Pre-departure guide

Pre-departure guide


Worried about how much you have to organise before you go abroad? Here's a handy check list with links to further information, advice and guidance.  

Health and well being

  • Make sure medical and dental check ups are done before you go. If you are receiving medical treatment, are registered disabled or have any pre-existing health conditions we also recommend you take a doctor’s report with you.

  • Depending on which country you are going to you may need vaccinations– check out the NHS website for more information. Planning ahead is key as many vaccinations as some jabs need to be done well in advance! Documentations of all vaccinations should be taken abroad as it may be required by their host university.

  • If you are on any type of medication then get your prescriptions made up before you go. Talk to your GP or practice nurse about your travel plans at least two months before your departure date and they can tell you if you need to make any special arrangements. You should also make sure you can take your medication into the destination country. International rules vary so contact the embassy for the country you’re visiting for more advice - the website has a list of foreign embassies in the UK.

  • If you are going to Europe then register for a free EHIC card (the application procedure takes 7 days). If you need medical treatment whilst visiting an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, make sure you have this as UK residents are entitled to medical treatment at a low cost or free.  Remember this EHIC card is free!

  • It is always reassuring to know people or even just one person in your destination country. If you have a friend already there (or a friend of a friend), make contact with them so you have someone you can contact when you arrive. You could also search for friends on 

  • A certain amount of stress and anxiety will be normal when you first arrive abroad as you adapt to your new surrounding. However if you continue to feel stressed or anxious then PLEASE seek help immediately. Speak to a member of staff at your destination university.

Personal safety

  • Whether at home or abroad, the same rules on personal safety apply – be aware of your personal safety and of strangers and keep valuables safe (including your luggage!). Never give strangers any details about yourself such as where you live etc, never go anywhere with strangers if you are on your own and always make sure someone else knows where you are going. Please also listen to any safety advice your university provides.

  • Do some research on the town/city you will be living in. has lots of destination reports from students who've already been away, and on thirdyearabroad Answers you can post a question on a particular destination for students or academic staff to answer. It sounds obvious, but we thought we would mention it anyway – always stay in well-lit areas and destinations that are well travelled.

  • If driving whilst abroad (you may not be!) then keep car doors locked and keep all valuables well out of sight. Remember that thieves may target cars that are obviously rented and/or have foreign licence plates.

  • You should get hold of the emergency contact number for your home university as well as your destination university (your parents may want this number), and also memorise the emergency number in your destination country in case you need to use it.

Visa, passport and important documents

  • Apply for a visa (if necessary) and make sure your passport is still valid. Don’t leave either of these tasks to the last minute; both can take a number of months to apply for.

  • When you arrive at your destination make sure you keep your valuables safe including your passport and visa (if you need one!).

  • Take photocopies of credit and debit cards and all other essential documents (passport and visas for example), leaving one at home in the UK and taking one abroad (but make sure it is kept somewhere safe and also must be kept separate from the cards/passport). 

Financing your trip

  • You can find out about the costs of studying abroad as well as ways of getting support for your time abroad on the Funding It section of our website.


  • Think about purchasing an ISIC card (international student identity card) which is accepted in over 100 countries. It proves you are under 26 and has over 40,000 discounts to choose from.


  • Your home university may have a list of recommended insurance providers. Check with them before you travel or ask at your pre-departure briefing. You may be required to take out insurance with your university's provider, or may be entitled to a discount. It's also important to check with your home university about insurance requirements for work placements, as these may be different. also has comprehensive information on year abroad insurance. 


  • Please make sure your accommodation is arranged before you travel (even if you just arrange a hotel for the first 2 or 3 nights whilst you find somewhere to stay) so that you don’t turn up at your destination with no-where to go. This is particularly important if you are going to arrive late at night.


  • Remember that attitudes to alcohol, and the legal drinking age, can vary from country to country. Do your research!


  • Students should think about how they are going to get hold of their cash whilst abroad. There are lots of options including using a debit or credit card (make sure you contact your bank before departing to tell them you are going away, as some cards will have a restriction on international transactions) or you could set up a bank account in your host country. Many students use currency cards – check out for some useful information on these cards.

  • Whatever you do please remember NOT to take large amounts of cash with you – it’s just not safe!

Do your research – know what to expect

  • Be aware of the laws in your destination country - for example, the legal drinking age will vary from country to country.

  • Find out about the higher education system in your destination country – their style may be entirely different to the UK and it will be good to prepare yourself for the experience ahead.

  • Make sure you know how to get to your university or your first night's accommodation, once you've arrived at your destination.

  • Do your research on the enrolment procedures at your destination university. You need to look into whether you need to enrol when you arrive and if so where? Different countries and different institutions will have their own requirements. Ask your home university if you are not sure.

  • If you are taking part in a work placement, then research your employer – know what time to report for work and who to report to etc.

  • The fun part! Research the country and the town/city you will be staying in, find out what there is to do from bars and clubs to societies, museums and tourist attractions. If you're studying abroad, your destination university will also have lots of information but it's useful to do your own research before you go.

Contacting home

  • Think about how you are going to contact home whilst you are away. Emails are always good, but you may also wish to sort out a mobile phone. Check out other ways of keeping in touch, such as skype or international calling cards.

Other sources of information

Your institution will provide pre-departure briefings before you go abroad, so make sure you attend these to find out as much as possible.

Your might also want to visit other websites that provide pre-departure information for students going overseas or student forums, including

British Council's Study Work Create

The Student Room


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