Studying abroad is a dream for many, but the dream can quickly become a nightmare when one faces unfamiliar territory. Grishma Nanavaty discusses the most common challenges Indians face while studying abroad, as well as the best ways to overcome them.
Studying abroad is one dream that many students nurture very close to their heart. Once a road less traveled, it has now become a highway to a dream job in the corporate world. This journey might be full of numerous obstacles at the start. Nevertheless, if you take these obstacles as pit stops to pause, think, and make repairs, the finish line will be worth the perseverance and hard work. Here is a list of challenges you might face while studying abroad, and how you can overcome them.
Feeling like a “foreigner”
As soon as you land in a foreign country, you might start feeling out of place. An international student’s looks, food habits, language, and culture can segregate them from the locals. However, you will find that you are not alone. In fact, most universities abroad have students from a diverse range of countries, cultures, and nationalities, who may also be going through the initial anxiety. It might take some effort to establish yourself across cross-cultural boundaries, but in a few weeks of adjusting and adapting, you will start feeling comfortable. Keep immersing yourself, as the gain in terms of personal and social development will far outweigh the initial apprehensiveness.
Be it an international or a local student, money issues are a struggle for everyone. You need to chalk out your finances well in advance, otherwise this challenge might feel daunting. Most of you will be paying your rent or buying your own groceries for the first time. Initially, this can be overwhelming, so watch your step. Create a budget so you are aware of the cash inflow and outflow. Find ways to curtail your extra expenses (for example, by cooking at home). Moreover, always make sure you pay your bills on time to avoid a late fine. If possible, get a job on campus to cater to your extra expenditure, whether it is tutoring or working in the bookstore or library.
Language and communication barriers are another problem you could face from the very beginning. It is a stark reality of living abroad. Even if you know the language, you might struggle with the accent and slang of that geography. However, this is a short-term roadblock, as you can quickly acclimatize yourself with the environment. For example, interacting with local people can be immensely helpful.
Make mistakes and be open to learning from them. Even before you migrate to the new place, download some mobile phone apps that can assist you in learning the language. When abroad, watch native channels to practice the language. There are a broad range of initiatives you can take to boost your interactions and communicate effectively.
It may come as a shocker, but yes, you can actually feel homesick and miss your family and friends.You might yearn for sibling rivalry, mom’s home-cooked food, and even dad’s words of wisdom, which you often avoided back home. Often, the homesickness might make you want to quit your dream and return to your loved ones, but hold your fort and do not get swayed by emotions. You can overcome these feelings by making friends and mixing with locals. Getting rid of your homesickness will allow you to see the new place and people in a more positive light. Moreover, living thousands of miles away and experiencing so much on your own makes you appreciate where you come from.
Despite having and using maps, you might sometimes find yourself disoriented in a new place. Even though you memorized a dozen street names as landmarks, sometimes, you might get stuck or lost in an unfamiliar surrounding. A completely different set-up like left-hand drive and different rules of the road may leave you perplexed at times. Eventually, you will be able to ride smoothly through all of this. Along the “lost path”, you might even make new friends.
If you are traveling by bus, make sure to check the route map before hopping in. If you plan to take the train, be double-sure you are on the right platform before getting on or off. Don’t be afraid to ask fellow passengers for help—chances are someone may be heading the same way as you.
Adapting to a new learning style
There may be marked differences between the teaching method in your country, and in the foreign land. Your new learning environment might emphasize critical thinking more. Some countries follow the text-book style of learning, while others prefer interactive sessions to enhance learning and creativity. Instead of regular classroom sessions, you could be expected to make presentations, have group discussions, or submit projects.
The new methodology, study pattern, and holistic and interactive teaching style may feel overwhelming at first. You will need to expand your horizon to adapt and adjust yourself to this. Understand the different teaching spectrums from professors or current students. Make extensive use of your professors’ office-hours.
Now that you are prepared to face these challenges, gear yourself toward the opportunity of a lifetime—to travel and study abroad. Fight the challenges with your perseverance and patience, and very soon you will cross all hurdles to your road to success. Remember, you just need to overcome the obstacles one-at-a-time to conquer the world. Good luck!
(The author is Partner and Lead Counselor at ReachIvy.com.)
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