Studying abroad is one of the most exciting chapters in a student’s life. It is a unique experience that offers the perfect opportunity to travel, meet new friends, learn a new language and, of course, get a top-notch education.
For some, however, moving to another country is not an easy transition, and there are challenges along the way. We’ll explore six common challenges students face when studying abroad and how to overcome them.
One of the most common challenges of studying abroad is the language barrier. You may have spent the last five years studying the language, but when you arrive in the country, you feel like a complete stranger.
The locals use slang that you are not familiar with and multiple words can be used to describe the same thing. Sometimes this makes you feel like an outsider but look at it as a learning opportunity.
Most of the locals appreciate that you try to communicate with them in their native language. While it may seem like a big hurdle to overcome, the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll become.
And hey, coming home completely fluent in a second language is a huge plus!
Trying to understand a different currency is another common challenge students face when studying abroad. Before you pack your bags and board a plane, you should familiarize yourself with the exchange rate.
You can use an online currency converter like the one offered by Google. Simply enter an amount, choose your local currency from the dropdown menu, then select the currency of the country where you will be studying abroad.
There are other currency differences to consider as well. For example, although many countries include tax in the price of an item, international students should be aware that tax is not included in Canada and the United States.
This means that taxes must be calculated in addition to the price tag of the product. In addition, to how to learn a new language, there is also money slang.
For example, in the UK, a pound is informally referred to as the quid. By reviewing these differences, you will avoid confusion at the register.
Students will also have to learn how to properly manage their daily finances. Some international students may be lucky enough to get a scholarship, which will help reduce the financial burden.
With that being said, all students will need to learn how to budget. In addition to tuition, students must also account for accommodation, food, transportation, and other daily expenses.
Costs are generally higher in larger cities and also depend on lifestyle, choice of accommodation, and spending habits.
Not having your family around to support you financially can cause some stress, but again, use this as an opportunity to learn how to develop a budget and manage money.
Each country has different cultural standards. In addition to familiarizing yourself with the country’s language and currency, you will also need to adjust to the local culture.
At home, you probably don’t know the “unwritten rules”, those day-to-day things you do that may be unknown to foreigners.
An example is a simple handshake. In one country, a firm handshake is standard practice, but in another, it may be considered offensive.
As with everything, watch the locals and immerse yourself in their culture. Eventually, you will adjust and you may even teach your new friends about your culture.
It’s easy to feel homesick when everything around you is so unfamiliar. You’ll miss the things you find comfort in, like the couch in the living room and your annoying but lovable brother.
Remember, homesickness is a natural and even expected feeling when you move home, no matter if it’s your first time living alone. In fact, research from the UCLA Institute for Higher Education Research reports that homesickness can affect 71% of students at one time or another.
The important thing is not to let this get in the way of your experience abroad. Your family and friends will still be there when you return, and you can connect with them virtually through technology in the meantime.
As you get out and explore your new home and campus, you will quickly overcome any feelings of homesickness.
Not Wanting to Leave
Once you’ve overcome all of these challenges, you’ll realize just how much you love your new home. When you finish your studies and it’s time to go, you will miss the places, the food, and many of the little everyday things like the great cafe down the street.
You will miss the freedom, the adventures, and even the challenges… and leaving will be its own challenge. But you will be excited to come home and share the amazing experience you had studying abroad.