From York to Aarhus: Five top tips for studying Abroad


Emma Staples shares her advice for students who are considering a year studying abroad

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By Emma Staples

In the third year of my undergraduate degree at the University of York I moved from my home in the UK to study abroad for a year at Aarhus University in Denmark. The year was filled with a mixture of new and exciting opportunities, alongside unexpected challenges, and after reflecting back on my time in Aarhus I have come up with five top tips for students who are going to study abroad.

1. Be organised
Organisation is key when it comes to keeping track of all the essential documents you need to fill out for studying abroad. For example, applying for your visa can be much more time consuming than you expect, and you don’t want to find yourself stressed as your visa hasn’t arrived yet and it’s only a couple of days until you leave (as it was for me!). Remember to check the expiry date on your passport too. I had to renew mine to make my visa application – due to Covid-19, this was my first time travelling abroad after a few years – and it took around six weeks to arrive. It is also important to keep track of all application deadlines at your home and host universities, such as those for housing, student finance/scholarships and module selection forms.

2. Research where you’re going
One of the most useful things you can do before studying abroad is to research the city and country you’re moving to, alongside what student life is like at your chosen university. This will give you a bit more confidence when you arrive in a city you likely haven’t visited before, and it will help you to navigate those first few weeks when everything is new and unfamiliar. I recommend thoroughly going through the website of your exchange university as, for example, Aarhus University have an international website for incoming exchange students where I was able to find out about the cost of living in Denmark from a student perspective, how to navigate public transport in and around Aarhus, and what to expect from their academic system. Social media can also be incredibly helpful as most universities have an Instagram page specifically for international students, where you can get first-hand accounts of international student experiences, and ask questions to current students – I always found that the best advice I received was from students already at the university. If your study abroad institution is in Europe, I recommend checking out the local Erasmus Student Network (ESN). They host a variety of events throughout the year where you can meet other international students and go on day trips to explore your new city and country.

3. Take the opportunities you don’t have at your home university
To make the most of your study abroad experience, take all the opportunities you can that aren’t available to you at home. I made this one of my goals whilst living in Denmark, to say “yes” to all of the personal and academic opportunities on offer at Aarhus University, and these experiences formed some of my best memories of studying abroad. For example, with the ESN in Aarhus I was able to go on a student budget friendly five-day trip to Swedish Lapland in December with a group of international students. I had never been to Sweden before, and I was able to go snowshoeing, husky sledding, and see the Northern Lights – which was a magical experience!

4. Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do
One thing that can be difficult whilst studying abroad is finding the right balance between studying and making the most out of living in a new country and immersing yourself within a new culture. I definitely spent less time studying than I would do in a normal year at university, and I found that the best way to balance studying with seeing and doing everything that I wanted to in Denmark was by making a bucket list. This enabled me to add one or two activities from the list into my plan for each week, slowly making my way through everything that I wanted to experience whilst keeping on top of my work.

5. Be prepared for things to go wrong
A key part of studying abroad is encountering, and overcoming, new challenges such as culture shock, dealing with homesickness, and learning to work in a new academic system. Each of these things can sometimes feel difficult and overwhelming, especially when you’re in a new country and away from all of your family and friends at home. But it is important to remember that each of these challenges are a normal part of studying abroad, and part of the experience is learning how to overcome them – and you will! One of the best things you can do is reach out to other international students at your exchange university, as they will be going through the exact same things as you.

I hope you find some of these tips helpful and enjoy your time studying abroad, whether you’re going for a year, a semester or a summer! If you have any questions, I recommend checking out the Centre for Global Programmes page on the University of York website, and their Instagram @goglobalUoY.