So you’ve been accepted into the IMFSE Program and are now trying to figure out how to pack down your life into a bag. Firstly, congratulations!
Reflecting on our experiences and lessons learned by all the students during the first year, we’ve prepared a short checklist of things to think about as you commence this endeavour.
A common theme to most of the items listed below is to be proactive. Time is your friend; the sooner you think about things or realise problems, the easier it is to work towards an appropriate solution. Being proactive will allow you to reduce the number and severity of any logistical or administrative headaches that will inevitably come up. The best advice is to accept that issues will arise and roll with the punches to work towards a solution.
It’s important to note that the IMFSE program does a very good job of handling the items which it is responsible for. However, there is a great deal of external red tape inherent in a program like this which requires a diligent effort to overcome effectively.
In no particular order:
- Start organising your belongings sooner rather than later. Use coloured stickers to decide what you’ll be selling, putting in storage, giving away and taking with you. This process always takes much longer than you’ll expect, so to reiterate start early.
- It’s the perfect time to embrace minimalism, so pack light where you can. Many of us brought suits or formal wear with us which we have not as yet had occasion to use. Perhaps in the second year these will be more useful, however I’d suggest a shirt and blazer obtained when you actually need them would probably be appropriate for most of us.
- Make an online backup of all important documents that you could possibly need.
- Think about how you will be able to login to services in your home country (banking, taxes, etc.) that require mobile verification if you don’t have your home mobile number active anymore. Also, consider if your home bank sends you sms verification codes for online purchases. Make sure to spend some time to properly think about these, especially those services which you use rarely. These things are often easy to solve at home but, as I’ve found out, almost impossible to solve from the other side of the world if it slipped your mind prior to the move.
- Check if there are any national services of your home country which you have to notify if you’re moving overseas (taxation, voting departments, etc.).
- If it’s appropriate for you, consider setting up a power of attorney to act on your behalf whilst you’re overseas. In the unlikely event this needs to be used, it can often make things much easier having someone on the ground to represent you if something needs to be handled during your studies.
- Ensure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after you expect to graduate from IMFSE.
- Don’t put off looking into any visa requirements for Belgium, Sweden, AND Scotland, especially if you don’t plan on going home over the summer holidays. The majority of students (including myself) only concentrated on the requirements for the first year.
- Related to the visa requirements, ensure that you have the applicable documents certified/notarised as appropriate. However, check if the visa offices have validity timeframes on these documents and make a plan if necessary.
- It’s never too soon to start looking into Edinburgh accommodation. Accommodation as an individual is simple in both Ghent and Lund, but take this process seriously and apply as soon as applications open. If your partner is accompanying you, finding accommodation can be much more difficult (especially as the university housing departments seem to change their policies on couples year to year).
- Whilst not something you need to be concerned with before you leave, this is certainly one item that continues to cause many headaches for students over the years. Be very careful when posting your passport for any visa application you make whilst you’re over here (especially in Lund). You are required to show formal ID to collect mail. For us, the only acceptable ID is our passport. This is obviously impossible to do if the item you are collecting is the passport. This has caught out quite a few students over the past few years and I don’t think anyone has a perfect solution yet. Make sure you talk to the post office to get their advice prior to mailing your passport away, but (and as incredible as this sounds) it seems that the current solution is to have the passport mailed to a classmate that can pick it up on your behalf.
To the past and current students, please let me know if there is anything I’ve mistakenly omitted.
To the future students, don’t be put off by the extent of the list above. The program is an amazing experience even with some of these challenges. Just try to think of it as another excuse to practice your problem-solving skills.
Good luck, and for those of you starting later this year, I look forward to meeting you in September.