Planning to Live and Study Abroad | The TOEFL® Test

Planning to Live and Study Abroad

Before you go to your first lecture or set up your student email, there are many things you need to do — both before you leave for school and once you’re there — to prepare you for life in your host country. Here’s how we make planning for your education abroad a little easier.

Things to Consider

What can you afford? How would you like to spend your free time? Do you love warm weather, or are you a fan of changing seasons?

A diverse world is at your fingertips, and if you’re still figuring out where you want to go, there are plenty of things to take into consideration:

Living Near Relatives…or Not

If you’re independent, love to try new things and seem to make friends everywhere you go, then living on your own will suit you just fine. On the other hand, if you need a familiar face and ties from home to keep you balanced, then consider living in a country or city where you have extended family or close friends. That extra support and guidance can be just what you need to embrace your new surroundings and do well in school.


It’s important that you feel comfortable in your new environment, so make sure you consider the culture you’ll live in when choosing a host country. Take your time, do your research and we’ll do our part to guide you in the right direction. Here are links that provide some resources that may help in your decision:

College Board

Today, more than ever before, students are leaving home to study in the most popular study abroad locations: Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. If you plan to study in one of these countries, explore the sites below to learn more about the culture and lifestyle of each:

Living in Australia
Australian Culture

Canadian Culture
Canadian Lifestyle

United Kingdom
UK Culture
Life in the UK

United States of America
US Culture
American Values


Weather can play a big role in how you feel about your stay, so do your homework. Choose a location to see what the local weather is like.

Weather in Australia
Weather in Canada
Weather in the UK
Weather in the US

Cost of Living

The cost of living for Australia, Canada, the UK and the US varies considerably. There are even significant differences between cities or regions within a country. That’s why it’s so important to research the area you’re planning to go to and find out the cost of everyday items such as food, rent, school materials and clothes. Then create a monthly budget to keep from overspending. Learn more about the cost of living in the following countries:

Cost of Living in Australia
Cost of Living in Canada
Cost of Living in the UK
Cost of Living in the US

Choosing a College or University

Deciding which college or university to attend is very exciting and, for some, a bit overwhelming. After all, where you go to get your education impacts your future profession, the connections you’ll make and what country and city you’ll call home for the next several years. You’ll get a lot of advice from family and friends. Listen to it all. Just remember, in the end you have to be happy with your choice. Here are suggestions on how to evaluate which school is best for you:

  • Make sure the institutions you’re considering offer the degree program you want to pursue.
  • See what you can find out about the faculty in your area of study.
  • Find out if the career you’ve chosen requires an undergraduate degree or if you need a graduate degree. If so, consider if you want to complete your graduate work at the same institution, city or country.
  • Do you thrive in a city atmosphere, small town or relish the slow pace of the country? Do you want to go to a small college where you’ll get more personalized attention? Or would you rather learn at a large university with lecture style classrooms?
  • The type of institution you attend can affect tuition fees, open doors to graduate school and give you a career advantage. The country you’re interested in will most likely include both private and public institutions. You will find that some countries also have universities that specialize in an area of study such as research, teaching or science. Take a look at all kinds to see which one offers you the education you want at a cost you can afford.
  • Check to see the number of students that attend the institution you’re considering. 
  • Take a look at the college or university’s student profile to see if it meets your needs in terms of the ratio of male and female students, cultural diversity, academic achievement level of accepted students, and other social and academic factors that may influence your decision. Check to see if this information is available on the school’s website. Here are other useful sites:

    College Board
    US News & World Report America’s Best Colleges
    The Complete University Guide
    Australia Education Network

If you're planning to get a postgraduate degree, here are some things you should consider:

  • The reputation of the school and degree program.
  • The faculty. Most likely, they will act as mentors to you.
  • Your GPA, GRE® scores or other test scores.

Here are sites to help you search for a school in the country where you want to study:

US News & World Report
Worldwide University Rankings & Guides
Australia School Search
Canada School Search
Undergraduate Programs in Canada
UK School Search
Study in the US
Peterson’s School Finder ­– US
US School Search


Living on campus gives you an opportunity to make friends more easily, get to class on time and experience school from a similar perspective as your peers. Being right in the center of things, you’re more likely to get involved with school activities. If you do decide that campus life is for you, most schools offer different types of housing options including co-ed and single-sex residence halls, so you can find one that fits your style.

Living off campus gives you more independence and flexibility. You’ll get a chance to experience what life is really like in your host country, outside school walls. Plus, you can often find rooms that are more spacious than the ones on campus. Remember to weigh all factors before making a final decision. Find out more about student housing options:

Accommodations in Australia
Student Accommodations in the UK
Peterson's School Finder – US
Study USA

You have so much to look forward to as you continue your education on the international stage. Keep this advice in mind as you research colleges and universities, searching for the destination that suits your individual requirements. If possible, visit the school to make sure you feel comfortable on the campus and in the surrounding area.

10 Things You Need to do Before You Leave

  • Decide how you’re going to pay for school: Paying for your education can be costly, but it doesn’t have to cause you financial hardship. There are many loans, scholarships, grants and fellowships available to help you get your education abroad. Get confirmation of your financial aid BEFORE you go away to make sure the money’s there when you need it.
  • Get your passport and visa: Make sure you get all your legal documents together as early as possible. Your passport is your ID card while you’re in your host country. And your student visa is your ticket to studying abroad. Bring two photocopies of your passport and other important documents. Keep them in separate places in case you lose one.
  • Take care of your health: Get a full medical check-up, vaccinations and have your prescriptions filled before you go. It’ll give you peace of mind, plus you may need to show medical clearance to get your student visa. Also, most countries require that you have international student health insurance. Here are two sites that offer student insurance. We don’t endorse these products; however, we do want to make you aware of these and others like them.

    International Student Insurance
    International Student

  • Create a budget: There are many daily expenses as well as a few unexpected costs you need to consider. Planning for both can eliminate those unwanted surprises on your bank statement.
  • Get an International Student Identity Card (ISIC): The International Student Identity Card offers student discounts all over the world on plane, train, bus and boat tickets, shopping, banking, entertainment, food and more.
  • Keep up with current events: Check your school’s website often. If possible, sign up for student updates. Watch the news every day and read about what’s going on in the country and city you’re going to live in. This will help you stay up-to-date as well as sharpen your English skills.
  • Leave information in case of emergency: Let your family and friends know where you’re staying and how to contact you and your school in case of an emergency.
  • Confirm your living arrangements: Make sure your room and board are confirmed before you leave home. Whether you’ve made plans to live on or off campus, request to have the confirmation sent to you in writing.
  • Notify your bank: Whether you plan on using your current bank or finding a local one in your host country, contact your bank and let them know where you’re going and how long you’ll be out of the country. If you are going to use your current bank, find out if you will incur any overseas fees for accessing your account.
  • Check your admissions requirements: Find out what tests and other requirements are needed for admission. If you’ve already taken college courses or if you’re a graduate student, check to see if your credits will be accepted at the new college or university.

Getting Settled in Your New Surroundings

Just the idea of studying abroad brings to mind images of hailing a cab in New York City, going with friends to a pub in London or surfing before noon in Sydney. As exciting as these things are, they’re only a small part of your experience in your new surroundings.

Before you say "au revoir," "adios," "alavidha" or "farewell," here are some interesting things you may want to know about where you’re going:

Academic life

Studying in your host country may be very different from what you’ve experienced. Every culture has its own style of teaching and learning. To make sure you do your best, visit the sites below for tips on how to succeed in your host country.

Australia Academic Life
Student Life — Canada
Academics in the UK
Academics in the US

Social life

Your social life is just as important to your international experience as your education. A good way to make friends is by introducing yourself to classmates in your dorm or residence hall. And go out and explore all that your city has to offer. Start learning about things you can do in the country you’re going to:

Social Life — Australia
Canadian Lifestyle
Social Life — US


No matter how independent and sociable you are, at one time or another you’ll miss being at home. Here are a few tips to make sure those feelings don’t linger too long:

  • Join a club, sports team or cultural group
  • Spend time with friends. Talk to them about how you feel. If invited, spend the holidays or weekends with them and their families
  • Get involved. Try out for a play, become a volunteer, write for the school e-newsletter
  • Learn something new every day about the culture and country you’re in
  • Speak English all the time. It will help you embrace your new culture
  • Go to a party, play, sporting event, concert, movie or outdoor activity
  • If your feelings of loneliness don’t go away in a day or two, talk to your resident assistant, school counselor or international student advisor

Read more here: Reduce Homesickness Abroad

Setting up a bank account

One of the first things you should do when you arrive is set up a bank account. Your resident assistant or student advisor can help you find a bank close to campus. When deciding which bank to choose, consider what services you need. Some banks may charge a fee for services that are free at others. Shop around. And if you plan to wire money from your bank back home to your new bank, choose a bank that charges little or no fee for transfers.

No matter which bank you choose, try to limit the amount of cash you carry. It’s safer to use a bank card that allows you to withdraw money as you need it. Learn more about banking and other financial matters where you plan to study.

Student Banking in Australia
Student Banking in Canada
Student Banking in the UK
Student Banking in the US

Health care

Once you’re all settled in, ask around or go online to find a doctor and a dentist in your area that accepts your insurance. If you wait until you get sick to start your search, you may not be able to get an appointment or have trouble locating someone.

Most colleges and universities offer their own healthcare facilities. Check with your institution to see if it offers basic services or more extensive care.

Every country’s healthcare system has its own rules and regulations. To find out more about health care in the country where you’ll be studying, see the links below:

Student Health in Australia
Student Health in Canada
Student Health in the UK
Student Health in the US


Graduate and Business School

Graduate-level study is totally different than what you experienced at the undergraduate level. You will work closely with advisors or professors, who take on more of a mentor role. The course work is more difficult. And there’s more competition among students.

Some things to consider when choosing a graduate or business school

  • Apply to many programs and make sure you meet the grade and test score requirements. Admission is very competitive.
  • Research the institution and make sure it has a reputable program for your field of study.
  • Find out the quality and reputation of the faculty.
  • Ask to see how much interaction students have with faculty members. In most graduate and business schools, you’ll work closely with them.

Here are a few tips for preparing

  • Visit each of the campuses you’re interested in. It allows you to truly evaluate the culture and determine whether it’s the right fit for you.
  • Find out the admission requirements. One requirement will be taking an English-language proficiency test, such as the TOEFL test, to demonstrate that you’re able to read, write, speak and understand English at the university level.
  • If the institution you're applying to requires you to take a graduate admissions test, such as the GRE® revised General Test, contact them to learn about their admission deadlines.
  • If you need financial aid, there are many grants, loans and scholarships available. Do your research and apply early.

Surviving graduate or business school

Postgraduate students are expected to have better research skills and more in-depth and applied knowledge. In the beginning, your course work may feel overwhelming. Once you begin learning to balance your schoolwork with your other responsibilities, it will get easier. Don’t try to do everything at once. Maximize your time and energy by prioritizing your workload and completing assignments as needed.

For more on preparing, finding living arrangements, how to succeed in graduate or business school and other useful advice, visit

Here are other helpful links:

International Graduate
After Your Studies — Australia
Post Grad — UK
International Student — US Graduate
Study Abroad — Graduate

Where Do You Want to Study?

Get tips about studying and learn more about international visas, scholarships and accommodations on the following external sites.

Read the ETS Terms of Use


The U.S.


The TOEFL® test is the English-language test preferred by U.S. universities. Why risk taking any other test?


Study in the States

Get free government resources that explain the international student process for studying in the U.S.—from researching a program to graduation.


Study USA

Learn how to get a U.S. visa, apply for admission and choose the right school for you on this U.S. site.

On this U.S. government site, you can learn about international student visas and locate a U.S. educational advisor in your country.


U.S. News & World Report

Here you can get the latest rankings for colleges and universities across the U.S., to help you choose the right school.




Australia welcomes the TOEFL® test! TOEFL scores are accepted by 100% of universities in Australia, and by the Australian government for all immigration and visas.


Studies in Australia

Learn about Australian scholarships for international students and get school rankings in this guide to studying in Australia.


Study in Australia

On this official site from the Australian government, you can search for courses, schools and scholarships and see stories from other students.




The TOEFL® test is the most popular English-language test for university study in Canada and is preferred by 80% of graduate programs.*



You can learn about study permits, scholarships and student programs, and get helpful tips about student life in Canada on this government site.


The U.K.


With more than 98% of UK universities accepting TOEFL® scores, the TOEFL test is a 100% fair and unbiased English language test option for the UK.


British Council Study UK

You can learn about U.K. culture, find the right university and determine your best course of study on this U.K. government site.


UK Council for International Student Affairs

Get student support and up-to-date info on fees, immigration, and facts about living and working in the U.K. on this government site.


I'll go anywhere


TOEFL scores can give you an advantage at more than 11,000 universities and other institutions in 150 countries worldwide that accept TOEFL scores, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., the U.K. and all across Europe and Asia.



Covering more than 3,000 schools in more than 110 countries, this site offers a broad view of study programs around the world.



Here you’ll find rankings for the top international schools for undergraduate and post-graduate studies, best cities for students, and tips for choosing the right school by region.