Getting to study abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime. It allows you to step out of your comfort zone and explore a whole new world. You get to tour new places, try new cuisine and befriend people from, not one but, multiple cultures. While it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, it will come with the challenges of adjusting to a new life in a new country.
From personal experience, I can tell you that you can make this transition easier by preparing yourself in advance for what’s to come. Here’s an account of the five typical phases you’re likely to go through as a foreign student, along with tips on how you can overcome them;
1. Feeling like an outsider:
Amongst the first things you’ll notice, as soon as you start your new school, is how different you are from others in the crowd. Your style of dressing and accent will all be unique. It will be easy to feel alienated.
The key lies in reminding yourself that this is an inherent part of moving to a new place. You can overcome this disconnect within a matter of days, by being open to new experiences. Interact as much as you can with local people and try to befriend your class fellows to share your thoughts. This will also help you understand the local ways of doing things.
2. Cultural shock:
Every country has its own unique culture. As an international student, it will be up to you to keep an open mind towards these cultural differences. It will serve you well to read about your host country’s culture and language in advance. Also, study the experiences of students who have spent time there.
It may be difficult to get around during the first few weeks but it is important to be patient with yourself and view this as a learning opportunity. Don’t worry about sounding funny while speaking the local language or unintentionally offending people. Instead, remind yourself that the only way to adjust quickly is to learn by doing. If you have difficulty conversing in the local language, carry around a translation dictionary or download a language app on your phone. If you make a sincere effort to learn local norms things will fall into place before you know it.
3. Adapting to new learning methodologies:
Teaching methods vary significantly across borders and may seem overwhelming in the beginning. Disparities in learning styles cause many international students to secure lower grades than expected in the first few semesters.
However, there are several things that you can do to mitigate this problem such as talking in advance to the international students’ counselor to learn about their learning methodology. You can also give yourself a good start by registering for easy courses or taking a smaller course load in the first semester to acquaint yourself with the new teaching style.
One thing that helped me sustain my grades was keeping an open channel of communication with my instructors. They were already aware of the challenges that foreign students face and thus guided me accordingly. All in all, my first semester was a little challenging but it all felt easier afterwards.
You may not consider this now, but you’ll be surprised at how much you will miss your life at home. Feeling homesick is a natural and healthy human sentiment that effects even the strongest people. It is vital that you not let it prevent you from enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Keep in touch with your friends and family as it will give you the drive you need to keep going. Also, avoid sitting idle for long periods of time. Keep yourself engaged in activities you enjoy. You can browse through the various recreational clubs at your university to find one that interests you, or take up enjoyable activities such as yoga, meditation or cooking classes.
5. Stay focused on your academics:
Moving to a new country can present you with an array of exciting opportunities that you would just hate to miss. This gets trickier when you’re on your own with no one to push you to study. This is the reason why most international students feel demotivated to attend classes regularly or spend time studying.
Try your best to strike a balance between your social and academic life. After all, you’ve gone abroad to study and all efforts will have been in vain, if you don’t focus on acquiring the knowledge and skill that you aimed for.
Moreover, it is important to understand that acquiring professional education will only complement your overall exploration of your host country. You can keep things on track by maintaining a few benchmarks such as attending classes regularly and not letting your grades fall. Once you’ve accomplished these, it’s okay to treat yourself to a fun time with your friends.
These problems are faced and conquered by millions of people every year, and there’s no reason why you can’t. All you need is a little planning and resilience.
About the Author:
Audrey Throne is a mother and a professional blogger by choice. She has completed her masters in English literature from university of Birmingham. As a blogger she wrote quite a few posts on health, technology as well as management. Currently, she is associate with brain test Team.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.