Studying Abroad: The Harsh Realities and How to Conquer Them
Posted by August 12, 2016in Study Abroadon
Studying abroad can be the opportunity of a lifetime, but before you attend school outside of your home country, you should be aware of some of the challenges you could face.
You may leave home with high expectations, but the reality is that everyone has to deal with problems, even when they're exploring life in another country. It's helpful to prepare for the issues that may confront you. Here are some examples:
1. You'll need to make new friends
Making new friends is important, but USA Today points out that forging relationships in a foreign country can be difficult. There may be cultural barriers to overcome, such as language and customs.
One way to meet locals is to get involved in the student life of your new campus. This may mean joining a study group, a social club, or a volunteer organization. The more time you spend with others, the better your chances will be of forming new friendships.
You should also get to know the other students in your study abroad program; after all, you're all in the exact same boat. You can do this by attending optional meetings or outings, taking advantage of any weekend trips offered through your program, or starting a weekly game night in your dorm. If you're staying in your own apartment, offer to host a welcome dinner! For more ideas, check out "6 Tips for Meeting People While Studying Abroad."
2. You could be injured or become ill
When you're young and embarking on an exciting journey, it may seem like nothing could possibly go wrong. In reality, illnesses and injuries happen unexpectedly, despite personal plans. The way to prepare for this is to make sure you have a good international student health policy.
Insurance can relieve your financial burden so you can focus on your recovery and your studies. There are a variety of plans to consider. Tokio Marine HCC - MIS Group offers 4 different levels of StudentSecure, a travel health plan providing medical coverage for full-time students while they are studying abroad.
You can also anticipate and prevent common health risks like food and water contamination, sunburns, and mosquito bites by following these simple steps to healthy travel.
3. You may be homesick
Feeling homesick is common when students go away to attend school, but sad feelings can increase when you leave your home country. Keele University in the United Kingdom points out that, unlike local students, international students can't easily return home for the reassurance of spending time with friends and family.
One way to beat homesickness is to bring with you small reminders of home. "Something with emotional value and as simple as a childhood stuffed animal... or your favorite chocolate bar could make a huge difference when it comes to dealing with homesickness," writes Victoria Borisch in Huffington Post.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, create a new routine to give yourself some stability. Head to a local coffee shop each morning or unwind each night with your favorite TV show from home. After all, "You're not literally just missing your house," writes clinical psychologist Josh Klapow in an article for CNN. "You're missing what's normal, what is routine."
If you become seriously homesick, however, you may need to seek the help of a professional counselor. Check to see if counseling services are available through your school.
4. There may be a language barrier
Studying in a language that isn't native to you can be difficult. You may feel pressured to make yourself understood by those around you. The Vulcan Post suggests that you relax and not worry too much if others perceive you as different because of an accent.
If people have trouble understanding what you say, try speaking more slowly. If someone says something you don't fully understand, ask them to please repeat themselves. You can also communicate using gestures, drawings, or even a picure dictionary. No matter how you choose to communicate in a foreign country, remember that most people will understand that you're a visiting student and accept you.
For more tips on communicating when you don't speak the language, check out our free Ultimate Guide to International Travel.
5. Your stay abroad may not be as exciting as you imagined
It's easy to fantasize about a trip abroad that involves plenty of sightseeing adventures. The truth is that you will be studying hard, just as if you were home. At the end of a long day, you may be more interested in getting some rest rather than visiting art galleries and historical attractions.
GoAbroad.com recommends that you focus on enjoying your classes and the learning experience. Studying in another country gives you plenty of opportunities to be exposed to new things without overextending yourself or spending heaps of money.
6. You may experience "culture shock"
Students traveling abroad may experience a "culture shock." Purdue University says the term refers to feelings that arise when students feel by overwhelmed their immersion in another culture. It can feel like there's too much to learn. This can leave you feeling frightened, angry, or confused.
While you should expect a period of adjustment, there are certainly things you can do to prevent and beat culture shock- just check out this culture shock infographic!
7. Things may change at home while you're away
While you're off exploring the world, life in your hometown will go on without you. That means you may have adjustments to make when you return. You may lose touch with your friends, even with the help of social media outlets like Facebook.
The Vulcan Post says you shouldn't worry. Remember that lasting friendships can be renewed quickly and easily once you return home. However, apps like Viber and Skype can help you stay in touch across international lines- for free!
Embrace the challenges
Overcoming problems is part of studying outside your home country. Living in an unfamiliar culture is bound to create hurdles to overcome. Embrace these challenges as opportunities for personal growth.