So far I have spent two academic years studying abroad in Taiwan, and going into my third year I thought I would share some of my top tips on preparing for a semester or year studying abroad. My examples are going to be specific for Taiwan (from a European point of view), but the tips can be helpful for anyone in general, just make sure you do your homework and look up all the information specifically for the country you are moving to.
1. Get informed on the country’s weather
Especially if you are going for a whole year, informing yourself on the country’s typical weather is crucial when thinking about the clothes you want to pack. So try to think about: what are the seasons like? Are there four seasons like in Europe or North America? Or more like a super hot and a little less hot with lots of rain, like in Taiwan? In the latter case for example, for Taiwan there is no need to take any heavy winter jackets, but it’s important to have lots of light clothes for hot and humid weather and sandals or shoes that can withstand the rain.
Also think about what location you are going to live at exactly: are you going to be mainly in the city? What kind of trips are you expected to make? Will you be close to the seaside? Or going on high mountain hiking trips? Sit down, think it through and write up your packing list accordingly. Also, I know it is tempting but do not bring all/lots of your clothes with you. You will probably not wear all of them and there’s also a high chance you will do some shopping during the year – especially if you go to Asia, where clothes tend to be really affordable.
2. What are the sockets like?
Make sure to look up the sockets and voltage available in your host country and buy the required adapters for it. My European plugs are not suitable for Taiwan, so I took 3-4 adapters with me. If you forget, that is not the end of the world as you can probably by the adapters on the spot as well, but it might take some searching and it is just much more convenient to have them ready with you already. Also, find out what voltage they use in your host country: if it is not the same as your, you probably shouldn’t take electrical devices such as hair dryers or straighteners as it might ruin them. For example: in Europe we usually have 230V, while Taiwan has 110V. So while my phone and laptop chargers are fine, I didn’t take many other electronics and just bought what I needed there.
3. Research your dorm / future apartment!
When planning how many clothes you can take and how you would like to decorate, it is good to be familiar with the space you are going to live in. So if you are going to live in a dorm, go search on you university’s website for information and pictures about the residence hall and the room and try to look up some videos on YouTube as well, as they can be much more useful than some often badly shot photos.
If you are going to smaller countries like Taiwan, that might be a challenge but just do your best. Actually, the lack of videos on YouTube about Taiwanese dorms was the reason I made my YouTube channel in the first place – and I was so happy to find out it has actually helped people!
(Especially if you are interested in NCCU dormitory.)
4. Research home improvement and furniture stores in your area
Keep in mind, that if you move abroad and have to take a flight, you won’t be able to take bigger pieces of furniture or decoration with you from home. So bring only light decorations, such as prints and maybe pillow cases and for the rest, look up stores like Ikea, Muji, H&M Home, etc. and start planning what you are going to get from where – and make a budget for home much you want to spend on home decor. If you search online in advance then you will have enough time to compare the prices and get the best deals once you are there. Yes it takes a little more time and effort but you can save a great amount of money while finding the things that suit your room and style the best.
5. Bring some little gifts from home
Even if you don’t know your future roommates, and especially if they are from a different country / region, it is such a nice gesture to bring them some little local gifts from home. It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive, just some sweets, post cards or other little knick-knacks that are special to your country will make a perfect welcome gift. It will help you make a great first impression and to break the ice right when you arrive.
These are my top 5 tips you should think about before moving abroad for studying – I hope it was helpful for you guys. If you have anything else important you think I missed, leave them in the comments below, let’s help each other out for the perfect study abroad experience!