5 ways to prep for studying abroad

Even though I'm not going away until next year, I figured there's no better time than now to start preparing myself for doing an exchange in Scotland.

Ornate stone archways at the University of Glasgow Apparently Scottish schools are a wee bit more ornate. (photo: Pxhere.com)

I was recently accepted to study at the University of Glasgow in Scotland for the winter semester of 2023. I’m telling you, waiting for that acceptance email was torturous. I understand the huge number of applications the exchange committee must sort through, and I respect the time and consideration it likely takes to place everyone where they’ll fit best, but I was still a nervous ball of energy for the last six weeks waiting for my confirmation.

I thought those nerves would diminish when I got my email and they did, but only for a day or so. After that came the real anxiety—the oh my goodness this is really happening what do I do now anxiety. Thankfully I have a mother who likes to make lists and so, naturally (thank you, genetics), so do I. After a quick timeout—one involving two glasses of water and that furious sort of blinking everyone does when they’re trying not to cry—I set on my mission.

I figured that if I’m lost—and nervous and excited and freaking out—then there are bound to be others who are too. Fear not though, friends, we’ve got this! Here are some first steps to get you going.


1. Reach out to the student advising team for international exchanges at Dalhousie with any questions you have

The absolute best thing you can do when you’re nervous and have questions is to reach out to Dal immediately. These are professionals who have successfully helped hundreds of students on their individual journeys and are more than capable of calming your anxiety and helping you through the process. They’ll give you the best possible starting place for you and talk you through any and every point of worry. You can reach an advisor at exchanges@dal.ca or 902-492-1566.


2. Check out the “Before You Go” page on the International Learning Experiences site

This page was pretty much my lifesaver in the midst of my panic. It lists five categories that will help you start to figure out your trip: Emergency Information, Pre-Departure, International Travel, Insurance Coverage, and Pre-Departure Course Request. I strongly encourage you to explore them early to ease any nerves, and suggest starting with the Pre-Departure Course because it’s a great source of information!


3. Make a rough list of things you need to do before you leave

By this I mean a very general list. Of course, following the above suggestion, go through the “Before You Go” pages and make notes on the things you need to get done (e.g. sign up for the pre-departure course, get your emergency contact information in check, etc.). But also think about the things that may not be listed—those things that may not be as important to the logistics but are more important to you. Think about how you want to spend your time before you leave, the people you want to see and things you want to do, as well as take a shuffle through your closet to decide some of the things you might want to bring. Mingling the high stakes objectives with some of the more fun ones is a guaranteed way to take some of the stress away!


4. Look at the financial help offered by Dalhousie, your school of acceptance, and other sources

This is a big source of stress for me—paying for my exchange. Exchanges aren’t cheap but there are numerous channels worth exploring where you can find sources to help fund your trip. Dalhousie offers a number of highly funded bursaries and, while I only have experience with The University of Glasgow, it offers scholarships to exchange students so I’m sure other international schools do as well. Since you pay tuition to Dalhousie for an exchange, provincial and federal funding sources are also applicable.


5. Look at classes you want to take at your sponsored school

This is a tricky process because Dalhousie has to make sure the classes you choose are transferable credits. My advice? Look at more classes than you’ll need. It’s best to have backup options in case your first choices fall through. And look at them early so you can map out a few different plans and because figuring out credits from international universities can be very confusing.


This is not a complete list. It honestly isn’t even close. But I hope it gives you a bit of direction in the beginning of your journey. Before ending I want to suggest two more things. First, seriously consider booking a meeting with an exchange advisor and create a list of questions for them. It will ease your mind. Second, start a journal. You’re about to embark on one of the most exciting experiences of your life. If ever there was a time to start journaling, it’s now!