As an international student arriving at your destination, you're bound to feel pretty overwhelmed. From figuring out your finances to meeting the faculty, follow these top tips to settle in to your new life abroad.
Is your banking in order?
Many utility and phone companies, as well as employers, will require you to have a local bank account, so make this your first stop. If you set up an overseas bank account before leaving home, you may still have to complete the application process by going into a branch in person.
If you opened an HSBC international bank account, everything will be ready for you even before you arrive. You'll have your ATM card, full access to funds, and a multi-currency debit or credit card ready to use.
Being on top of your finances from the outset will help reduce any added stress you may have. Need more information? Check out our 5 money saving tips to stretch your budget while you're studying abroad.
Put some money in your new local account
Yes, technically this item should be crossed off your "before arriving" to-do list when you're setting up your finances abroad! Perhaps you've been wary of sending money overseas because of hidden transaction fees or inconvenient delays. Prices, as well as service, can vary so shop around. In many cases, you’ll find you don’t need to go through a separate money transfer company anymore to send money abroad. Some banks offer you the same service, sometimes faster and for free.
You can securely send money through HSBC’s Global Transfers, for example, between your accounts and eligible third-party HSBC accounts, and there are zero transfer fees. If the exchange rate is good, you can choose when to send money – there’s no need to wait until you’re in the country to do that.
How to set up Global Transfers to send money overseas
Register with your consulate or embassy
This service is usually voluntary but it's recommended that you register before going abroad. Registering your details enables officials to contact you in case of emergency, such as a natural disaster, and provide you with important travel advisory information. Your embassy can also help to re-issue travel documents, put you in touch with local services, like medical or legal assistance, and provide support if you've been a victim of a crime.
Register with the police
Some countries require students to register with the police. In the UK, for example, students must register within 7 days of arrival or risk getting a hefty fine or even imprisonment. Your entry visa, biometric residence permit or Home Office application approval letter should state whether this applies to you. A few of the countries that require registration in the UK currently include China, Hong Kong and Macau, Israel, Colombia and Argentina.
This list could change. Always check on your host country's government website for up-to-date information. Your university's student services offices can help you book an appointment with the police. Some schools will even have the police stationed on campus for the first week to help students register.
Buy a local SIM card or mobile phone
You can use any provider if your mobile phone is unlocked, so shop around. In Canada, providers are obligated by law to unlock your phone, and no new phones can be sold locked anymore. You can even have your (Canadian) phone unlocked for free or at least be given instructions on how to do so. If you forgot to unlock your phone before leaving home, you might be out of luck.
Unless you're planning to use a pay-as-you-go phone, most phone providers will require you to have a local bank account before they'll approve your contract. Your school's student services office might be the first place to look for student deals. There are a lot of universities, including the University of Cambridge, King's College London and the London School of Economics, that participate in mobile phone discount plans.
Find yourself a doctor
In the UK, international students who are on a Tier 4 visa and studying for more than 6 months are entitled to access to the National Health Service (NHS). Your university can give you a list of doctors to choose from, and you're advised to register with one as soon as you arrive. Some treatments are restricted on the NHS; good travel and health insurance should cover any shortfalls where the NHS doesn't cover you.
In Canada, provinces that offer international students healthcare include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. You don't need to register for a doctor in Canada or the US, but you do need to confirm that your private health insurance will cover the doctor you choose.
Buy a transport card
It can be much cheaper getting around with a local travel pass or transport smartcard. Students usually get concessionary rates, too. In London, you’ll want an Oyster card to travel on public transport such as the tube (the underground), buses, the river bus service, and most National Rail services.
In Canada, Toronto has the Metropass; Sydney, Australia has the Opal card; Singapore has ez-link; the regional Transit Access Pass (TAP) card is now available in Los Angeles on iPhones and Apple Watches; and New York is finally phasing out its old MetroCard entirely by 2023 and bringing in the OMNY – the One Metro New York card.
Prepare for student orientation week
These events are a great way to introduce yourself to the faculty, familiarise yourself with the campus and meet new people. They're informative and usually loads of fun. Here you'll see what clubs are on campus and which activities you might want to get involved in. You may even consider joining a sorority or fraternity house.
The first week might seem intimidating but remember: you and the other students are all in the same boat! In an HSBC survey of almost 900 international students, 92% said they've felt homesick at some point while studying abroad1. Keeping busy will help with that. Check on your school's website or ask student services for details on ''Fresher's Week'' and what to expect as an international student.
Ready to open an overseas account?
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