Hello and welcome to the ESN Southampton blog!

Firstly, I’ll introduce myself. I’m Elisabeth, the Volunteering & Causes Coordinator for Erasmus in Southampton. I’m about to start my fourth year in French and Linguistics after recently returning from my year abroad in Toulouse, France. In this blog I’m going to talk about how to prepare for your year or semester abroad, especially during the current pandemic, by covering the following topics:

  • What to pack for your study placement abroad

  • Ultimate tips for packing

  • What do I need to do in preparation for the year abroad? Forms, documents, visas…

  • The practical stuff: finding housing and bank cards

  • How to mentally prepare for living abroad

So, what should you pack for a study placement abroad?

Tip #1 Don’t leave packing until the night before but also do not overstress or complicate the situation by packing months in advance. 

Packing. The worst part of going away. If you’re anything like me, you leave the dreaded job of packing until 3am the night before you’re due to leave. Not ideal, especially when you are faced with the task of having to pack your life away in two massive suitcases.  Instead, I opted to prepare a week beforehand. I had enough time to prepare everything without finding myself unpacking the suitcases every day in the big lead-up because I needed something I’d already packed.. disaster averted.  Firstly, I suggest writing a list of everything you are going to need in Southampton. Here’s everything that I would bring on my year abroad to England: 


  • T-shirts 

  • Trousers 

  • Underwear (warm socks for cold days) 

  • Jumpers!!! 

  • Coats, gloves, a scarf 

  • Sports clothes 

  • A couple pairs of shoes 

  • Some clothes for evenings out (meals, bars, etc) 

Hygiene products: 

  • Bring enough shampoo, conditioner and body wash for the first couple of days incase you don’t have time to buy it when you first move in! But you will be able to buy all the products that you don’t need immediately once you’re in Southampton.

  • Towels 

  • Masks 

  • Bacterial hand gel  

Other items: 

  • Laptop 

  • Chargers for phone and laptop 

  • Stationary (but you can buy that once you arrive!) 

  • Adaptors for Britain (this is the one thing I always forget when going abroad!!!) 

  • Bedsheets if you can fit them in your suitcase! 

  • British currency, credit/debit cards, passport and identification cards ​

  • A couple books if you like reading, but remember you’ll be able to find loads of books in English when you’re here to practise your English reading skills! 

  • Home comforts!!! 

  • Any other items you cannot live without! 

Tip #2 Remember to pack enough MASKS! Due to the current pandemic it is a legal requirement to wear masks in all enclosed areas in the UK. Some airlines also require surgical masks for boarding the plane so make sure to have both material and surgical masks on you when you come to the UK. 

My ultimate tips for packing: 

Tip #3 Remember: you can buy certain things once you arrive. Wait until you have moved into your house or flat to buy cooking utensils – you may have really nice flatmates who let you use theirs (that’s what happened to me on my year abroad!) or if this is not the case, you can easily go out and buy pots and pans from Ikea or any other homeware store in Southampton! 

Tip #4 Pack as lightly as you can! Bring everything that you need, but if you haven’t worn that t-shirt in two years then you probably won’t need it during your year abroad! 

Tip #5 Most importantly - bring any home comforts that you know you can’t do without. I knew I would not survive my year abroad in France without a homely cup of tea, so I bought a supply of Tetley English Breakfast tea to have when I really needed a bit of home. 

What do I need to do in preparation for my year abroad? Forms, documents, visas… 

Tip #6 Make a list of everything you need to do before leaving.  

It can certainly be overwhelming preparing to move abroad – trust me, I know! But what can be a great help is writing a list of everything you need to do before leaving and then a second list of everything you will need to do once you arrive. Do not make the same mistake as me and start panicking  that you have not done all the mandatory forms on the night before leaving … Write down all the forms that your host AND home university have asked you to do in order to complete your year abroad with ease. This could be any of the following: 

  • Erasmus grant forms - learning agreement (before, during and after mobility), risk assessment, proof of insurance forms, arrival forms, etc.  

  • Get year abroad insurance! Some universities provide their own insurance for their students, but you will still need to apply for it. Speak to your home university to find out if they can provide insurance for your year abroad. Otherwise you will have to find your own insurance. Make sure to do this before you leave! 

  • Visas and documents. Find out by looking at government guidelines whether you’ll need a student visa or any other documents to be able to study in Britain. You can find this information from the British government website - www.gov.co.uk - and if you’re still unsure speak to your home university or the University of Southampton to ask for any advice.  

  • Coronavirus forms. Keep up to date with the everchanging situation and ensure that you know what documents you will need to be able to travel to Britain during the current pandemic. Currently (27th August 2020) all persons travelling to the UK must provide contact details by a passenger locator form which can be accessed on the government website - https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control. Contact your airline before flying to find out which documents you will need in order to travel to Britain. Remember: there is currently a 14-day quarantine in place when arriving to the UK from overseas. Some countries are exempt. Look on the government website to find out if your country is exempt from the list and ensure to have suitable accommodation for quarantine if you will be required to quarantine on arrival. 

The practical stuff: finding housing and bank cards 

You will obviously need to find housing! This can either be done through the university by finding out what accommodation they can provide or through private accommodation. If you want to live in university accommodation, then you can contact the university to find out what accommodation they offer. Otherwise, if you’d prefer to live in private housing, I would advise searching Facebook for the following groups: ‘Official University of Southampton Welcome 2020-2021’ and ‘Overheard at Southampton’ where people often post to advertise a spare room in a student house-share.  

Tip #7 Look into ordering a Monzo or Revolut card!  

One other important thing to remember is credit and debit cards! It can cost a lot to keep paying with your debit card from your home country so it is definitely worth researching other means of paying. I highly recommend ordering a Monzo or Revolut card, which allows you to convert your own currency into British Pounds without a transaction fee under a certain amount per transaction. This could save you the hassle of opening a bank account if you’re only here for one semester. 

How can I mentally prepare for the year or semester? 

Moving abroad is a big step, so it’s totally normal to be feeling nervous. And for many of you the first semester will be completely online, as you’ll be studying virtually for the University of Southampton instead of doing the study placement in England. So use this semester to your advantage! Get involved with all the virtual events that will be taking place throughout the semester and get in contact with the committee and other members of ESN.  

Tip #8 Take advantage of online resources! Keep up to date with the work you have online and get in touch with other Erasmus students who you’ll be meeting in semester two! 

Check out all the other online resources that are offered at the University of Southampton. There is plenty of support whilst you are studying online before you join us in Southampton. The university offers a service called ‘Enabling’ which offers in-person and online support to students at the University of Southampton. There are a range of resources from ‘first support’ which provides you with someone to talk to if you are dealing with something difficult in your life, to counselling and mindfulness. You can find out more information about these services at: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/edusupport/mental_health_and_wellbeing/index.page? Or email Enabling Services at enable@soton.ac.uk.  

Tip #9 Check out the online wellbeing services at the University of Southampton. 

And why not get in touch with the clubs and societies at the University of Southampton to see how you can get involved online and see what will be offered in January when you arrive! You can look at the student union’s wide range of clubs and societies on the Southampton website www.sussed.soton.ac.uk or search up the clubs on Facebook by typing in ‘University of Southampton Volleyball’, for example. 

Tip #10 Research what the university has to offer before arriving! 

And if you’re feeling nervous, why not take up journaling? Write down all your feelings of nervousness, excitement, fear, joy, etc. and keep track of how you’re feeling. This is a great way to let out any feelings so you can get on with your day, but is also a great way of keeping a record of your Erasmus experience which will be such a lovely souvenir to read when you look back on your life abroad in the future.

Tip #11 Start journaling! Write down any feelings you may have. 

Along with this, it’s great to speak to family and friends. You can talk to them about how excited you are but also how nervous you may be, and they’ll be able to comfort you and offer you some advice. You may even have family members or friends who have already done an semester abroad, or already lived in another country. They’ll be able to offer you some great advice on how to prepare, how to take care of your wellbeing whilst abroad and what you’ll need to do.  

Tip #12 Speak to friends and family. 


And lastly, join/follow the ESN Southampton Facebook and Instagram pages to keep up to date with the society and to get in contact with current and past members of Erasmus to find out more about Southampton and be involved with all the virtual or in-person events going on.  Remember, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact any of our lovely committee members on Facebook or Instagram. We are more than happy to answer your questions and help as much as we can!  

ESN love x 

Elisabeth, Volunteering and Causes