Every year, thousands of Singaporean students say goodbye to their families at Changi Airport and leave to study abroad. For many, it will be the first time they’ll be living apart from their parents, doing their own cooking and having the privacy to throw parties at home.
Studying abroad, whether for an entire degree course or just a semester on exchange, is a lot more demanding with regard to money management than when you’re living at home with mum and dad.
Here are five things you need to do before you head overseas.
Make arrangements for health insurance
When you study abroad, you’ll be at the mercy of your host country’s healthcare system. Unless the country offers free healthcare to everyone within its borders, no questions asked, you might need to purchase health insurance. If your student status entitles you to free or subsidised healthcare, you might need to apply for a healthcare card.
For instance, it is compulsory for Singaporean students in Australia to purchase Overseas Student Health Cover, which is required to pay for any medical costs incurred in the country.
Meanwhile, Singaporean students in the UK are eligible for the UK’s National Health Services (NHS) which offers free treatment, but many also take out private health insurance in addition, as the public healthcare system can result in long waits.
Sort out your accommodation
For many Singaporean students studying abroad, this will be the first time they have to deal with sourcing for their own accommodation and paying rent. If you will not be residing on campus, you will need to research websites advertising rental accommodation ahead of time. Also check forums and Facebook groups targeted at expats and students.
If you’ll be studying abroad for more than a semester or two, you want to continue to keep an eye out for cheaper and better accommodation once you’ve arrived at your destination, are a bit more familiar with rental costs and (if you don’t mind sharing) have found potential flatmates/housemates.
International students often get the short end of the stick and end up overpaying for crappy accommodation because they’re uninformed and pressed for time. But there is nothing stopping you from moving out later on.
In the year before your departure, you’ll want to watch exchange rates like a hawk and exchange currency when it’s at its lowest relative to the Sing dollar. Don’t be afraid to exchange a large lump sum of currency that can cover you for an entire semester or even year if the exchange rate is favourable enough.
Sure, you can rely on your Singaporean ATM card to withdraw cash in the short-term, but the ATM fees will really start to add up. Yes, even if you have a multi-currency account.
Research which bank to open an account with
If you’re studying abroad for more than a semester or two, you’ll definitely want to open a bank account. Before you leave, research which bank to use.
Your university might have tie-ups with certain banks, and some unis might even have on-campus bank branches where you can sign up for an account. Even so, don’t forget to research the various options.
You might be pleasantly surprised to realise that savings account interest rates can be quite a bit higher overseas than in Singapore. So look out for banks that can give you a higher interest rate on your savings. For instance, students in Australia might want to consider the NAB iSaver account, which offers a higher interest rate on savings. Other factors to consider include monthly fees if any and availability of ATM machines.
Contact your Singapore bank to ensure your card can be used overseas
If everything goes according to plan, you should be able to set up your foreign bank account without a hitch and won’t have to resort to using Singapore dollars.
But it’s always a good idea to ensure that your Singapore ATM/debit/credit card is useable in your host country in case of emergency. Give your local bank a call before your departure to ensure your card’s magnetic stripe has been activated for overseas use.
Have you ever studied abroad? Share your tips in the comments!