Overseas Travel Tips for Students

Your foreign adventure awaits – here’s how to get the most from it

Global travel as a student can be incredibly rewarding and these days there are plenty of exciting opportunities to choose from. Whether you’re taking a well-earned gap year, participating in a university exchange program, doing a business internship or volunteering abroad for the first time, it’s important to be properly prepared.

Here are our best tips for Aussie students travelling abroad:

Research your possibilities

Haven’t decided which overseas study opportunity is right for you? Then it’s time to do some homework.

A great place to start is the government’s Study Overseas website, which includes comprehensive advice about current study options abroad and how to get organised. If you’re already enrolled at a TAFE or university, check if your school has existing exchange programs with foreign learning institutions.

Other handy info sites for overseas study opportunities include Study Abroad, AFS Intercultural Programs, Student Exchange and Youth for Understanding.

Young College Student Woman Studying

Advice for first-time travellers

Because overseas study programs are primarily aimed at high school and university students, they’re usually the very first time a student has travelled abroad on their own.

For first-timers, here’s some useful advice:

Don’t try to do and see everything at once

Seeing foreign lands for the first time can be so exciting that you end up exhausting yourself by doing too much. Don’t attempt to see four countries in six days or feel you need to accept every social invitation that’s offered. Pace yourself – you’ve got a whole lifetime of travel ahead of you!

Be vigilant but not paranoid

Wherever you travel in the world, you’ll find honest people and dishonest people – just like it is at home. Don’t become one of those travellers who are suspicious of everybody. You have to make your own mind up about who to trust but if you trust no one, you won’t enjoy your trip very much.

Yes, there are plenty of travel scams out there, but reasonable caution and common sense should protect you from the worst of them. One of the best things about travel is opening yourself up to new experiences, new cultures and new friends – so go for it!

Don’t become one of those travellers who are suspicious of everybody. You have to make your own mind up about who to trust but if you trust no one, you won’t enjoy your trip very much.

Bring less stuff

Over-packing is a common mistake for first-time travellers. The more you bring, the more you have to look after. You don’t need two pairs of jeans, four pairs of shoes and a first aid kit designed for a Himalayan expedition. Travel light – it’ll make your life easier.

Don’t leave without Travel Insurance

Insurance is something many young travellers have never dealt with before. But for anyone venturing overseas it’s absolutely essential.

Quality Travel Insurance helps protect you from the unexpected – misplaced luggage, cancellations, unexpected illnesses, injuries, medical evacuations and more. Shop around to find a policy that suits your needs and budget and make sure you understand all the details of what’s covered.

Take more money

Compared to Australia, some countries are relatively cheap to visit or live in (e.g. Thailand, Bolivia, Philippines), while others will seem quite expensive (e.g. Switzerland, Japan, Sweden). Wherever your overseas study plans take you, you’ll probably find your available funds will get depleted faster than you expected.

Ensure you thoroughly research the costs of food, accommodation and other essentials before you head abroad so you know exactly what to expect when it comes to expenditure.

Check out your host country and study facility thoroughly

The Smartraveller website provides official, up to date advice for Australian travellers intending to visit specific countries. Here you’ll find the facts you need about entry and exit requirements, recent crime trends, ongoing political tensions, unsafe areas, local customs, health issues and much more.

Whether you’re planning to study at a foreign university or with a privately run program, ensure they’re fully accredited by checking their reputation online.

Learn what you can about local customs. Many countries have different views to ours about appropriate public attire, drinking, behaviour toward women and other issues.

Uncover as many details about your accommodation as possible:

Are you staying with a host family, sharing a room or getting your own place?

Are you in a mixed dorm?

How safe is the neighbourhood?

How are host families screened?

How will you get around town?

Where possible, obtain first-hand information from students who have already ‘been there and done that’ – this is the best way to get unbiased viewpoints and a realistic idea of what to expect.

Find out if the study courses you complete abroad will be credited toward your degree back in Australia. If you’re on a student exchange, understand all the conditions and restrictions before you go.

If you’re studying overseas to obtain a specific qualification, make sure the relevant state and territory regulators back in Australia recognise those qualifications.

Essential documents

Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after the date you intend to return to Australia. If you’re travelling on a student visa, make sure you know its limitations: you may not be permitted to work or do any volunteering.

Keep your Travel Insurance policy in a safe place in case you need to make a claim. Print out a paper copy of your itinerary with all the contact details listed that you’ll need along the way.

Keep your Travel Insurance policy in a safe place in case you need to make a claim. Print out a paper copy of your itinerary with all the contact details listed that you’ll need along the way.

Find out if your Aussie driver’s license can be used in the destination country: many countries require Australian drivers to have an International Driving Permit.

Always make copies of all your most important travel documents. Leave these with your parents and store additional copies in a safe place online. If you’ve recorded your credit card numbers somewhere as well, it’ll be quicker to get replacements if the originals are lost or stolen while you’re overseas.

Plan for health

Being an international student can involve some health risks that aren’t really an issue at home. The food, water, climate, altitude and environment may be lot different than what you’re used to. The traffic rules may require a new level of awareness. In some areas, there may be risks from infectious diseases that aren’t common in Australia.

Planning for a healthy experience abroad should start a couple of months before departure.

Visit a travel doctor to sort out any pre-existing health issues, learn about your destination’s main health risks and get any vaccinations (including flu) or medications you might need. Travel health clinics can also provide you with a letter listing the medicines you’ll be taking with you, which is often useful for keeping customs officials at airports happy.

If you have to access health care abroad, be prepared for huge variations in the quality. The medical risk services company International SOS produces a World Health Risk Map that outlines the level of care and risk levels you can expect in different countries.

Places like Europe, New Zealand and the US are some of the countries deemed to have good medical assistance, while Mexico, Morocco and Thailand are classified as ‘medium risk’.

Tanzania, Cambodia and Egypt are classified ‘high risk’ and much of Africa falls into the ‘extreme health risk’ category.

Beat homesickness

Being homesick is normal, especially if this is your first experience of being away from your home, family and friends for a long period. One way to keep homesickness at bay is to bring a few home comforts with you from Australia. A packet of Tim Tams or a small jar of Vegemite can help!

Regular communication with home will not only keep you in touch with those you love but it puts their minds at ease too. Internet access and Wi-Fi are easy to find in most overseas destinations, so there’s no problem keeping in touch.

OverseasStudents (1)

Install WhatsApp on your smartphone to send and receive brief messages and use Skype for face-to-face chats.

Homesickness is more likely to take hold when you feel isolated and lonely, so get out there and make friends quickly in your host country. Learn the language, see the sights and don’t get so focused on study that you forget to enjoy the social side of things.

Be clever with your money

If you’re like most students, you won’t have much extra money to throw around. Here are some tips to help you stretch the cash you’ve got:

A credit card is a useful backup when you’re travelling, but make sure you use it wisely.

  • While researching your study abroad options, check to see if your home or host organisation offers scholarships. These can be a huge help. The Australian Government publishes a list of International Scholarships that’s well worth checking out too.
  • Keep your cash safe. It’s okay to take a wallet for daily spending and loose change, but use a neck pouch or money belt for the bulk of your cash as well as your passport, credit cards and other valuables.
  • ATMs are common overseas. Using your debit card is the simplest way to top up your cash reserves as you travel. Pick ATMs in safe areas and only take out what you immediately need.
  • Get a budgeting app to help you work out your weekly budget when studying abroad. Include food, accommodation, transport, activities and other essential expenses. Keeping good track of what you spend is the best way to ensure you’re ‘living within your means’.
  • A credit card is a useful backup when you’re travelling, but make sure you use it wisely. It’s easy to get into debt by misusing credit cards, so go easy and pay the balance as soon as you can to avoid those nasty interest payments.
  • Have a plan in place in case you run out of money or have a large sum of cash stolen overseas. Money transfer services like Western Union make it easy for family or friends to send you money in an emergency. Western Union is quick and it’s available in more than 190 countries.
  • Foreign currency exchange rates will vary depending on where you change your Aussie dollars into local currency. Generally, the rate at airports and hotels will be higher than at an overseas bank. Never exchange currency on the street – you can get robbed or end up stuck with counterfeit notes.
  • Before you travel, check the Department of Human Services website to find out how your absence from Australia might affect concession cards or Centrelink payments.

And don’t forget…

Keep your luggage locked up. This will deter opportunistic thieves from grabbing your goodies.

Here are 10 general tips to make your overseas adventure more enjoyable:

1. The more research you do beforehand, the better prepared you’ll be.

2. Don’t forget to pack travel adapters if the electric plugs are different to Australia’s.

3. Pack an extra set of clothing in your carry-on – just in case your checked-in baggage goes astray.

4. Keep your luggage locked up. This will deter opportunistic thieves from grabbing your goodies.

5. Be respectful of local customs. Think of yourself as an ambassador for Australia wherever you go.

6. Pack less and buy all the little stuff after you get there. Do more with less.

7. Your destination and plans will determine whether you’re better off with a suitcase or a backpack. If you choose a pack, make sure it fits your body properly.

8. Drinking cultures overseas may be a lot different from what you’re used to. Never feel you need to keep up with your companions when it comes to alcohol consumption.

9. Living overseas as a student means lots of opportunities for positive social interaction. The quicker you make friends, the quicker you’ll adjust to your new environment.

10. Don’t forget to take out Travel Insurance!



This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Travel Insurance

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