member or yourself getting sick before your flight, make sure your travel insurance includes pre-trip cancellation, trip interruption, and travel delay coverage. This way you can easily reschedule your flight if need be.
- Protect your gear
If you will be moving abroad with lots of valuables, such as a nice laptop and an expensive smartphone, it’s a good idea to buy insurance that covers your belongings. You can check out rates for combined travel and baggage insurance from Policybazaar.com – they start at Rs 1,100 for five days of travel to the US and just Rs 550 for the UAE.
If you will be renting a private apartment in your new university town, consider taking out a renter’s insurance policy, also known as tenant’s liability coverage. These plans can cost as little as Rs 500 per month and will protect you in case of theft, vandalism or a house fire. If you will be living in the dorms in the US, check out dorm insurance from companies like Collegestudentinsurance.com and Nssi.com. Plans start at Rs 22 per day.
- Share your travel plans with your parents
Email your flight confirmation details to your parents so that they know where you are supposed to be at any given time after your departure. If your transit plans include an overnight stay somewhere, share the hotel details with your family. Explain how you will get from the airport to your university town and onto your accommodation. Email a photocopy of your passport and student visa to your parents so that they can keep them as a backup, should you ever lose your original documents. This shows your mother and father that you are well prepared, mature and ready to embark on this exciting journey ahead.
- Leave all kinds of contact info to your family
Before you fly off, make sure to give all possible contact details to your parents to ease their worries. Write down your university’s general phone number and the number of your international student advisor. Share your future roommates’ full names, phone numbers and email addresses with your folks. Write down your university’s website’s address and the address of its Facebook page. This way your parents can rest assured that even if there comes a time that they cannot get a hold of you directly, they can get in touch with people close to you. Give them also the contact details of your closest Indian embassy or consulate just in case of an emergency.
- Get your family up to speed with technology
If your parents and siblings are not terribly tech-savvy, help them get acquainted with programs like WhatsApp, Skype and FaceTime well in advance of your departure. If you will be updating your Facebook or Instagram from abroad, have your parents follow your account. This way you won’t need to send everyone separate updates all the time – they can keep up with your general whereabouts by following your feed. You might even want to start a travel blog for family and friends to follow.
- Set up frequent flier accounts
Once you become an international student, you will undoubtedly be flying more than ever before in your life. At the very minimum, you will surely do one round trip per year between your home country and your study abroad destination. Therefore it’s smart to sign up with a frequent flier program as early as possible. While it generally makes sense to sign up with the airline that you fly the most with, there are exceptions to the rule. One is that American frequent flier programs tend to be more generous than those of airlines based outside of the US: you need to have fewer miles to score free flights, and you pay lower taxes on awards.
This means that instead of joining Air India’s program Flying Returns, it might make more sense to join United Airlines’ MileagePlus. Both are part of Star Alliance, so you can bank your Air India points onto your MileagePlus account. Alternatively, you can look at your flight booking details and your booking class, and check which airline program gives you the most points through using Wheretocredit.com.
- Verify your vaccinations
Most universities want to see proof that you have had all of your vaccinations before they allow you to start your classes. Make sure to check with your school to see what their individual policy is regarding this. In the US most institutions require you to have had shots of measles, mumps, rubella varicella, hepatitis B, and tetanus. Some schools also suggest getting vaccinated against meningitis, hepatitis A, and pneumonia. Either way, make an appointment with your doctor and get a statement of your vaccinations to take with you to the US.
- Get an international driving permit
If you have a driving license from India and you want to drive in your study abroad destination, you might want to get yourself an international driving permit (IDP). In some countries, it’s not a requirement (like in the UK and the US), but in others, it is mandatory (like the UAE). In India, the IDP’s are issued by the Regional Transport Offices (RTO) and some authorized automobile associations, and since this January they cost Rs 1000. The old fee was Rs 500. It can take up to a week to receive your IDP, so don’t leave this until the last moment.
- Figure out your banking business
Before you leave home, make sure to contact your bank to let them know that you will be studying overseas for a while. This way the bank won’t suspect fraud when your debit card is suddenly used in another country. You should also set up your online banking so that you can take care of your financial matters from afar. Additionally, you need to sign up with an online currency transfer service so that you can easily move money from your Indian account to your future foreign account. Some of the cheapest transfer services include Transferwise.com and Ofx.com. Via sites like these, you can get way better rates than by doing a direct bank-to-bank transfer.
- Take care of your online life
First off, get an international adaptor for your electronics so that you can charge your laptop as soon as you arrive at your destination. Secondly, you should temporarily turn off any two-factor authentications you might be using on your email accounts, social media, and your online banking. This means that you can log into your accounts just with your regular password and you won’t need to get an additional verification code sent to your phone via text message every time you use a new wifi connection. While using these verification codes keeps your accounts more secure, it can also lock you out if your cell phone refuses to work outside of your home country. Once you have gotten settled into your new city and have a local phone number, you can turn the two-step verifications back on.
If you follow these tips, you are super well prepared for your studies. Off you go onto new adventures!
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Written By: Mirva Lempiäinen