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What every Indian student must do before going abroad (USA, UK, Canada)

Indian students abroad packing

In the application stage, most Indian students focus a lot on MBA entrance exams (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL). Once that is done, there’s a whole list of complicated admissions requirements for studying abroad – like getting recommendations, academic transcripts, writing application essays, managing student financing, tackling student visa interviews.

One important area of research generally gets pushed to the sidelines.

Here’s a quick guide covering the key points that every Indian student needs to be aware of while studying overseas.

These points are applicable to students joining a university in USA, UK, Canada, France, Spain, Australia, Germany and almost all other popular countries for Indian students.

What Indian students need to do before going abroad

If you’ve never travelled overseas, the most confusing moment would be when you land at the airport. As the number of desi faces around you (the same guys who made you feel at home during the long flight) start dwindling, reality starts biting. You are all by yourself in a new place!

No point in scratching your head after landing wondering what to do next. Here’s what you can do before you take off.

Buy the curriculum books you need from India

Text books can be very expensive abroad. Some are recommended as mandatory reading for the curriculum. Unlike India where piracy laws are flouted openly, they are followed judiciously in other countries that attract Indian students.

You can’t go and photocopy the chapters you need either (bad engineering habits!). For one, you’d be going against the copyright law. And secondly, photocopying is expensive too.

In many universities, students may get a fixed set of credits that set a quota on how many free copies you can get. Beyond that you’d have to pay for it.

The good news is that you’d be able to buy the Indian edition of the same book at a fraction of the dollar price.

Buy your clothes from India

Clothes are more expensive than books. And they are mandatory too.

Apart from what you need for daily wear (T-shirts, jeans, sneakers, inner-wear), you’d have to be ready for the formal events (like recruitment, presentations, corporate networking meetings). Buy a suit, formal black shoes, ties and anything else you need from our dear motherland.

Get a new suit stitched instead of pulling out the (now ill-fitting) one that you wore for your undergraduate graduation event. Your mug-shot will be plastered on the year book, brochures, social media page.

If you are heading to a city that has extreme heat/cold fluctuations, carry the relevant gear. You’d have to be careful not to go overboard with this. For instance, don’t carry snow shoes and skiing equipment because you are expecting a snowy December.

Build a little survival kit for the initial days

Maggi and MTR ready meal packets won’t get you too far. You’d need to start cooking soon. Instead of carrying a month’s supply of food items, if you prefer desi food, carry a cooker. You won’t get it easily from the pardesi shops.

The rest (spices, lentils, rice, pulses) are not an issue, as you’ll find them in most malls.

Pharmacies are stricter abroad with many categories of medicines. Ensure that you have the doctor’s prescription for the crucial medicines that you are dependent on.

Pay a visit to the dentist and ensure that you have a functioning set of teeth that will withstand the grinding forces of food and stress over the next two years.

Buy your laptop from India

It’s a pre-requisite for most graduate courses. Though you’d have access to computers on the college campus, having a laptop gives you independence and mobility.

You’ll need it for completing assignments, doing research, creating presentations, and listening to soothing classical music from Pandit Yo Yo Singh when you get home sick.

Buy it from India and load it with all the software you need, including Microsoft Office, anti-virus (the basic version of Avast is free and quite powerful). Stick to original software that has a license and online support for add-ons, updates.

Shop around for the best deals for airfare

Student ticket sales are seasonal as most under-graduate and graduate around the same time. If you keep it till the last minute, the airfare can burn a big hole in your pocket.

In fact, even working Indian professionals in countries like the U.S. who earn decently plan for their India trips once every few years. As a student, this would be among the top pre-flight expenses you’ll incur.

The airline ticket prices can vary a lot depending on when you buy the ticket, for which sector (direct or with hops) and the airline. So start researching early.

Take care of your foreign exchange requirements

While you ensure that the big ticket items (like arranging for the student loan, accommodation) are getting a tick mark, also think about the smaller expenses that’ll hit you from the minute you arrive in the new country.

Ensure you have enough cash – (US or Canadian) Dollars, (British) Pounds, Euros etc – to allow you to take the local transport, buy basic grocery and in general survive for the first few days/weeks before you get your local bank account and debit /credit card.

Get a travel insurance. If your luggage gets misplaced, it’ll help you buy new stuff without dipping into your own savings.

Closing thoughts

Remember that there’s a weight limit for the flight baggage. So don’t look at it as a competition with other Indian students to see how much you can squeeze into the suitcase.

And in the national interest, please don’t wrap up your suitcases with thick ropes, brown tape and secured with a 2 kg lock. It looks hideous and doesn’t do much anyway.

If the temptation to do so arises, remind yourself that you are carrying inanimate objects in the suitcase, not a wild infected animal that’s looking to break free and wreak havoc in the new country.

Image source: Tom Ayzenberg | Packing Like a Pro | Youtube

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

8 thoughts on “What every Indian student must do before going abroad (USA, UK, Canada)”

  1. sir i am a btech 3rd yr student from punjab with 7 gpa i want to persue mba in us or europe… but i want to SKIP the work experience thing and submit my application just after giving my GRE.. so that i start my mba as soon as i finish my btech here in india pls suggest me some economical universities and what is your opinion about my move?

  2. Hi Manish,This is Niladri from Kolkata. I am preparing for GRE and want to take it by next year.But I am totally in a state of dilemma as I am coming from lower middle class family though my 10+2 and B.Tech percentage was above 80% and have around 3 years work experience.My Institute is not one of the elite ones in India.So,I always keep my GRE prep in a halt mode as I always thinking about funding opportunities which I need most because without that it is impossible for me to do MS even I cannot take loan as I don’t have good collateral security to show.Need your valuable suggestion in this scenario.

  3. I got selected for PGPM at IIM Kozhikode with 99.11 percentile in my first n last attempt ( bcoz of 3 yrs work ex) this year. But i m afraid that i wont be able to join it due to some personal issues.Sameer sir, I would request you to tell me -1.Do i have a decent chance to make it to ISB after about 2 yrs as i think i would be able to score 700+ in gmat but i don’t n won’t hv so strong work profile (core manufacturing govt sector). Also, how is 1 yr PGP in ISB wrt 2 yr PGPM at IIM K n also is it possible to switch profile after 5 yrs of work ex in a particular sector ? 2. Wat other decent options (Indian b-schools) would be available for me after 5 yrs of work ex 3. Can i expect to get scholarship so as to complete MBA from one of top 30 b-schools in the world within manageable expense ( approx 30 lkh tution fees) just on the basis of 700+ GMAT score. Kindly guide me. Thanks

  4. Hi Sameer,

    Right now I ‘m in a dilemma to whether join New IIMs (5 more days to confirm the joining) or take up a job and prepare for next year for old IIMs or MBA abroad. My Profile: 10th: 82 %, 12th: 76.67 %, B.Tech (IIT: Chem. Engg.): 6.9/10, 1 year 10 months (Market Research Intern: Startup in its initial stage) . Left my job on Feb 2016, Joined Startup as an intern right after graduation in May 2014.

  5. hello sir ,
    my name is arpit , i have graduated with about 64.4% in B.Tech 2015 ( mechanical engineering ) ,in 12th (54.5%) and 10th (39%)
    and currently i am working …I want to ask with these score can i for the preparation of CAT OR GMAT …
    BECAUSE many of people have tell me that with these score u will not be selected in… interview round….
    so i should go for the preparation or NOT . SIR can u tell me the fee structure of CAT and GMAT???

  6. @Vandit: That would be a bad move. It is highly recommended that you have some work experience before considering an international MBA. Here’s why:

    @Niladri: Many universitities have tie-ups with banks for educational loans without collateral. If you get a high GRE score and submit stellar applications, you can get some financial aid / scholarships as well.

    @Archit: Predicting admission and scholarship chances based on basic data + GMAT scores is pure speculation. It doesn’t help. If you’ve set your eyes on ISB and the Top 30 MBA in USA, go ahead and give it a try.

    @Sanjay: Reputed IIMs would be better. If you can’t make it into them, then work for a few years and then try for MBA colleges abroad.

    @Arpit: We don’t focus on CAT MBA. You’ll find cost details of GMAT MBA programs here:

  7. Hey !!
    I have recently completed my MBA in Marketing and H.R from N.I.T. Bhopal , I want to pursue M.Sin Business Analytics or M.S in Marketing but actually i’m confused because i don’t have any work ex. So just want to know Is it good idea ??

  8. I want to pursue M.Sc finance from abroad (pre experience ) . What are the job prospects and what are the best colleges preferably in Europe for M.Sc finance . Would it be difficult for my application to go thorough ? Currently i am pursuing environmental engineering (DCE).


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