Studying abroad, in a foreign country, is a dream come true for many students, and we can understand why. There are indeed numerous benefits that come with it, from getting the best out of your studies, to exploring and seeing other parts of the world. Despite being an amazing opportunity, it comes at a cost, and the price to pay are some challenges you may face, trying to adapt to a new and different environment, thousands of kilometres away from home.
This article presents challenges students who go to study abroad face, and how to tackle or solve them.
If you are going to study in a country where they speak a different language, or English is not their official language, you will face some challenges in communicating with the locals. Communication is very important, even more so, in a strange place. Some schools may not teach in the language you understand and this defeats the aim of even going for studies in that country. How can you learn and study when you do not even understand the language used for teaching? Do not think you are safe and can escape the problem of the language barrier because English is spoken in the country where you are to embark on your studies. There are different varieties and dialects of English. Misunderstanding can occur when you do not understand how some English words are used in your country of studies, and how it differs from its usage in your hometown.
For you to solve the language barrier challenge, you must be aware of what the language spoken in the country where the school you are applying to is, and consider it as an important factor when choosing universities. If you choose a country that speaks a language different from English, you may want to start practising and learning that language before travelling there. There are sites and apps like Duolingo, HelloTalk, Lingualift, and Memrise, where you can learn the basics of a foreign language for free! If your course is taught in a foreign language, you may need to step up and actively learn that language, in a more formal setting, to fix this problem.
For those moving to countries where English is the official language, you need to know the intricacies of the variety of English spoken in that country, to avoid misunderstanding. Your well-meaning message might be considered inappropriate or offensive because of the words you use.
This is an inevitable challenge because cultures vary across the globe. The things you hold dear or sacred in your culture may not be important in another culture, and vice versa. Cultural differences cut across every part of the world; what makes us different is our cultural beliefs and value system. When you go to a foreign country, you may find some ‘strange’ culture, or struggle to adapt to the culture of the people.
To solve this challenge, you must keep an open mind and be ready to learn about new cultures. Do not be afraid to ask questions, but do so in a polite manner. You will find that people love to chat about their culture and beliefs to a stranger. It is always an exciting topic of discussion, and can even create a bond between you and the person you are questioning. When you learn some new culture, you should allow yourself to adapt to it, even though it is unacceptable in your hometown. For example, in some countries, you can call elderly people by their first name without attaching a title. This may be disrespectful in your culture, but the norm in your country of studies.
After the excitement of travelling abroad dies down, you will begin to feel home-sick, and that is completely normal. Leaving your loved ones to a different country, several kilometres away is a big change, especially to a country where you do not have any relatives or friends. You will miss your home the first few months as you try to settle into your new environment.
To overcome this challenge, you can keep in touch with your family and friends over social media, but this is not enough. The next best thing to do is to meet people and make new friends and connections in your new environment. If your location is Germany, here is a recent post to help you make meaningful connections. Connect with like minds, and you will see that you can bond with people without having to know them for a really long time. This will make you feel comfortable, and at home, over time.
Adjusting to a new time zone can prove to be really difficult because you may be in a country that is several hours away from your hometown. You will find keeping in touch with your family back home quite challenging because of the time-zone difference.
The best way to deal with time-zone differences is to schedule time for calls with your family back home. You can always fix a time that would be suitable for you and them. You can leave messages for them on instant texting apps like WhatsApp, and they will reply when they are available. If you need to communicate with your bank back in your home country, and you need to contact them during their working hours, it would be nice to keep the time difference at the back of your mind. You can also set it on the home screen on your mobile device. You may have to sacrifice a few hours or minutes of sleep at midnight to place a call across to them.
This is a genuine challenge foreign students face, they may not know the exchange rate of the currency and its worth when comparing it to theirs. This might lead to getting cheated or shocked at the rates of things in their country of study. Not knowing the difference in currency can also lead to overestimating or underestimating your budget, depending on the case.
Try to get familiar with the currency of your country of study. It is okay and very important to ask questions, so never hesitate to do so, concerning the price of items. You could ask your roommate who is from that country or anyone willing to respond. You may also find that some things are quite cheaper or more expensive than they were in your home country. Find the prices of necessities and get familiar with them. This will help with your budget planning. You will also need to know the exchange rate between your currency, and that of the country of your studies. This helps your budget planning, and aid you in managing your finances.
This is an issue that most students find challenging. The weather varies according to region. You may end up studying in a country with very different weather from that in your home country. It may seem unbearable, especially if you do not go with appropriate clothing. You might find the weather extremely hot or cold, depending on the season.
This challenge can be overcome by learning the weather condition of the country you are moving to, and packing appropriate clothing. You might have to get some new clothing that will suit the weather condition. To save cost, you can get some new clothes at the thrift store, instead of getting brand-new ones. You will find that the kinds of clothes available at these stores are appropriate for the weather condition.
Getting food to suit your taste bud or food that you are familiar with, maybe a real challenge upon getting to a foreign country. You have moved to a new country, and you just can not seem to find meals that may satisfy you. The food in that region may be too spicy, or not spicy enough when compared to what your taste bud is used to. So, you end up consuming pastries most of the time because they cut across cultures and have a familiar taste- lol :).
You can check for restaurants that specifically sell meals from your region, you can also ask people where you can get foodstuff to prepare your native or familiar meals. This may come at a bigger cost depending on the kind of foodstuff you are looking to buy. Ultimately, you can try new meals from the country you are residing in. You may just get to enjoy them well.
There you have them! Moving abroad to study, like any major change, has its pros and cons. The good news is, every challenge has a solution, and I have listed some above. The best way to overcome challenges is to keep an open mind, and being receptive to learning. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You might feel left out initially, but with time, you will adapt to changes and adjust to your new environment.
Are you currently living abroad? I’d love to know the challenges that you faced initially and the current challenges that you may be facing. Let us talk about them and collectively find solutions.