Preparing to Study Overseas

Hello world!

In my last post, I detailed my experience applying to study overseas for a semester and my eventual acceptance. While I thought finding a place that would accept me was a stressful process, preparing to move overseas with only five weeks to do so was stressful on a whole new level. This was however a thrilling experience at the same time as I knew I was about to have the trip of a lifetime.

The day of my acceptance had me immediately researching flights to fly over to Sweden as the Spring/Summer semester start date for Göteborgs Universitet was the 20th of January, 2013. It was already the 30th of November, 2012, so understandably, I was running around like a headless chicken preparing to move overseas and some incidents along the way did not make the process much easier!

Having flown to Sweden before, I researched whether it would be cheaper to fly from Brisbane, where I lived, or from Melbourne, the capital city of the state my family lives in. Not only was it cheaper to fly from Melbourne, it was also quicker even with the inclusion of a domestic flight to get to Melbourne.

Being so close to Christmas, I thought I could take advantage of the domestic flight and visit my family for at least a couple of weeks before I left the country, rather than fly to Melbourne, then fly straight out without spending much time with them.

The very next day, I visited the travel agent at my university to organise my international flights! At this time of the year, the flights weren’t the most affordable, but I was expecting that as it’s an expensive period to fly. I was however a bit sad that Qatar Airway’s ticket prices were a little too far out of my budget, because they are an amazing airline, in my opinion and I wanted to fly with them again.

After looking at different airlines/routes to get to Sweden, I settled with Thai Airways, flying via Bangkok. I had a friend in Sweden that I wanted to visit before I started my semester as their birthday was in January, so I set my dates to fly over a few days before. It was kind of like my birthday present to them! I visited the bank to get the cash for my flight and very quickly made my way over to the travel agent to pay off my flight to keep my booking.

That was the first step of my preparation complete!

Next, it was extremely important to get my application for a residence permit completed as I was already risking it not being accepted before the date I would start my studies (though this was because my exchange application was accepted so late).

I needed to find the embassy of Sweden in Australia to make my application in person. I was a little concerned when I found it was situated in Canberra as that would mean booking another flight just to visit the embassy (like the students who were going to study in the United States had to do, except in Sydney); however there was another, much easier option, thankfully. There was a Swedish Consulate situated in the Brisbane CBD.

I needed a residence permit for Sweden as while I am an Australian and I do not need a visa to visit Sweden, I was going to be there for longer than the 90 cumulative days allowed in the Schengen Area (for a certain period), which Sweden is part of, and as I was going to be a student of the country, I would be living there.

I booked an appointment to visit the consulate (as the consulate only opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays and an appointment was needed) and went to university to prepare all the necessary documentation to present to them. It was quite a lot of documentation and I forget all the specifics, but definitely included a copy of my passport, my host university’s acceptance letter and proof of my flights in and out of Europe.

While waiting for my appointment date to roll around, I also sought out the accommodation I would live in for the first six months of 2013. Thankfully and actual quite luckily a lot of student accommodation with Göteborgs Universitet was situated all around Göteborg.
There were quite a few beautiful options that included having essentially a studio apartment to oneself, however, there was an option that caught my eye, even though it wasn’t the prettiest of places and I quite liked it over having my own apartment for these reasons:
1. The room included our own bath/shower.
2. While I didn’t have my own kitchen, there was a shared kitchen.
3. It was much, much more affordable than the other options.
4. It was rather central in the city and literally only a couple minutes tram ride away from the famous amusement park, Liseberg.
5. The complex was also the largest out of all the options, so had the highest chance of being able to live there.

I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to live at this complex as I was essentially moving to a city in a country where I knew almost no one. To be sharing a kitchen with another 3-6 people from different parts of the world seemed like a great idea!

Again, I needed to put down preferences for where I would like to live, so picked three with my favourite of course in first place. Thankfully, I was leased one of these rooms and given the documentation to prove I had somewhere to reside in Sweden.

Armed with a folio full of documentation, I attended my appointment at the Consulate of Sweden in Brisbane. I thought it was going smoothly, until even with bank statements to show I had enough income to support myself, I needed a letter specifically from my home university to say I would still be receiving youth allowance from the government while studying abroad and that I would be receiving a student loan to cover other expenses as part of studying abroad. Centrelink (a Human Services program in the Australian Government) also gave me the incorrect letter to prove future payments from them, though this was not known until the consulate showed me why it was incorrect. This made me a little flustered as I could not complete my application without all the documentation and it meant I would have to go back to the consulate the following week – one week less to make sure everything was set before I left the state and the country.

With a slight sense of panic knowing I would be attending my next appointment with only one month before I would leave the country, I emailed my exchange coordinator to ask for the letter on my university’s letterhead. It took an extra couple of days to receive this letter and in this time I had visited Centrelink again to get the correct letter to show I would be paid throughout the duration of my exchange.

Without the approved residence permit application, I wouldn’t be able to move to Sweden and I still had so many other important things to organise after this before I could even leave the state!

Before overwhelming you all with the entirety of a ‘thesis’ that is my exchange preparation, I will leave it here for this week.

But don’t worry…the situation only improved after all of this!

Signing out for now,

The Woozy Traveller

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