By: Rachelle Scheepers
As it gets closer and closer to your date of departure, you get more and more of this excited yet nervous feeling in your stomach. It almost does not feel real, like you cannot actually believe you are leaving Canada for six months and living in an entirely different continent, let alone country. For me, it did not feel real until I opened the door to my new residence room in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was only then, when I was making my springy single bed, that it really hit me. I was about to start a brand new, completely different chapter in my life, and WOW this chapter is definitely one of my favourites!
You might have been packing weeks ahead, or if you’re like me, the day before. Here is a list of important things I packed or wished I had packed!
- Visa and the papers for it
- Address of your new residence and how to get there using transit, as well as a piece of paper confirming I am renting the room.
- Clothes for all different types of weather (I was in Copenhagen and it was -10 during March but +25 during April). You also never know where you will end up travelling to or if there will be a surprise storm (in my case it was called Beast from the East causing a very cold spell all over Europe).
- A hiking backpack if you have one! I found this really useful for trips, as it can become quite small if you do not pack too much in it. However, for the longer trips, you can pack a surprisingly large amount of stuff in it. The best part is that airlines allow you take it on as a carry-on, avoiding the hefty charge of checking in baggage.
Some thoughts before arriving.
Something important to think about is how to get your keys to your new place. I know in Copenhagen a lot of people struggled with this due to the office hours, and the fact that where you pick up the key is nowhere near your residence building. I would advise looking into this beforehand to see what time you arrive and how long it will take to get there. Have a backup plan, just in case! I was very lucky and had an awesome mentor who offered to go to the housing foundation and pick up my keys, so that when I met her at the airport, she already had them.
A bit about money.
It is also a good idea to change some currency prior to leaving on exchange. This way, if you need to take a cab or pay for the bus, you have some money readily available. A lot of cabs in Europe only accept cash, and we learnt that the hard way!
This may not apply to every bank, but I had to call my Canadian bank and tell them that I will be in Europe for the next 6 months. This way they did not freeze my money thinking someone had stolen my card and was using my money all over the world! It was very easy and simple. One phone call, a note in my electronic file, and I was set to go!
A money-saving tip is to withdraw a sizable amount of cash at a time, and then use this to pay for everything (except the pricier items like huge grocery shops or buying your bedding). This way you only pay one fee to withdraw the cash, while if you use your credit card all the time, you will be charged service fees for every transaction in addition to the exchange rate fee. This is just a suggestion that worked for me, but I realize a credit card is so convenient and easy!
Exchange is full of learning opportunities, remember not to take yourself too seriously and just enjoy the journey!
Rachelle Scheepers is a fourth-year Health Sciences student at McMaster University. She studied for a single term at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.