Although I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that in less than a month I’ll be spending a year of my life living and studying in a country on the other side of the world, it doesn’t make it seem any less surreal. From mid July, I’ll be spending a year as an exchange student in Concepción (the second largest city in Chile), and will be documenting every stage of the year in this new series for Wessex Scene.
Before I get anywhere near all the excitement of Chile, however, I have to deal with one of the most complex and cumbersome aspects of the year abroad for every student: all the paperwork and planning you have to complete before you even leave the UK. Since I had my place confirmed, I’ve filled in countless forms and googled Chilean visa requirements more times than I would care to mention, as well as spending money to have other people fill in more forms on my behalf. Definitely speak to students who have been there before as well as your exchange coordinator to get a clearer picture of what exactly you have to do as it often isn’t made clear by searching the internet.
This is all the more important to check what you need to do if you are going to a country outside the EU as the requirements will differ greatly compared to what you are used to and can often be more complex. For example, to get a Chilean student visa you need to provide proof that you have enough income for the year as well as a health report signed by a GP and a police certificate showing you don’t have a criminal record.
Its also worth checking out all of the costs for applications and getting all the documents you need in advance, as for a country where visas are required it is likely to be a lot higher than you think, make sure to put a bit of money aside! Scan or file away both electronic and hard copies of any of the correspondence you have with the host university as well. Trust me when I say that some of the documentation can be hard to find again on the university websites. Also don’t be worried if its getting close to the deadline for something before you get a reply as Latin American universities can be slow to get things done – don’t be afraid to chase things up if you need them.
Topping my still massive to do list of things to do before going abroad is now sending off the visa application so I can actually be approved to travel and one of the other most important (and expensive) aspects of studying abroad – the flights. In my next piece I’ll go through the process of booking flights from the UK to Latin America including what to look out for and how to get the cheapest deals (if I haven’t collapsed under the stress of all the admin that is).