First things first – time flies!! Seriously doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I was mid-second year back in Lancaster, thinking about how I had so much time to sort everything out for my year abroad, but now I have merely 10 days til I fly off to Graz!
I’ve been so busy preparing myself, but I can officially say that packing has commenced! Of course I won’t be able to pack absolutely everything like all my clothes until a little later, but I have made a start on some general bits and bobs anyway!
However, I, like many others now have the age old dilemma of ‘how do I fit my life in a suitcase!?’ Well after thinking about it, I decided that I realistically was not going to be able to do so.. not with just one suitcase anyway! I came to the conclusion that I was going to need some assistance, in the form of paying for someone to collect and ship over an extra suitcase for me! 😉 I did a little bit of research but in the end went for the site that is recommended on thirdyearabroad.com, which is called sendmybag.com. Also if you have an NUS student card then you can get some discount too. You have to measure the bag and pre-pay for how much weight you want to send. I decided that I am going to take a medium sized suitcase along with me on the plane (as I was near my 25kg limit with this case on a holiday once, so a bigger one is potential risk for paying weight charges at the airport), as well as a special sized cabin holdall which is my hand luggage. Then I am going to be sending a bigger case (up to 40kg) via send my bag, which I might not use all of but it’s better to pay for more and not use it than getting charged for not paying enough! Admittedly this service has cost me round £50 (depending on your bag size and weight required it will differ), but I think I would rather this than forking out on weight charges at the airport, or lugging round a near 40kg suitcase round my airport connections! It is worth noting too, that other websites not targeted so much at students were a lot more pricey!
Another (now resolved) issue was insurance! This is something again that is going to depend on where you go, what you are doing and also your own university policies. My university provide some basic travel insurance for students going abroad but this is, as I said, just basic. If you wanted to take the risk with just this basic insurance there is nothing stopping you, but if you are anything like me, (worried about everything from being ill to natural disasters..), I know I just wanted to be sure I got everything covered! I looked around a bit and compared a few prices, and to get a good standard of cover most prices were coming out at around £150-£200 for the year. In the end I found that I could get the best deal with Direct Line travel insurance with a Discoverer policy, and after a while with my dad haggling on the phone, managed to get it for around £140. With Direct Line you can also nominate someone, like a parent or guardian, who you can allow to be contacted or spoken to about your policy, as it may be easier for them to ring from the UK instead or wherever you are on your year abroad! (Useful!) All in all with insurance I really think it is a matter of being safe rather than sorry. An initial payout of over £100 may seem like a lot, but if you end up not covered when something goes wrong or you get ill then you may end up spending more than this to get it sorted. 🙂
When student finance came through, it was also time to sort out how I was going to get my money to Austria (preferably without any nasty bank charges or exchange fees!). I was thinking about getting to Austria and then sorting out a bank account with some kind of transfer money thing, but ahhh all a bit complicated! So in the end I started looking at using a currency card. I compared a few different ones and found that the one that looked best for me was a Euro Traveler CaxtonFX card (https://www.caxtonfx.com). In brief currency cards are best described like top up cards and basically all you do is after receiving your card, link it up with your bank account back home. Then whenever you want money from your bank at home you can load your card with currency online, via the free mobile app, by phone or even SMS I think, and this is not charged to do so. There is a minimum load of £150 which I found is the only downside to the card but if you work it out like a weekly transfer or something it should work out fine. There is also no charge for taking money out of ATMs, apart from some ATMs that may charge for use, but this is not a card charge from CaxtonFX. Also the card can be used for online shopping or just anywhere you see a visa card symbol (like a shop or restaurant etc.) I just think this is such a good way to avoid ridiculous bank charges for withdrawing money with a card from the UK and it was so easy to apply for it. There is also an article on thiryearabroad.com (http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/before-you-go/money-matters/item/1425-currency-cards-the-best-way-to-manage-your-money-abroad.html) which is all about money matters, which helped me a lot too. Most other currency cards have a charge of a couple of Euros or a small percentage of the amount every time you use it, which might not seem like a lot but could mount up easily if you are using a card regularly.
Will do another post before I head off; last minute preparations and what not to forget! 🙂
– erasmus explorer –