Tips for moving to Europe from the Tropics to Study

*Reading time: 8 minutes

Moving from the tropics to Europe is no easy feat. Sure, it’s exciting and adventurous and you’re going off to get that degree you’ve always wanted, but if you’ve never lived overseas before, it’s uncharted territory that’s equal parts uncertain and thrilling.

After studying for three years in London, and having moved there from the Seychelles islands, I’ve been there. So I made you some lists! (I love a good list)

The good news is, there are some things you should prepare for before you go and there are others you can hold off until you actually arrive.

Here are 10 basic things to prepare in advance of your move to Europe from the tropics.

Tips for Moving to Europe from the Tropics to Study

  • Prepare for the four seasons
  • Get an international driver’s license
  • Make sure your passport is new
  • Buy travel adapters
  • Join expat or student Facebook groups
  • Sort out your health insurance
  • Download Duolingo to learn the local language
  • Research the area you want to live in
  • Create a dossier/ file of your important documents
  • Research the COVID-19 rules in the country

And then, here are some extra things you can hold off to get done once you arrive:

  • Open a bank account
  • Get a local SIM
  • Get a public transport card
  • Research the legality of student jobs
  • Discover your area

10 tips for moving to Europe from the Tropics

Before you move to Europe, you should:

Plan for the new climate and four seasons

If this is your first time traveling to Europe and you haven’t had to have a seasonal wardrobe, then you’re going to need an entirely new wardrobe. Tropical living is definitely easier because you need some shorts, couple of tops and maybe some dresses depending on your style, basically light, airy clothes.

But Europe comes with the four seasons which means you’ll need a winter coat, a spring jacket, an in-between waterproof (very important) jacket, boots, stockings and the whole shabang.

A good idea is to plan to create a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is made up of a conscious selection of a range of pieces which can be mixed and matched to form various outfits. You curate the wardrobe to your style and the goal is to have enough staple pieces that minimise wardrobe clutter and reduces daily anxiety of picking what to wear.

One of my favourite blogs for everything capsule wardrobe related is Jayde Archives. She has amazing resources, tips and an e-course.

Get an international driver’s license

Now this isn’t mandatory but if you enjoy driving you might want to look into getting an international license. You can do this in your home country before you leave.

If you’ll be living in a densely populated area like a city or a busy town then you probably won’t be driving around to get to university, work or nearby areas because: a) having a car is expensive and b) public transport is cheaper, easier and faster.

BUT! When those opportunities arise where you and some friends can pitch in to rent a car and explore the countryside or even take a roadtrip across the border to discover more of Europe, wouldn’t it be cool if you were the one behind the wheel?

Make sure your passport is new

If your passport has only about a year left on it, you want to consider renewing it, both for your visa purposes but also so that it’s not a worry once you settle into your new life.

Also, when you’re in Europe, the rest of the continent (and the world) is really your oyster to discover, so if you want to be travelling, you want your passport to be valid for a few years. Some countries (especially outside the EU) don’t let you travel without at least 6 months on your passport.

Buy a few travel adapters

Each country has different electric sockets and it’s so annoying when your device is dying and you realise the socket is a wonky two pin smiley face and not the usual three pin you’re used to.

So I’d get a few travel adapters which you can use anywhere. You can get them in Duty Free as you’re traveling.

Join expat or student Facebook groups

It can be nerve wracking to move to a new country and not know anyone. Fear of being lonely or of not making friends is a real thing, but now with technology, you have the chance to make friends before your plane even lands.

A quick search in Facebook will introduce you to some really amazing groups and communities of people who are in a similar position as you. You can search ‘Expats in X’ or ‘Students in X’ and you’ll get recommendations for groups to join.

The groups often have lots of advice on where to buy the things (literally anything you need to buy, someone will have information on it), plenty of how to’s and sometimes opportunities come up for meet ups.

NOTE: this goes without saying but of course be careful who you meet up with in real life from the internet.

Sort out your health insurance

Sometimes health insurance comes as part of the planning process with your visa. You want to be very familiar with your health insurance plan because you honestly just never know what can happen.

Download Duolingo to learn the language

You might be headed for a country that doesn’t speak the same language as you, so if you download Duolingo, which is a free language app, you can at least learn a few basic words and phrases so that you can have small necessary conversations.

Who knows, if you enjoy it, you might end up becoming a pro by learning the entire new language.

Research your soon to be new home area

Research and maybe keep in your notes a few key places in the area where you’re going to live. Find out where the grocery shops are, where the nearest public transport stops are, closest parks and green spaces, the gym and other locations based on what you feel you need or enjoy.

Create a dossier for your important documents

It’s always a good idea to stay organised right from the start when it comes to your documents.

When I was studying – and even now – I keep different folders for my bank and insurance documents, visa and travel documents and university/work documents.

Keep these safe and keep both physical and virtual copies so you always have a backup.

Research the COVID-19 rules in the country

Thanks to 2020, a lot of new students going to study abroad have this to consider. Please be safe and learn about the rules related to COVID-19 in your country of study. And respect them.

Yes these are meant to be the wild and wonderful years but you have your whole life ahead of you and it’s better to be safe than risk other people’s lives.

Once you arrive safely, and are ready to settle in you can:

Open a bank account

Do some research in advance about the local and international banks available. Find out what other students are doing and I’m sure you can even ask your university for advice on the best options as a student.

Be sure to let your home bank know that you’re going to study in Europe so that they don’t block your card if they see overseas activity and bring some cash from home for when you first arrive just incase you need some emergency money.

Even if you have a card from your home bank, you still want to open a local account so that you don’t have to pay overseas transfer or exchange rates all the time.

Get a local SIM card

This is so that you avoid all of the exorbitant roaming fees. Buy a local SIM, send everyone from back home your new number so they can get in touch with you.

Be sure to get a SIM with some data so that you can use your maps and your apps when on the move around town.

Get a public transport card

As a student, taking taxis and Ubers can really dig into that student budget, so by getting a public transport card you can make use of buses and trains which are cheaper and sometimes faster.

The services in most of Europe are very good in the central areas so by downloading travel apps, using google maps and getting used to the transport lines, you’ll be moving around like a local in no time.

Research the legality of student jobs

If you want to get a student job during your time studying, it’s a good idea to find out in advance the rules which apply to you.

Usually there are limited number of hours you can work per semester and limited types of work you can be involved in. But you should be able to do the usual retail, food service or on campus jobs.

Also look into the tax laws for students in your country so you know in advance whether or not you have to pay tax on any student income and you can plan accordingly.

Discover your new home area

Remember that list you made of all the amenities and cool things in your new home area? Go and find them! You can discover them in person now, so have wander! (being Covid-19 safe of course)

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