Congratulations on securing an international placement! Now that you’ve passed the stressful part it’s time for something exciting in your placement prep (kinda). Research!
Here’s a checklist of essentials to look up before heading off into your placement:
- Finding accommodation
First and foremost, housing! Speaking to your placement company or institution is a good start as they have the best knowledge of the area. Pro tip: Facebook groups for expats are also good for finding a home. When you have a nice list of houses and flats, go visit them in person. This gives you a chance to speak directly to the landlords and meet the other tenants. Things you should ask about are transport links, safety of the neighbourhood and if you can use the address for registration. If you are unable to travel to the country, request a video viewing.
- Registering as a citizen
Now that you have a place in mind, to get paid and open a bank account you must register as a citizen. The waiting time for registration can be long so as soon as you secure a home, call up the office and book an appointment. All contact information can be found on the government website. For example, in the Netherlands you would search BSN applications on the government website or in Spain you would search NIE applications on government websites.
- Setting up a bank account
Having a citizen number means you can now open a bank account and transition yourself from tourist to local! Sometimes companies have discounts with certain banks. For example, TomTom in Amsterdam has ties with ABN Amro so make sure you do research on which bank to open. Also use TransferWise if you ever want to exchange money between your UK and international bank to save some extra cash!
- Learning the language
The best part of going to a new country is speaking to new people! However, it would be best to know some basic phrases if you’re going to a non-English-speaking country. In my second year I took a beginner class in Mandarin to have some basic speaking with the locals in Singapore. Alternatively, apps like Duolingo and Rosetta Stone are perfect to give you a good foundation.
- Reading up on the culture
And lastly culture! Going away into a new country provides an exciting opportunity to immerse into culture. But, it also means you should be prepared for any unexpected norms in the country. An example would be the heavy cycling culture in Amsterdam. If you don’t keep your eyes on lock, you could drown in the sea of cyclists! Other differences you might see in different cultures could be time-keeping, or how direct people are when they speak to each other. Researching this could be YouTube videos of life in that country so you won’t be too shocked of any differences.
Written by Saif Widyatmoko