Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, offering students an opportunity to explore new cultures, gain independence, and gain an international perspective. However, studying abroad can also be a very challenging experience with numerous obstacles, both expected and unexpected. From culture shock to language barriers and homesickness, there are many challenges that students can face while studying abroad. But with the right preparation and attitude, they can be overcome. Here are some of the top challenges that students face while studying abroad and how to overcome them.
Overseas education is an amazing opportunity for multiple reasons. It can change the trajectory of your entire career by adding a new dimension to how you are perceived by a recruiter or a potential business partner or investor to whom you may pitch a business idea. However, during several years of teaching overseas at universities in the US and other countries, I have observed that study-abroad students initially face some challenges.
The objective of this blog is to flag some of the challenges faced while studying abroad and how to overcome them so that new aspirants going overseas can be better prepared for these challenges. I want to emphasize that each student will face different challenges depending on their previous academic exposure, adaptability and personality. Let me explain each of these challenges:
The system of education, methods of teaching and assessment will all be different when you study overseas. Additionally, if you choose a study program different from your previous degree, settling down can be challenging. For example, going for an MSc in Computer Science or Data will be an easy transition if your previous education is in the same area. However, if you are switching from that to an MBA in Finance or Entrepreneurship, you may take longer to settle. In any case, at universities in the US, Canada, UK or Australia, you will need to adapt to a different system of teaching, project work or open-book exams.
- Research before you go read up about your chosen study programme in great detail. What will be the academic requirements for each semester?
- After you reach find the student support services office. They help students with their academic difficulties. Set up appointments to seek their help.
- Email your professors early in the semester. Set up appointments, discuss your queries, understand their expectations and share any anxieties you have. Most professors are very helpful towards international students who are motivated. Do not be shy or hesitant to request an appointment!
Also Read: Going to Study Abroad? 6 Life-Changing Benefits to Expect
Leaving your familiar culture where you understand what is acceptable behaviour in that culture can be unsettling. In my years at overseas universities, I have observed that many international students are unsure about how they might say or do something which might cause offence to someone in a different culture. So what can you do?
My advice is to Read, Observe and Ask.
- Read up about the cultural norms in that society. Before you go overseas, look online for tips for travellers.
- Once you begin to live overseas OBSERVE! How do students talk to each other or the professor? How do they dress on campus? How do people behave at the supermarket or on the bus?
- If you are unsure ask your classmates. Soon you will adapt to the manners appropriate in that culture.
These may appear to be less important but in fact, social and emotional challenges need special attention. Why? This is because how we adapt to a new country shapes the way we ‘feel’ and these feelings determine our mental health and our sense of well-being. Why are there emotional challenges in going to study abroad? The answer is simple; when we leave family, friends and ‘home’, we are separated from our roots. We need to make new friends and re-settle emotionally in a new environment – whether it is for a year-long Master’s programme or a long PhD. So how can you overcome these emotional challenges and settle down?
Before you search online for Indian student groups at that university (Facebook/ Instagram) Join and connect with a few people. After you arrive, join student groups and activities related to your interests. Plan weekend activities. To build a wide international network make new friends by planning to watch movies or go for an Indian meal together!
The extent to which a student faces emotional or social challenges will depend on the following:
- Have you lived independently before?
- Have you ever lived away from family?
- Do you feel adventurous about facing new situations and meeting new people?
If your answer to any of the above is ‘NO’, I have important advice for you:
Remind yourself that you are choosing overseas education to expand your horizons; upgrade your qualifications and open new doors for your future. To achieve this, exposure and experience are essential. The more you view studying abroad as an ‘opportunity’ and an ‘investment’ in yourself, the easier it will be for you to overcome any challenges that you may face overseas. In short, enjoy this life-changing opportunity. Become a global citizen!
We will be back next Friday with another amazing blog from Dr Maina Chawla Singh. Till then, if you have any questions or suggestions, just drop us a comment and we will get back to you.