Written by: Hiba and Masah
It's that time of the year again when high school graduates go abroad to live out their dreams and pursue their higher education by going to university. If you're one of these students, how would you feel? Would you have crippling anxiety? Exhilarating excitement? Are you confused about taking your next step? We've come up with some things you must take into consideration before getting on to the plane and heading towards your academic destination for the next few years!
Family first! Even though travel might seem freeing, missing your family can become an extremely difficult feeling to cope with. Try to arrange a specific schedule to call them on a regular basis, whether it’s via Skype, Viber, or a phone call. Another way to stay connected is by having a WhatsApp group with all of your loved ones. Make sure the apps you are using work in the country you go to. (FYI: Viber/Whatsapp calling doesn’t work in the UAE!)
2. Lifestyle Changes
It’s difficult to learn how to adapt to different cultures when studying abroad. Learn some basic information about the country’s religion(s), culture, history, and politics beforehand. This can help with navigating through the city and the country you're in. Traveling to an Arab country is much easier as traditions and cultures are more similar to Qatar’s. Some ways to learn about the country you're going to be living in are by taking university classes that are somehow related to the local culture, browsing online, or getting to know your host family (if you'll be staying with one).
3. Language Barriers
While we all know words like ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Gracias’, we won’t be able to get by living in a foreign country without learning its language’s basics. Pick up on how to greet people, or ask necessary questions (Where is the bathroom? Where is the closest bus stop?) It would also be helpful to carry a small dictionary in your bag. Most importantly, learn how to ask for directions to your university and dorm, or apartment, building in case you ever get lost.
A lot of us love the idea of getting a car and driving with the wind whipping through our hair. But it's not always that easy. Buying a car might be a problem cost-wise, especially while paying university tuition fees. Also, depending on the city, a car may not be the most practical option. If you’re traveling to a very congested city, such as New York or London, then a car isn’t the best option. Luckily, a lot of these types of cities have a functional subway or bus service. Get a map of the local public transportations and learn the routes from your apartment to your hangouts. Walking is also almost always one of the best options in terms of health and efficiency, particularly since the weather might actually be bearable in contrast to Doha's furnace.
5. Money Management
It might be easy to say that you’re fairly well-off in terms of money at the beginning of your journey, but it’s funny (and scary) just how easy and quick it is to reach the end of your budget. Be practical with your spendings, especially when it comes to buying groceries and household items, because that’s where the majority of your expenditure will go. Live by a weekly budget and try to separate needs from wants. Don't go and blow all your money on unnecessary things, like going out to eat everyday or binge-shopping. Learn to cook at home.
In order to easily tackle emergencies, you will need to prepare an accessible list of important emergency numbers. Also, make sure you have copies of all official documents with you at all times, such as passport, identification, etc. As for medical emergencies, make sure you bring with you all the necessary prescription medications you need. Finally, and most obviously, make sure you know your own number and address.
While you may experience an initial panic when moving abroad, choosing to study outside Qatar, even if it's for one semester only, may be one of the most beautiful experiences for you as a student. Good luck on your journey!
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