It is very nerve-racking taking a step into the big wide world by yourself and moving away from your family and friends. Well, this is what I'm doing this year and I can tell you it has not been easy to get to this stage. I arrived in China on 27th August and I could not be happier that I am now here, after all the hectic organising over the last few months. There is still a lot to sort out over here as China is very complicated with visas etc, but I can finally relax after registering and officially becoming a student at Fudan University.
I'm not going to lie, I was not very organised before getting to China. I left some things right until the last minute and printed the last few documents the morning of my flight, whoops! Once summer begins you start to think about your year abroad and realise that you will be going in a few months time. After hearing the "a few months time" you will have a sign of relief. Clearly, I took it too far as I let a few months go by and then decided that I actually had to get everything sorted...a few weeks before I left. Because I have been through it all already, here are a few pointers so you avoid doing what I did.
1. MAKE YOURSELF A DAY-TO-DAY PLAN...AND STICK TO IT!
Either create one on your laptop, or draw one up yourself, and create a list of everything you need to sort out between now and the time you leave. Order the tasks with the most important/most urgent one being at the top. Now set a deadline to which you should do that task for and stick to it! Print the final copy out and stick it in your room or in your bathroom by the sink so you will always see it when you wake up and go to bed; that way you can be reminded as to which task is needed to be done next.
2. PACK WHAT YOU NEED, NOT WHAT YOU WANT
Going abroad restricts you to what you can take away. Unless you are not worried about money and can ship your whole room with you, then you have to compromise. Sadly, that is what I had to do but I thought I managed quite well with packing; although I now think I under packed..
Don't be stupid and take loads of toys, or unpack necessary things that you won't need. Remember, you are not living in the same country so it is not as easy as saying to your parents "can you just post me so and so...".
3. PLAN AHEAD
Make sure you know where you are going as soon as you get off that plane. Have all your documentation in with your bag luggage just incase something goes wrong at the airport. You don't want to have to be finding your keys to unlock one of your 3 suitcases trying to find a piece of paper you forgot to put into your hand luggage do you?
4. PREPARE EXPENSES FOR FIRST MONTH
I would recommend taking a months worth of cash with you just incase something goes wrong with your card and you cannot access it for a certain amount of time. I know of someone it happened to and they were nearly stranded..it sounded dreadful. Also, it can take some time setting up a bank account in the country you are going to; that's if you are setting one up. So be prepared to be without an official bank account for a few weeks after your arrival.
5. PREPARE YOURSELF FOR MANY GOODBYES
Finally, the hardest of them all... Unless you are emotionless, then you will expect a bundle of emotions to come out when you're just about to go through security. Trust me, it happened to me even though I was feeling fine before we got to security.
6. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Probably a bit predictable saying this but it is the norm. You may have already been to this country, or lived there before...but if you have never stepped foot in the country you are about to live in for a year or a semester or how ever long, then there are likely things to happen which you are not prepared for. Do a bit of background research into the country, look into health and safety, find out the things to be aware of and to watch out for. These things can be vital and can make your year abroad so much easier if you know about them, trust me.