When you are travelling alone for the first time, is important to make sure you will have everything you need in the new country you are heading to, especially when you are an international student.
- Check public transit maps online and how it works
There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a country where you don’t know how to move from one place to another. Download and study a little bit the type of public transit your new city has. Is there a monthly pass or any discounts for students? Do they use subway, sky train, buses or sea buses? Knowing all these small but important details will help your budget and will get you oriented. One thing I remember helped me a lot in my very first week in Vancouver was to use Google Maps. I searched the address and figured out how to get to school two days before my orientation day at Greystone. It’s important to know several routes to get back home; especially if you are like me and get quite a bit lost the first week.
- Check in with a doctor and get a medical insurance
A lot of people think a medical insurance is not relevant when studying abroad because “what could possibly go wrong”, right? It’s just precaution, and honestly, it is always better to be prepared. Having a check in with a doctor can also prevent you from any “surprises” during your time abroad. What if you have an allergy you had no idea about? Be cautious and ready to anything that could happen. My mom always made sure I had my own first aid pack. In case I get any type of pain I don’t have to run to a drug store, I have my own medicine at home.
- Do a web search of your hobbies at your new destination
If you are travelling to a place you have never been to, it is always a great option to have an idea of the local activities you can enjoy. Can you play the sports you like or go to places where they will have things you are interested in? Research and find out! In my case, a wonderful thing Greystone College offers to its students is a calendar with all type of activities you can do every single month. Winter, summer, pick any season! You will always have something new to try out.
- Make sure your debit / credit card will work in your new country
This is extremely important since I have seen a lot of people with this issue. Check with your bank that the card you will be using at your new destination will work perfectly fine. If you have a bank back home which is also available in your new city, get an account with them! It will save you a few headaches. Equally important is to have some cash and knowledge about the currency you are about to use.
- Bring and leave copies of your passport
Especially if you are travelling to Canada and you are planning to go out at night, your passport more than any other ID will be the one accepted everywhere. I remember a couple of times I went out and the person at the front door did not want to accept my driver’s license. Having a copy back home and with you will for sure help you out in case you have some troubles. What if you lose your original passport? Hopefully it won’t happen but it is always better to be cautious.
- Before you go out, check the forecast
Weather can be a little bit unpredictable sometimes and I have learned that the bad way. In several occasions I have had to borrow jackets from my friends due to the fact that I did not check how the weather was going to be. In a city such as Vancouver where its sunny on one day and rainy on the next, it is a good idea to always check the forecast. Apart from that, bring clothes that cover all types of weather. For instance, when I moved to Canada all I heard from people was “Canada is cold all year, they never have warm weather”. That could not possibly be more wrong. When spring time came, I had to buy summer clothes and replenish my entire closet. So all in all, having an assortment of clothes that serve different purposes could save you a lot of time and money.
- Make sure to have every document your school is asking you for
There is nothing more inconvenient than going to your orientation on your first day of school and when your coordinator asks you to provide your documents; uh oh! You are missing something. I have seen it happened so; don’t let that happen to you. Make a short list of the things you will need at your school the day you arrive and save yourself time when you get there. Having some copies can also be a great idea although most schools will ask you for original documents.