If you're considering studying in another part of the world, there's no doubt that you're embarking on one of the most eye-opening adventures of your life.
However, choosing to undertake a postgraduate course in a foreign country requires serious thought and preparation.
Put together a decision-making checklist in the first instance, and ask yourself questions like 'What are my reasons for studying abroad?' and 'How am I going to fund my stay?'
This list will eliminate any doubt before you pack your bags, say your goodbyes and board the plane…
1. Speak to those closest to you
If you're unsure about taking the plunge, seek the honest opinion of those you value the most. Remember to talk through practical things including: How are you going to fund your trip? Will your family help with the cost? Will you be missing any important dates back home?
Make sure you're fully ready to commit to taking your studies overseas before you start making the dream a reality.
2. Determine exactly what you want to do
If you're not entirely sure where to start, including deciding on a particular country, find out about other students' experiences to help you in your quest.
If you know what country you'd like to be in and/or have a particular subject in mind, you can identify institutions and courses using the following resources as a starting point:
- Search courses and research.
- Individual institution websites.
- Your university careers service.
- Lecturers, tutors and other researchers in your department.
3. Make sure the university and country you choose is right for you
Remember to research your options thoroughly and consider things including:
- Is the country safe for foreign students?
- Are you prepared to learn a foreign language?
- Do you want to be in a populated city or are you looking for somewhere a little more remote?
- Are you looking to fully embrace student the lifestyle abroad?
- Make sure the university you're looking at offers on-campus housing or other communal living options.
4. Don't forget about your degree requirements
It's easy to get carried away with planning your exciting trip to faraway shores, but an important factor to consider before applying to study abroad is whether you can take time away from your UK-based studies and still complete your degree on time.
To avoid the danger of needing additional time to complete your course, dodge study abroad programs that won't transfer academic credits toward the completion of your degree.
The academic departments at your university will be able to help you with this.
5. Save, save, save!
Securing funding to pay for your course is one thing, but affording to live abroad for the duration of your studies is another. Saving money ahead of your trip is something that is mistakenly overlooked - it will take away the stress when you're in a foreign country, and you'll have spare cash to make the most of your leisure time too.
Create a plan of action and start saving your pennies as soon as possible.
If you've decided studying and living abroad is a must-do and you have an acceptance letter from your university of choice, then putting together a practical checklist should be next on your agenda.
Whether it's a semester or a year you'll be away for, make sure the following things are in order:
6. An up-to-date passport
Don't get bogged down with things like an expired passport while you're away, especially when it's far simpler to sort things like this on home soil.
Renewing your passport is possible in a foreign country, but embassy queues and filling in forms certainly won't be the highlight of your trip. Don't say we didn't warn you…
7. Visa application
If you've chosen to study outside of the European Union (EU), you must obtain the appropriate visa to allow you to study as an international student.Applying for this will be part of your study abroad application and it's your own responsibility.
Immigration legislation changes frequently, so refer to the relevant immigration websites for the most current information.
Speak to your university to check if they can assist with this process, and leave plenty of time to sort your visa application out.
8. Stay on top of your finances
Overseas tuition fees vary between institutions - with some charging expensive rates to international students. It's always best to discuss funding options with your chosen university, as there are scholarship schemes available to help with the cost. Funding from external bodies may also be possible.
To find out more about financing possibilities in your country of choice, visit studying abroad.
Don't ignore your living expenses and travel (including airfares) - these things should factor into your finances. Some university websites provide estimates of your outgoings - use these resources to your advantage.
9. Insurance is a must
Many universities around the world require proof of this before you arrive in the country. There are different options available - from essential cover to more extensive alternatives. Just be prepared to pay extra for the comprehensive choice.
10. Get your health in order before you leave
Visit your doctor for a full medical check-up before you head off, making sure you've had any required vaccinations. You can sort out ongoing prescriptions with your GP too - just leave time to arrange this ahead of your departure.