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Preparing to Move Abroad For The First Time

By Gemma Hunt

Making the decision to live abroad, whether for work or for study, is a huge and life changing decision and one that certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’ve made the decision that moving abroad is the perfect choice for you though then it’s time to get prepared. No matter where you are choosing to move or what the reason for your move there are certain checkpoints and key things to remember prior to your move. Here are just some of the things you should organize and consider before you jump on that plane:

Think Safety
The first thing you should do before you move or immediately after you move to a new country is register with your Embassy.[2] Many expats don’t think to do this, but it could well prove invaluable and is certainly one of the most sensible decisions anyone arriving in a new country can make. Your embassy will be able to offer your pertinent local advice prior to your move, inform you immediately should any dangerous or potentially threatening situations, and also offer you any assistance should you need it (for example if you lose your passport or if it is stolen). Many embassies even host social events for their own nations living in the country, which is a great way to meet new people if you don’t know anyone in your host destination.

Pack Appropriately
Before you travel to a new country you should take the time to think about what you will pack. Most expats will tell you that deciding what to pack and choosing what should go with you when you start your new life and what should be left behind[3] is one of the most stressful parts of the moving process. This is particularly true if you are moving abroad to start your first job after graduation or are a student spending a year working abroad as part of your degree program: both stressful situations without the added pressure of packing a suitcase! Choosing what to wear and deciding what clothes you will need can also be difficult and a point of contention. If possible research this by talking to a friend or colleague currently living in your destination country; they will be able to let you know how formal or conservative the local dress code is, which should help you to pack appropriately. If your travel is as part of a degree program then your school coordinator may be able to help you with this, or even provide a checklist of appropriate clothing and other items it is recommended to pack. It should be acknowledged that packing is really hard work. This is the time to be as organized as possible: write a checklist [4] and tick off each item as you pack it. Taking control in this way will help to remove the stress from the packing process, as well as ensuring you don’t leave anything essential behind.

Get the Right Vaccinations
When you start traveling extensively you’ll quickly come to realize just how many different vaccinations you need to visit certain parts of this world of ours: and how many different illnesses there are to vaccinate against! Proper prior planning is the only way to ensure you get all the vaccinations you need and some vaccine schedules mean that you have to start getting your shots months before you actually move. Visit your doctor’s office around 6 months before you plan to move abroad (if you plan that far ahead!) and tell them which country you are moving to: they will then be able to inform you of the vaccinations that you need. Be sure to have your doctor make an official and international record of the vaccinations that you have had. Many countries will require that you show them this in order to issue your visa[5], and having this with you will also prove handy should you want to travel to other countries from your new home and need to apply for additional visas.

Moving abroad is exciting, daunting, and stressful all at the same time. It is a life changing experience and one that will require plenty of prior preparation and leave you with lots to organize. If you plan ahead though, you will find that your move goes smoothly and that you are living your brand new life in no time.

Additional Reading
[1] “Ten tips for University students studying abroad”,,
[2] “How to Prepare for a move Overseas”, Forbes,
[3] “Ten ways to prepare for an overseas move”, Karin Gallagher,
[4] “Moving checklist template”, Expat Info Desk,
[5] “Preparing for moving abroad”, Internations Magazine,

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07/17/2020 - Bill
Another resource is the newly published book, "Resilience and the Internationally Mobile Family: Navigating changes and transitions"". Short and to the point it Includes practical strategies for successfully navigating the international transition process...ideas for both parents and international school staff. Available on Amazon, etc.