This is the second in a contributor series by Stephanie Brown. You can read the first here. Check back next issue for the next chapter of The Long Commute.
When studying abroad, I recommend exploring the country and traveling around early for a few reasons. First, because you will still have money. Second, to give the jet lag time to wear off before orientation and registration week starts. Third, traveling is just plain awesome. Helpful hint: When traveling into England, get your passport stamped. An obvious statement, I know. Who has ever gone through an airport where they did not need to deal with border security? Me, that’s who.
I wanted to travel around before school, but after just a few days I learned there was a downside to that plan: connecting flights into tiny airports. I backpacked through Ireland for a week before coming into England for school, and so I presented myself as a tourist there. I figured I would be asked the same question on arrival in England, where I would tell them that I was studying there. I was wrong.
I landed in a small airport with very relaxed security, meaning no security. At the information desk I explained the situation and asked where I’d find border security. The woman there said, “Oh, you’ll be fine.” Wrong. It is not okay to be in a country that doesn’t know you are there or why. Apparently I am not the first to be faced with this dilemma. Now, at some point in the next three months I will have to leave the country and then re-enter, hopefully through a border with actual control, where I will present my acceptance letter and passport. I may need to demonstrate that I can afford to live there, so I’ll take a printout of my bank accounts or proof of student loans, but this isn’t common.
Don’t let this scare you away from studying abroad. I have had no issues registering in classes and everyone who knows my situation just finds it comedic. The moral of the story? Pay attention at the border, and make sure your information is accurate. It could save you a train through the channel tunnel later.