Though this might be among the more boring of my posts, I’ll try to jazz it up a bit with a few fun photos from my time in England. However, the information that I’m going to give is extremely useful, mainly for people who plan to study abroad in the U.K., but some information can be useful everywhere!
First and foremost on my list of tips and tricks, save, save, save money. England is not as expensive a country as people say it is, but when your money is coming from an international account, it is. All of the prices are face value (aka no hidden taxes), but be very careful that you monitor your bank account because the exchange rate between the Pound Sterling and the U.S. Dollar changes every day. Since I’ve been here, there’s been a change as much as 10 cents at times from when I first got here, and it’s constantly bouncing back and forth. My advice on this: if you think you have enough spending money, save more. It never hurts to have a little extra cushion! Please don’t misinterpret this into thinking you have to miss out on things because they’re too expensive though, just make sure you monitor your savings!
Tip number 2: If you’re planning on studying abroad in the U.K. invest in a railcard. They’re £30, but they pay for themselves after 2 trips to London. The discounts they give you are phenomenal, and they work on buses as well as trains! I definitely recommend this to everyone because even though you may not go into London as many times as you expect, you’ll still be hitting it up, and you can save crazy amounts of money with the railcard.
Advice number 3: bring your European student I.D. EVERYWHERE. You can get some insane discounts on entry prices to museums and other educational places. Heck, I got into the Louvre for free with mine! So make sure that wherever you travel, you have it with you. Not only do you get discounts, but if you decide to travel during the semester, you’ll need it to get back through border control at airports and international train stations.
One thing that I found out about not that long ago that I wish I’d known sooner was hostel volunteering. My friend Carla, another study abroad student from the University of Oklahoma, volunteered at a hostel in Prague. For a small application fee, she got a free place to stay for 10 days, and only had to work for a certain number of hours each day in the morning, giving her the afternoons to explore the city. If you’re into traveling and seeing exciting places, this is definitely worth looking into!
Another thing I wish I’d known before coming to the U.K was the semester schedule. As an American who is staying in the U.K. for less than 6 months, I wasn’t required to get a visa, which on the one hand, saved me about $350, but on the other hand, I was unable to get a job. Before I left America to come over here, I was sure that I wouldn’t want a job, not knowing how the classes would be organized, but after being here, and becoming friends with people who have jobs and still make time to socialize, I realize that I should’ve gone ahead and gotten the visa. Now, this is my disclaimer stating that this option isn’t for everybody! I have a job back on campus at Ole Miss though, and I am very good at balancing my work and school. Personally I would’ve liked to have had a job, and if you’re like me and need that extra bit of structure, look into the uni you’ve chosen and ask around to see if getting a job would be good for you. Again, not everyone is the same, so getting a job may not be what’s best for you.
Another thing I advise is to communicate with your family, especially if you’re close with them. If you’re not close, then don’t worry about it too much, but check in every once in a while. They want to know how you’re doing, I promise, so video call them, or send them a message on Facebook at least, to let them know how you’re doing, and see how they’re doing as well. Sometimes you won’t even realize how much you miss home until you see you mom’s face come on screen, or hear your dog barking in the background. It’s the little things, and sometimes those are all you need to get a better sense of comfort when you’re in a new country.
Last but not least is wifi. As students at Ole Miss, we’re more than familiar with eduroam and the pain in the neck that it can be. In Europe however, once you get your wi-fi set up on your phone and laptop (good ole eduroam once again), you can connect to university wi-fi all over the continent. For example, when I traveled to Venice to visit my friend, we had lunch at a little cafe outside of her university, and my phone automatically connected to the eduroam, so don’t fret if you want to travel but don’t have an international phone plan, just find a university wherever you’re traveling to and you’re set!
There’s probably more that I could say, but can’t remember at this moment, but stay tuned because I may or may not post again with more trick and tips. Happy traveling!
Until next time,