Planning for Success

Jumping on a plane and flying to Belgium for 3 + months did not magically happen over night, there are so many ducks to get in a row and perhaps this rundown list maybe helpful if you plan on studying away from home. 

Where do you want to study? There were a number of setting schools around the world which I had considered attending. Research into the costs, length and duration of each course, some places had forever plans where you could drop in whenever you liked for a one time fee, most provided a 5 day training. I opted for Alexandre's 3 month professional training

Enquire about availability, in the case of Alexandre I enquired in Q3 of 2023 and the next available spot was not till Q2 2024 so make sure you plan in advance. 
Check relevant visas to enter into the country. Australians get 90 days in the Schengen area within 180 days without needing any special visas. 

This is a big one! Have a good look at all associated costs not only the cost of the course, things such as travel insurance, data sim to keep connected, daily transport, accommodation, flights and layovers and most importantly food. Also note currency exchange rate does fluctuate. Unfortunately for me the Australian Dollar is doing not the best at the time of writing 1 AUD was buying 0.61 Euro 

Course Fee - A hefty fee, but when you are going to have the time to upskill under someone who is a Master in their field. Make sure you have the funds as it is often required in one lump sum. 

Additional Tools
- The course requires you to purchase some of your own tools, but there is a whole lot which is included, you are welcome to request the tool kit prior to try and make your own arrangements or you might already have some of the items and don't wish to double up. make sure you have allowed extra

- $2,700 for return flights, I did utilise all my Frequent Flyer points treating myself to First class flight, and was still within budget.  

Travel Insurance - Make sure you list down all countries you spend more than 24 hours in and check the policy for exclusions. Check a different companies to get quotes I had differences of up to $400 from one company to another for the exact same dates. With most insurances I opt for lowest premium and highest excess, as it is a safety net I wish not to use. 

- Check the location of your intended place to stay in relation to the school, traveling more than 20 mins each way can get really taxing really quickly. Airbnb allow a maximum of 90 night stay and is paid in 1 month blocks or you can arrange through an property agent which was quoted approx. $1,500 per month, but also check via AirBNB as an alternative option, AirBNB make you pay in 1 month lots and you can book up a maximum of 90 days per booking. For those concerned about test week, could consider a hotel, or serviced apartment for the test week first. Don't forget to check if tourist tax is applicable, sometimes it is not included in the room rate and was 2.8€ per night paid on arrival. 

Living Expenses - I allowed $1,500 per month, but this really depends on how much you eat out etc and also included transport within this line item, spending money on non essentials is a separate thing, make sure you let you bank know you will be overseas and what country so your cards don't get blocked! 

Daily Transport
I discovered there are two types Passes in Antwerp for unlimited travel, one for Metro + Buses only OMNIPASS (49€ per month or 130€ for 3 months + 5€ MOBIB Card fee) and another with additional selected train line travel CITY PASS (67€ per month + initial 6€ MOBIB Card fee). Either which one you choose you will be saving heaps than tap and go. Standard is 2.5€ per ride for up to 1 hr so if you did that for 20 days back and forth would already by 100€ for 4 weeks and that's not including if you are planning on traveling around on the weekends!  

Pack pack packing
What to pack for 3 + Months?! Besides enough clothes and weather appropriate items (it rains a fair bit in Antwerp) what ever you pack ensure you are within your flight's baggage allowance. If you are bringing tools, remember these can not be in hand carry and must be checked in! 

I had an open empty suitcase in the spare room weeks before departure and kept chucking things in there I felt I would need or want when away. Final packing was done the night before and weighed on the scales to get the all clear. 

Check your passport as you can't enter some countries if you have less than 6 months validity on your passport from the date you intend to leave. 

Leave Arrangements 
I was fortunate enough to have Long Service Leave owing and it just felt like the right timing. Tell your workplace in advance so they can make arrangements ahead of time and coworkers can prepare for your absence. Linking back to budget, you'd want to make sure you have enough funds plus back up while away. 

Fur Babies 
Don't forget your pets! Not to bring them with you! But to ensure you have someone you trust to look after them! These are my two boys Glen and Fiddich, and I miss them very much! 

Now that you've plan for everything imaginable, don't forever there are still shops where you are going so you can always buy what you need! One last PSA, if your flight allows you to check in 23 - 30 kg + 7kg carry on, just remember you have to lug it all around i.e. carry it on and off trains, trams, buses and wheel them in all conditions uphill on cobble streets and be it stairs... rain, hail or shine.

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