Study Abroad

Preparing to go abroad

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We're here to help prepare you for your time abroad, from the moment you get to Essex, to the moment you step on the plane and the journey begins. 

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Important information

Completing your second year at Essex

Every year, a number of students are required to withdraw from their year abroad due to academic failure in second year.

Failing a non-core module in second year

Students who fail a non-core module in second year can progress to study abroad in third year providing they have not failed over 30 non-core credits. They will have the option to defer their assessment (examination only) to the following year; they must undertake the deferred assessment on their return to Essex. If a student does not select to defer their assessment, they will be automatically withdrawn from their studies abroad.

If you have failed a module please check with your department to check if it is a core or non-core module.

Failing a core module in second year

Students who fail a core module in second year are not permitted to study abroad as per the rules of assessment.

Essex Abroad is not responsible for making academic decisions. Examination Boards make the decision on whether or not to allow a student to proceed to their next period of study based on the Rules of Assessment. Should a student wish to appeal the decision of the Board, they can do so following the regular process. Appeals cannot be made to Essex Abroad as we cannot overrule the decision of the exam board.

We therefore advise all students to avoid, where possible, making payments for accommodation, flights and visas before second year results are published.

Financial planning

The cost of studying abroad really depends on your destination. The cost of living varies greatly between countries and cities, so it’s down to you to include this in your research when you’re deciding which institutions to apply to.

As well as the useful information below, there is lots of information on our pre departure Moodle page.

Costs to consider 
  • Tuition fees

If you’re studying for the full year you’ll pay 15% of your regular tuition fee to Essex. If you’re going abroad just for the term, you’ll be paying your regular tuition for that year. If you receive Student Finance to cover the cost of your tuition fees, this will continue as usual when you're abroad.

As an exchange student, you won’t be liable to pay any tuition fees to your university abroad.  You can read more on our funding and finance page.

  • Insurance 

Health and medical insurance are often compulsory at certain destinations, usually where a visa is required to study abroad. There is more comprehensive information on insurance further down this page. 

  • Accommodation

Do the universities you’re interested in applying to have campus accommodation? If so, what are the costs? Are there compulsory meal plans included? Is accommodation guaranteed?  If it isn’t guaranteed or there isn't accommodation available, what private housing is available? What is the average cost of renting a room? Factor in paying any deposits too. See more guidance on finding safe accommodation on the University's overseas travel health and safety pages.

  • Transport

We don’t recommend booking any flights until you have official confirmation from your host university, and you have successfully passed the second year, progressing to your third year of studies. Sometimes this means that you can’t book your flights far in advance, meaning that the cheapest deals are often gone. Depending on the time of year, and the destination, flight prices can vary. If you’re travelling further afield, particularly outside Europe, this is something to consider. Do check to see if an alternative means of transport is available. Taking the train or bus in Europe is often cost effective and can be excellent way to see more of the country.

  • Visa

Depending on the passport you hold and your study abroad destination, you may need a visa to study abroad. Visa application costs can vary between countries and many often require the submission of financial evidence to prove that you can afford to live and support yourself for the duration of your time in the country. You should research these costs to avoid any nasty surprises. You may also need to pay for supporting documents such as a police certificate or medical certificate.

If you hold a UK passport you will need to apply for a visa to enter the EU.  This can be a long process and you need to start your visa application as early as possible.

  • Financial evidence

This is one of the most important costs to consider when applying to study abroad. If you require a visa to study abroad, you are often required to provide evidence of how you will financially support yourself whilst abroad and a specific figure will be given. The amount can vary greatly between countries, institutions, and how long your study abroad programme is. You need to show you have access to the required amount of funds, most institutions/embassies accept confirmation of student finance loans and financial support from parents/friends/relatives, but it is important to make sure you definitely have this support available to you.

If you’re unable to prove financial evidence to the amount they request, the embassy won’t issue your visa and you won’t be able to study abroad. Do not get caught out. Do thorough research beforehand. Check the institution's guidelines so you are aware of the funds you would need to prove you have available to you at the point of applying to study abroad. If you don’t think you can reach this amount, do not apply for that university.

  • Meal plan 

Campus accommodation offered at some institutions abroad sometimes has compulsory meal plans as part of the package. This is an important additional cost to be aware of. Factor this into your research and see if this applies to the universities you’re interested in.

How to fund your studies abroad
  • Student Finance
  • Savings
  • Scholarships and bursaries
  • Contributions from family/friends
Budget templates

After reading the information above, use our blank budget template to work out how much you can spend. Complete one for each institution not necessarily each country (if you apply to universities in different countries) as costs can vary from city to city, institution to institution, particularly when insurance cost and accommodation is involved. 


Fit for travel

You should visit your GP practice at least 8 weeks before you plan to travel.  You need to make sure that you’ll be able to access any ongoing medication/treatment when you are abroad and make arrangements for any vaccinations.  It is good to note that some GPs will charge for some vaccinations or services, even if you are a registered patient, so it’s best to consider and factor in these costs ahead of time.  We cannot advise on this as each GP will have different resources.  You should always talk to your GP to seek the most appropriate medical advice for your individual circumstances.

If you are not registered to a GP, you could call your local GP, NHS 111 or visit a local pharmacy that offers travel healthcare services for advice.

Please note that the University of Essex are not responsible for any costs that you incur in preparation for your year abroad.  If you are not sure about any medical requirements (such as tests for partner university applications or for visas) please do contact the Essex Abroad team and we will advise you where possible.

If you have a long term physical or mental health condition, we always recommend making sure your host university is aware so that appropriate support is in place. This will not affect your allocation in any way and will simply ensure that you have the correct support in place.

You may find the following websites useful (as recommended by NHS UK).


If your host university has on campus accommodation, then it's likely that you'll have to apply for this alongside your exchange application. On campus accommodation is more common in USA, Canada, Australia and some Asian countries, however it's far less common in Europe and you'll be expected to arrange your own accommodation, often with little help from your host university. In many countries it is also common to share a room, although you may have the option to pay more and secure a single bedroom.

Over recent years, there have been a number of scams involving accommodation for students, so please be careful. It is sometimes worth waiting until you arrive, booking a hotel and then finding accommodation in person so you can see what you are paying for. Another alternative is making friends with other exchange students and sourcing accommodation together. Find more guidance on finding safe accommodation on the University's overseas travel health and safety pages.

It can also be worth speaking to a returning student or current incoming exchange student to get tips on local accommodation. Essex Abroad cannot arrange accommodation, but we can try and help you to get in touch with the host university, returning student or other students who may be able to advise you.


Depending on the passport you hold and your study abroad destination, you may need a visa to study abroad.

Visa application process and costs can vary between countries and many often require the submission of financial evidence to prove that you can afford to live and support yourself for the duration of your time in the country. You should research these processes and costs to avoid any nasty surprises.

Since Brexit, many students have faced delays and issues when applying to study in Europe. We recommend starting the process as early as possible to give yourself plenty of time.

Every country has its own immigration requirements and no two countries are the same. You may also find that your personal situation is different from a friend travelling to the same country as you. Below are a few helpful steps to help you get started:

Do your own research

How much will it cost? Do I have to show evidence of my funding? Will a criminal record stop my application from being successful? Do I need to hand in my passport over the summer when I apply?

Get your acceptance letter from your host university

Your formal acceptance letter should be sent in plenty of time for you to make your visa application. You may also be sent other documents by your host university that you will need for your visa application so be sure to keep them safe.

Prepare your application and book an appointment (if necessary).

If you need to book an appointment, you should do so as soon as you receive the necessary paperwork from your host university. Depending on the process for your destination, you may need to fill in an application form, pay any visa processing fees required by the consulate, prepare various supporting documents and pieces of evidence. Check the consulate’s estimated processing times if possible, and submit your application in plenty of time. 

Need help with your visa application?

Immigration law is complicated, changes often and is different for every country. Essex Abroad are not able to offer detailed visa advice and ultimately it is your responsibility to research and apply for your visa, however we can help with:

  • Directing you to consular websites which show details of how to apply, costs involved and contact details for the consulate where you can seek more detailed guidance.
  • Answering basic questions about obtaining and completing your paperwork.
  • Directing you to the immigration information provided by your host university.
  • Assisting you to contact staff at your host university for more detailed guidance.


University of Essex Travel insurance and medical insurance is compulsory to take part in any of our Essex Abroad programmes and must be in place prior to travel. Hospital and medical bills can be a significant cost, even for minor problems, so it is essential that you have adequate and appropriate cover.  Personal travel insurance will not cover studying abroad so please ensure you follow the instructions from Essex Abroad and the University of Essex Insurance team who will guide you through the process of applying for your travel and medical insurance through the university.

University of Essex travel and medical insurance

The University of Essex provides comprehensive travel and medical insurance cover for your time abroad and you'll be directed to complete the application form once your place abroad has been confirmed.  Please note there is no cost for University of Essex travel insurance, it is free of charge for all students who are studying, volunteering or interning abroad as part of their University of Essex programme. The insurance is a comprehensive travel cover which includes cover for most medical emergencies. It does not cover personal possessions, personal holidays or routine healthcare. You will need to purchase your own insurance for this. The travel insurance won’t cover medical expenses whilst in the home nation as other arrangements should be in place. E.g. NHS in the UK.

The travel insurance also excludes hazardous activities which are not part of your studies.

EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)

Remember that although healthcare in the UK is free through the NHS, healthcare may not be free in the country that you are studying abroad in.

If you are an Essex Student from the EU and planning to study in an EU country from 1 January 2021 you’ll need to ensure you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).  The EHIC gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country. Please ensure yours is valid or apply for a new one.

If you are an Essex Student from the UK you MUST apply for a GHIC.

GHIC (UK Global Health Insurance Card)

If you are an Essex Student from the UK and planning to study in an EU country from 1 January 2021 you must ensure you have a GHIC before your travel. The GHIC provides you with the right to access state-provided healthcare during your time limited stay in the EU (based on your course dates). You’ll only be able to use the GHIC in the country that you are studying in so it’s important that you also make sure you have the correct level of travel insurance.

You cannot apply for this online. You will need to complete the GHIC application form and post with a letter from Study Abroad (we will provide in May) stating:

  • Name and address of the UK educational institution (if you’re going as part of a UK course)
  • Address of where you're studying in the EU
  • Details of the qualification you're studying for
  • Dates your course started and is due to finish

Please note, in May, Essex Abroad will provide students with the letter to support their GHIC application.

If you are an Essex Student from the UK and planning to travel to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland old EHICs and GHICs are not valid and you will need to ensure you are medically covered for the duration of your stay. Please check the requirements for the planned destination as they all vary.    

Health insurance from your host university

Some host universities, particularly in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong have compulsory health insurance policies. The policy cost varies between institutions, some can cost up to $2,000 in the USA so it is vital that you research any insurance costs applicable at the institution you are interested in attending to ensure you can afford to study abroad.

Some institutions may waive the compulsory fee if the medical cover provided by the University of Essex is sufficient, but not all institutions will do this so it is best not to rely on this. Research the institution’s website thoroughly as part of your planning.

Personal insurance cover

We can't recommend specific insurers but suggest you include specialist student insurance companies in your research, alongside any existing policy issuers. You should also make sure that the policy covers the whole period you are away, including any additional travel plans you have.

Pre-Departure Briefing

Before you study abroad we will hold a Pre-Departure briefing - usually around May/April.  The event contains lots of useful information about pre-departure planning, paperwork, academic requirements, funding, health and safety, and what happens when you return to Essex.

Information from previous events can be found via our Pre Departure Moodle page (Essex sign in required).  Please email if you have any issues accessing this information.

Studying at your host university

Study abroad credit load

The required credit load and the grading scales abroad are usually different from Essex. While you would take 120 credits per academic year when studying at Essex, this may equal to 60 ECTS credits in most European Universities or 30 credits at most US institutions. The required credit load of each institution can be found on our Exchange Finder.

Study abroad module choice

While abroad you will take courses in the same discipline that you are studying at Essex, but you may be able to take some outside options at the discretion of your DSAO. Any modules you take must be outlined on your learning agreement. When you return to Essex, your achievements at your host university will be integrated into your Essex marks and will count towards your final degree result.

Students taking "and/with" degrees

If you are on a joint degree (e.g. Law and Politics) you should liaise with DSAOs from both departments. The department that ‘owns’ your degree has the final decision regarding the modules you undertake but both of your DSAOs should agree on the split between subjects and any outside study options e.g. a non-discipline related module. There is no rule regarding the percentage of modules that should be undertaken in each discipline.

If you are on a joint modern language degrees (e.g. Art History and Modern Languages), regardless of which department ‘owns’ your degree, your Language Coordinator needs to confirm the level and amount of credits you'll need to take in order to reach a sufficient language level to proceed to the appropriate exit level when you return to Essex for your fourth year.

Approval of your modules

Your Departmental Study Abroad Officer (DSAO)/Language Coordinator:

  • can give you advice about your choice of modules
  • must approve any module choices and changes

If you want to make changes to your modules, you must notify your DSAO before the add/drop deadline for course changes at your host institution. Your learning agreement will need to be updated to reflect the changes, and your DSAO must approve them via email. Taking unapproved courses could result in you receiving marks of zero at Essex.

General guidelines
  • You need to enrol on enough modules to constitute a full credit load at your host university. We only count the best 75% of your credits for your full year abroad grade. If you are on a term abroad, then we count all of your credits towards your grade. If you need help understanding what comprises a full credit load at your host university, please check the Exchange Finder.
  • You must choose modules that are have academic content and that are assessed.
  • Not all universities use the same terminology for each subject area and may group subjects in different ways to Essex. Think laterally when researching suitable courses at your host institution and use keyword searches.
Grade conversions

The grading scales at your host institution will be different to Essex. More information on how we convert the grades you achieve abroad is available in our grade conversion guidance below.  You can also read more about this on our returning to Essex pages.

Keeping in touch

When you're abroad, we're still here for you. You'll be asked to schedule a compulsory Zoom call with one of the Essex Abroad team in your first few weeks abroad so we can check you're settling in and aren't experiencing any problems. You can also book a Zoom call throughout your time abroad if you need to discuss any issues.

We will also send out regular newsletters to your Essex email address. These will contain reminders of anything you need to do and have useful tips and information!


Useful resources

Cultural resources

We've selected some resources to help you research and prepare yourself for visiting a country with a different culture.

The World Factbook

The World Factbook provides information on the history, people and society, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 267 world entities.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Receive the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) by country including safety and security, entry requirements, travel warnings and health. When you sign up you can choose what countries you want to receive updates for, and whether you receive emails daily or weekly.

Advice for LGBTQ+ travellers

Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travellers around the world can be very different from those in the UK. However, you're unlikely to experience difficulties if you prepare well and research your destination before you go. The UK Government webpages have a helpful advice section for LGBTQ+ travellers.

Diversity and inclusion

There may be different attitudes and cultural norms you encounter in your host country while studying abroad. Davison College in the US offers a variety of useful identity-based resources you can explore.

The Culture Crossing Guide and What’s Up With Culture? aim to help students adjust to the new culture abroad.

two people wearing masks collect food at a Red Cross food bank in Spain
"Don't underestimate your skills to help others as it could lead to their success and happiness"
Jhamecz used her time studying abroad in Spain to also volunteer with the Spanish Red Cross. jhamecz castaneda study abroad 2019/20 - universidad de murcia 
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Get in touch
If you have any questions about preparing for your time abroad please contact us. You can visit us in person at our office on Square 2, Colchester campus. Opening hours are below. If you are based at Southend campus or want to chat to us outside of these times, then book a remote call using the link below.
Monday - 11.00am to 1.00pm, Tuesday - 11.00am to 1.00pm and 2pm to 3pm, Wednesday - CLOSED, Thursday 11.00am to 1.00pm and 2pm to 3pm, Fridays -11.00am to 1.00pm and 2pm to 3pm.
Telephone: 01206 872632