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Want to Study Abroad? Here’s How You Can Prepare Yourself

Talking about a well-rounded educational experience, a chance to study abroad is a horizon-widening experience for a young adult. Not only will you be learning the academic lessons, but you will also learn some life lessons that will help you grow and evolve. And you have the added advantage of studying a new culture up close and experiencing a different way of life.

Things You Must Keep in Mind While Going to Study Abroad

A study stint abroad is your first step towards self-reliance and independence. There, away from your parents and home, you will learn to get by on your own. It is a big step, especially for someone looking to study abroad right out of school. By now you must’ve decided your further course of action. What begins with the selection of the course and the university, ultimately culminates into your actual journey.

But if you’re still deciding your route to graduation, here are some tips for studying abroad that may help you in deciding. But before we get there, here’s the roadmap you will follow for your overseas admission.

  1. Search for your preferred courses and colleges
  2. Contact your selected colleges for information
  3. Narrow your selections to top 3, it will be easier to make the final decision
  4. Study and take English proficiency tests like TOEFL or IELTS
  5. Write your essays, Statement of Purpose (SOP) and Letters of Reference
  6. When shortlisted, do video interviews with the college
  7. If you’re accepted, apply for the student visa

Getting a visa seems to be a daunting task. Thomas Cook has years of experience that will help you to get your student visa smoothly. Read on to find out more.

Decide your Study Destination

There are some great graduate courses that you can study abroad. While previously the choices were limited due to lack of connectivity and information, the options have now opened up. With increased connectivity and awareness, you can now do your research thoroughly before you finalise your course.

In addition to your electives, make sure you also take into consideration the post-work prospects. For e.g. countries like Canada, Ireland and New Zealand have ample work options after you complete your course. On the other hand, many of Europe’s finest institutions have a rich heritage of quality education that goes back centuries. You really have a full bouquet of options to choose from. USA, UK, Germany, Australia – the world is your oyster.

One more thing you should also keep in mind is the cost of living. Though this is usually a secondary consideration after the choice of your course, you could easily choose the better financially-sensible option if you have the chance. All and any savings done now, add up later to bigger gains.

We’ll look into finances in detail later on ahead.

The All-important Timeline

Once you’ve decided to study abroad, it is important that you keep a close eye in the timelines. Nowadays, almost all the colleges abroad accept applications online. Do a bit of digging around to find out the exact dates for applications.

The college’s website is usually a good place to start. Most colleges require you to create an account on their website to start the application process. This is highly convenient as you can provide your basic information, submit scanned copies of your documents and even pay the application fees online. The college website is your gateway to the admission process. Once it is completed, you can also keep a track of your application online.

The next thing to keep in mind is the intake seasons. E.g. the colleges and universities in the US have two main intake seasons. September is the major intake season, while there’s one in January for a small number of courses. You should be preparing for the September session.

Ideally you should start your admission process at least six months in advance of the application deadline. To make it simple, let us divide these six months into two parts:

  1. By the first three months, you should be done with your aptitude and language tests
  2. You can use the latter three months to filling out your application and collating your documents

For the September intake, you should be done with your complete application process by June or July. That includes your interviews and visa application process. Now that it is all taken care of, it is time to move on to the next crucial step – finance.

Funding your Studies

Studying abroad is a big expense. You have tuition fees, living, food, travel and many more unforeseen expenses to contend with. And your parents will take care of all your expenses. Of course, you will also receive many study abroad money tips. But you can contribute to their efforts in your own ways. Most universities and colleges abroad allow you to apply for a scholarship or a study grant.

Check whether your college allows you to apply for any such scholarships or grants and apply if you’re eligible for one. Your eligibility will depend on your academic performance, extracurricular achievements and good scores in standardised exams. Make sure you have all the required documents ready and you send them out well in time, before the deadline.

Here’s a handy list of documents you’ll need while applying for a scholarship;

  • Your academic record. Your marksheets and extracurricular certificates.
  • A recent CV and a letter of intent which could be the cover page of your CV.
  • A valid certificate of language proficiency examination like TOEFT or IELTS.
  • Letters of reference.

Just remember one thing. While these documents will be enough in most cases, you may be asked to provide certain extra documents in some cases. Be prepared.

Also keep in mind that most colleges will need you to pay an application fee while applying for admission. The amount differs by college. You can find the exact amount on the college’s website or application form.

There’s one other, most important, aspect of your study stint abroad. Student Insurance. Almost all universities insist that you must be covered by international travel insurance even before you land up at your college. Here’s where Thomas Cook can help you. In addition to helping you get your visa, Thomas Cook will also help you with student insurance. It will cover you for:

  1. Medical expenses for OPD treatment or hospitalisation due to illnesses
  2. The sum insured in case of disability or death due to
  3. Tuition fees in case of the Sponsor’s death
  4. Reimbursement of costs arising due to loss of passport and any expenses made to obtain a duplicate passport
  5. Medical expenses for injuries sustained during sports injuries.

The Visa Process

Once you finish your college applications, the nest step is to apply for your visa. There are several steps in a visa application:

  1. Complete the online Visa Application Form
  2. Pay the non-refundable visa fee online before your interview
  3. Take a printout of the fully completed visa application to carry to your interview
  4. Set up the biometric appointment and the interview with the embassy
  5. You will get your photo clicked and your fingerprints scanned at the biometric appointment
  6. At the visa interview you will be asked about your course and finances
  7. Once the interviewer is convinced, the embassy will keep your passport for stamping visa

Your student visa can be issued up to 120 days (approximately 4 months) before the start date of your course. Thomas Cook’s visa services will ensure that you get your student visa in time for your course.

Cost of Living

Now that you’re venturing out on your own, you will learn to manage your own life. That includes the expenses, also known as cost of living. The cost of living will differ by the country. It will also differ by the city. But there are some basic expenses that you will have to bear, regardless of the country or city. Here they are.

  • Accommodation. Whether you live on campus or outside, you will have to pay rent. Choose to stay on campus. It is one of the best tips for studying abroad
  • Food and groceries
  • Daily utilities like water, gas, electricity, laundry and internet
  • Phone bills
  • Study expenses like textbooks and stationery

Apart from these, there are other expenses which can be termed as indulgences.

  • Eating out
  • Cable TV or DTH
  • Travel and vacations
  • Occasional car rentals

Despite the many study abroad money tips that you must’ve got before your journey, the ground realities may differ. Initially, you may find it difficult to stick to your budget, as you’re just settling down in a foreign land. But you will eventually get used to living on a controlled budget. This is your life lesson no. 1. (Also read: How to save money on International Money transfer)

Some Smart Tips While Studying Abroad

You know what they say about freedom. It is a big responsibility. Your freedom abroad will be tinged with the responsibility of managing on your own. It is a challenge that you must face. Here are some tips that will help you to rise up to the challenge and make the best of it.

  • Learn cooking at home. You will be doing a lot of cooking on your own. While you may indulge in occasional dining out, home cooking is a healthier and an economical option.
  • Once you reach your college ask around for student discounts. As a student you can enjoy a host of discounts while travelling and eating out. Keep that student ID card handy.
  • Get a bicycle to get around campus and for short distances. It is healthy and one of the most pocket-friendly modes of transportation.
  • Reach out to the locals who can help you find your way around and get familiarised with local culture. However, be cautious with this approach, try to build these relationships slowly.
  • Keep your expenses in check and keep an eye on your budget.
  • Set aside some funds for unforeseen expenses.

Finally, find a better alternative to cash. Carrying around too much cash is not a wise thing to do. It is okay to have some. But the smarter option would be to buy a Thomas Cook prepaid forex card. There are two options:

  1. One Currency Card
  2. Borderless Multi-Currency Prepaid Card

The Thomas Cook One Currency Card will take care of all your overseas expenses. You’ll be glad to know that this card is valid and is accepted in 200 countries around the world. But it has even more benefits.

  • It is protected by a chip and PIN
  • You can use it to pay for your expenses at more that 35 million shops, restaurants and hotels worldwide
  • You do not have to pay conversion costs
  • It is a safe option as it is not directly connected to your bank account.
  • Even if you lose it, you will get a replacement card free of cost
  • If the card runs out of money, your parents can reload the card from India

The Thomas Cook Borderless Prepaid Card will also ensure that you do not have to worry about money. You can simply concentrate on your studies and student life.

It has all the safety features and conveniences that the One Currency Card has. But this has an additional feature. You can load up to 9 different world currencies in one card! Finally, it is all done. Your admission is confirmed, your visa is ready, and your bags are packed. Now you’re all set to study abroad for your education. Study hard, but also remember to take some time out to learn about new cultures and their ways of life. Your college will give you the education, but it will be incomplete without the tempering of life lessons.

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