Top challenges to studying abroad and how to beat them
When it comes to studying abroad, much like anything else, there are challenges that you may need to overcome. From the negative attitudes of those around you to feeling homesick to feeling like an outsider, there are many hurdles you should beat in order to get the best study abroad experience possible. It can also help you if you know what challenges you are likely to face in advance. Here are the top challenges you might face when studying abroad and how to beat them!
Negativity from those around you
One of the challenges many international students face when they choose to study abroad is negativity from friends and family around them. Even if they are choosing to study in one of the top study destinations, they can still face criticism and negative energy that can put them off their whole study abroad journey. It’s important to keep in consideration any advice that friends or family may have but always take this advice with a grain of salt. This is because they might not know what’s best for you and all the circumstances, even though they are advising you from a good place.
If you feel they are overstepping their boundaries, then remind them that you respect and appreciate their opinions, but that growing always happens in uncomfortable situations and that you know what you are getting yourself into. Tell them that it’s healthy to want to reinvent yourself and grow, and studying abroad is a great chance to do this, even though it may be a challenge! Remind them that this will give you a major advantage after you graduate and that you’ll gain many great skills, both academic and personal on this study journey.
Too many choices
Another challenge you might face is too many choices for programs and universities. This can lead to feeling burned out or overwhelmed. Sometimes, the easiest way to pick a program and university for a degree is looking at your passions. If you have already obtained a bachelor’s degree, try to think if you love the subject you were studying or if you want to go off on a new study path when you study a master’s degree. Find out what matters to you and what is worth using your valuable time and energy in. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself are the following:
- What am I good at?
- What are my passions?
- What do I want to learn more about?
- What are my future career dreams?
- How would I like to make a difference in the world?
- Where do I want to study?
Asking yourself these questions can help ease some of the anxiety when it comes to looking at a million programs and schools. Once you start answering these questions, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more likely to make a solid and rational choice about the study program you want to study and the university you want to study it at.
Read more: Why is UK the best place to study?
A major burden many students face when they are choosing to study abroad is the financial challenge of it all. Studying abroad is pretty expensive, from tuition fees to living costs to plane tickets to everything else in between! Even if your family supports you financially, you may feel challenged to get extra things you need that your family can’t pay for. However, there are certain study destinations that are known for being a little bit easier on your wallet, with affordable study programs and reasonable costs of living. Some students who have a lower budget choose to study in Italy or other cheaper study destinations like Finland, Sweden and Poland. These countries offer you a great level of education with reasonable tuition costs.
Keep in mind that besides tuition, you’ll also need to pay for accommodation and living costs. Rent options may be expensive but looking for accommodation on campus might be a bit cheaper. There are even some good scholarships that cover both tuition fees and costs of living, so be sure to look into that if you are facing financial hurdles when looking at your study abroad journey. Another way to overcome this challenge is to get a part-time job during the course of your master’s degree. This will help you earn some extra cash, gain experience and also get down and dirty with the locals. However, be sure to check that the study country of your choice allows students to work during the course of their studies, as some countries have limits to the working hours and or may not allow students to work at all!
Student visa issues
A challenge many students worry about when choosing to study abroad is the student visa. You should check if you’ll need a visa to study at your chosen study destination. This might be the case for most non-European students who want to study in an EU/EEA country. Keep in mind that acquiring a study visa has an average time of between 2 to 3 weeks to up to 3 months, so factor in this time when you are deciding. This can help you avoid missing a great study opportunity cause you didn’t issue your visa on time.
Fears of failing
Another challenge you might face is a fear of failure during your study journey. You might have fears that you aren’t good enough or that you might fail if you decide to go. These might be valid fears or invalid fears, but either way, these fears can cause you a significant mental challenge. You might worry about going all this way and paying all this money and then failing or not being able to settle in and adapt. Many students also worry about course content being too difficult or exams being too challenging. However, it’s important to keep in mind that fears are just a sign that you are doing something out of your comfort zone. Going out of your comfort zone always ends up serving you well in the long term, as you get to grow and adapt. Try to push aside these fears, especially the irrational ones, and get over this mental challenge so you can have a great study abroad journey.
Time zone issues
An issue many international students face is the time zone issue. It can be hard when studying abroad to keep in contact with friends and family, especially if your time zones are on two different sides of the spectrum. You’ll have to check what timing is suitable for each side, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, they don’t fit together because of commitments or a difference in timing that is way too extreme! This can cause you to feel lonely and disconnected, and this is truly a hard thing to feel.
A solution for this is to try to use a timekeeping application and add all the relevant timezones to you in it. This can help you schedule in a suitable time to contact family and friends. You can also aim to clear up some time in each of your schedules to bond and spend time together. This can help you overcome the timezone challenge and have an enjoyable study abroad journey.
Read more: 8 Time management tips and tricks
Language barriers are another challenge that many international students face. If you are studying in an English speaking country like if you choose to study in the UK, US or Australia, you may have less of a language barrier than if you choose a country where the main language isn’t English. If you aren’t fluent in English, you might also face this language barrier when dealing with people as you might find it hard to understand what they’re saying. Remember that there are standard exams that test your level of English language proficiency like TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT that you have to pass before being accepted into a foreign university. These can help you ensure that you have the basic language skills needed to take the program.
Most locals will appreciate you trying to talk to them in their native tongue so don’t feel discouraged if you feel your language skills aren’t up to par. Even though this might seem like a major obstacle, you can always take a language course before you study abroad (or during the time of your study abroad program) to become more proficient and confident in the language of choice. Also, the more you practice speaking, the more comfortable you will become when speaking the language.
Homesickness is a common feeling that many international students face. In fact, almost 70 per cent of international students face this challenge, more-so if it’s their first time being abroad and away from loved ones! Being away from your friends and family and in the middle of a foreign country studying a difficult degree can be hard. It might hit you often and overwhelm you or hit you in waves when you see something that reminds you of home. However, a word of advice to keep homesickness at bay is to always stay active and connect with other international students. Don’t mope around your dorm room doing nothing as this will only intensify the feeling and make you feel depressed. The more you engage with those around you and the more activities you take part in, the less you’ll feel homesick. You can also always connect with your friends and family virtually through social media and video call applications, as this can make you feel like they are right there with you.
If you are shy or introverted, this may be more of a challenge for you because it might not be easy to make friends. You can start off by joining social clubs at your university or taking part in activities that your university student union offers. Try to make friends this way and keep yourself busy to keep the homesickness away. If you are struggling with it majorly, don’t hesitate to ask a counselor or psychiatrist for help. This is important especially if you have a tendency for anxiety or depression.
Feeling like an outsider
Finally, a challenge many students face when studying abroad is feeling like an outsider. No matter which country you are going to study a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree at, you might feel like an outsider, at least for part of the time. You might feel sad if you don’t understand a joke or cultural reference or you might feel offended that people are talking too fast so you don’t comprehend what they are saying. This is probably not on purpose but it can be discouraging to face, especially if you are already feeling homesick. Getting to terms with a new culture can be challenging and tiring, as you might not know how to act or what’s okay.
It’s important not to let this get you down as all international students feel this feeling. Though you might never not feel like an outsider, you’ll feel it less over time, especially as you connect with other international students and like minded people who might feel the same as you. You can also try to learn the cultural rules of the society so that you can minimize making mistakes. Little by little, you’ll understand these unspoken cultural habits, even if you slip up at the beginning. An easy way to avoid mistakes is to copy locals and watch what they are doing. You can always just ask too! Most people will be happy to enlighten you and explain cultural habits so you can feel like one of the locals.
When all’s been said and done, studying abroad is definitely a challenge and there are hurdles you must overcome to do so. However, a challenge is always worth it in the end. There are countless benefits to studying abroad, no matter how intimidating it might seem so just take the leap of faith! If you still feel worried about studying abroad and what you’ll face when studying abroad, you can reach out to the experts at Udrus to help you get the ropes so you know exactly what to expect in your own specific study abroad destination.