Rushing to pack, bidding goodbyes: A Gen Z’s experience of studying abroad

Making the choice of studying overseas sounds simple enough, until it’s time to leave your country.

Alicia Ang

Strength: Memorising lyrics. Weakness: Having least 144 tabs open at all times.

Published: 14 February 2023, 2:19 PM

  • We follow our writer’s journey in pursuing her education overseas in Brisbane, Australia in this Youthopia series.
  • In the first article, 21-year-old Alicia Ang shares about the rush she faced in sorting out her logistics and more crucially, why it’s important to retain a support system in Singapore. 


If you’re thinking of going overseas for university, you likely already know it’s a complicated process. Not only is being an international student expensive, but every country and university has different requirements you have to follow. 

Fortunately, you can always rely on people who’ve gone through the process for advice. For example, I applied for the University of Queensland in August of 2022 and as of this week, I’ve just entered Brisbane to study journalism and the arts. 

The decision to study overseas stemmed from a few reasons: I did not get into my choice of studies in a reputable Singapore university, realised that the rigour of studying in a Singapore university isn’t for me, and I wanted to experience life abroad while I have the opportunity to do so. 

The first thing I would recommend for pursuing overseas study is an agent. Agencies like IDP Singapore and AECC Global will handle the university application for you, as well as guide you through the complicated process of applying for a student visa. 

More importantly, they’ll be able to answer all your questions about the process. My application was convoluted, but my agent was able to explain the process to me simply. She also alerted me to several mistakes that I made, and kept me on track for the multiple things I had to apply for. 


Apart from a 28-page visa application, I also needed to upload a lot of documents for identification.


If your application is successful, the best advice I can give you is this: time is of the essence. Write down everything you need to do (like applying for a visa and arranging accommodation) and the dates you need to do them by. Take it from me that you should set alerts for important dates!

Apply for your visa as early as possible; I was shocked to find out it can take months to get a student visa approved. You can travel with a temporary visa if yours doesn’t come in time, but you’ll still need your student visa for official matters while enrolled in school. 

The process of obtaining a visa is also arduous. Keep softcopies of your passport, driver’s licence and birth certificate on hand, as well as your parents’ or whoever is funding your education overseas. You’ll be asked for softcopies of these documents at various points during the application, so having them ready would save some hassle. 


I must have annoyed my agent with all my questions, but she was unendingly patient with me.


Apart from tuition, living expenses have the potential to be the biggest drain on your finances, so look into every option when applying for accommodation. 

For example in Brisbane, the most expensive option for me was to stay on campus with full board (meaning food and cleaning services). However, most student accommodations (designated apartments for students) I found were over an hour from my school. 

Additional expenses like food, travel, and cleaning supplies also add up quickly – especially in an unfamiliar environment – so student accommodations had the potential to be just as expensive as living on campus for me. After factoring in travel time, I decided a residential college would be best for me. 

Regardless of your lifestyle choices overseas, it will still be an extremely expensive endeavour – so apply for every scholarship you can. Many major universities have scholarships for international students or students who have excelled in some way (like the arts, sports or community service), so apply for every scholarship you qualify for even if you don’t think you’ll get it.

My last piece of advice, if you do pursue overseas study, is to make time for your friends and family before you go. I had over a month between accepting my offer and my flight into Australia, but it still felt like too little time. 

It may seem trivial at first since you’ll only be gone a couple of years. However in my last week in Singapore I found myself with family and friends almost every day, since it was only then that I realised how lonely I would be away from them. Don’t neglect your support system in Singapore – if you’re anything like me, you’ll want them around right before you have to leave.


It wasn’t until all my friends were seeing me (first row, fourth from right) off that I realised how much I would be leaving behind. PHOTO CREDIT: ALICIA ANG


These are just a few things that may make the process smoother for you, not hard and fast rules. Depending on time of year, country and political climate, your journey will look a lot different than mine. The best advice I can give you is just to do your own research and make informed decisions, even though thinking about the laundry list of things to do may be overwhelming. 

If this is a decision you’re making in the future you’re in luck – I’ll be documenting my journey in Australia as I settle in, so stay tuned for updates! Going overseas to study is likely the biggest decision you’ve had to make up till this point, so I hope these tips will help in making and following through on whatever decision you make. Good luck!

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