If you’re interested to study abroad, especially if you’ve never flown outside your country, you’re most likely curious about the sides to it that aren’t really talked about so much.
When people are promoting and selling exchange and study abroad programs, they are determined to put their best foot forward. That does not always mean good things from the perspective of the student.
They will not make it clear to you at first glance the difficulties you will encounter, and how these challenges would impact your overall experience. We asked someone to tell us a few things she learned that no one told her about prior to studying abroad, and here they are:
For students who are going to places where English is not the primary mode of instruction, learning their local language is more important than people realize. In these areas, schools might be offering classes taught in English, but the choices are likely very limited.
Taking classes in English in countries such as these might also mean that the classes are usually simplified, as they cater to locals who want to improve their English-speaking skills as well. Hence, your expectation of what you’ll be learning won’t always be met.
It is possible, however, to get by with minimal knowledge of their language. However, knowing English is also a big plus in communicating with fellow international exchange students and meeting locals.
Speaking of fellow international exchange students, expect to have more free time abroad than in your home country, and that it would be mostly spent with these newfound friends.
A common train of thought in developing countries is that because developed countries have universities that rank higher than their local universities, the standard is higher and it may reflect in the difficulty of requirements and nature of the workload. But studying abroad, most of the time means taking a light study load and having more free time. Students are often surprised that they don’t feel as much stress from the workload as they expected. This may be caused by the culture of rigorous degree programs in the home country, while universities abroad may not share the same nature.
What’s a study abroad program without some traveling to discover things about the foreign land you’re in? When it comes to practical skills, packing is the one that should be absolutely on your side when studying abroad.
Aside from preparing well for your departure, this is especially true for people who decide to travel around during the weekends and eventually for their return to the home countries. You might be surprised at how much things you accumulated during your stay and there’s a chance you won’t get to bring a bunch home.
When it comes to food, your neighborhood will determine how well you eat and how much you’d be spending on it. Studying abroad means a tight budget and tight budget means being practical about your meals, which incurs the largest cost next to accommodations.
Get used to going back and forth from the supermarket, finding cheap eats, and striking a balance between satisfying your palate and not spending extravagantly during your stay. Bringing some comfort food from your home country also does a lot for your physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s extremely easy to get carried away with expenses, but a mobile application for tracking your finances really helps.
This is the feeling that hits hard. We all know what loneliness is, but what does loneliness mean to a person studying abroad? It could mean missing home because they always had someone to take care of everything for them.
According to Carmen Garrison, M.S., LPC, “The experience of loneliness is commanding. It can overtake our ability to experience joy and connection with others.”
It could mean not having to talk to your friends because of time difference. In addition, it could mean spending holidays like Christmas away from your loved ones. It could also mean crying because they’re just so tired of having to figure everything out.
Studying abroad could mean missing family affection to someone who has never been separated from their family. Lastly, it could mean anxiety for no direct reason coming to mind.
“One way to overcome loneliness is to get active and around others. Think about what activities you enjoy or hobbies that you used to be involved in,” said Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC.
Loneliness comes in many forms, but remedies come in even more. The adjusting period is a lot shorter than people would think. You are bound to find someone you can relate to. You’re going to appreciate the place you’re in more and more, the longer you stay there.
Most importantly, the thought that you are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity should give you the most comfort to make the most out of it. Don’t stop experiencing life. Chase your dreams.
“If you have doubts about your worthiness when it comes to career or relationships, you need to take a long look into your internal mirror,” wrote Barton Goldsmith, PhD. “Remember: You deserve happiness.”