Have you ever wondered what it is actually like to study abroad? If your education plans involve moving overseas, then you may have harboured some daydreams of what an international education actually feels like.
What does it actually involve? What can you expect? Would it be everything you thought it would be? Is studying abroad worth it? These and a thousand other questions may be swimming in your head. What are some things you can expect in your first year of studying abroad? Well, read on to find out.
The Initial Euphoria
The success of your education plans and study abroad dreams as well as the thrill of setting foot in a brand new country will bring about an initial euphoria. After all, this is what you always dreamed of. It is always exciting to embark on a new adventure. Everything is new, everything is unfamiliar and that brings a sense of discovery and inspiration.
Orientation week can be quite an adventure as you get to explore the campus and meet new people. While these first few weeks can be anxiety inducing, they are also quite thrilling. You should take advantage of the light workload in these few weeks to explore the city and other surroundings.
Talk to your classmates and roommates and go out for parties and outings with them. Once college starts in earnest and the workload increases, you may not have the time anymore. This is the perfect time to make new friends and find new haunts. Connections and discoveries made during this period will be useful to you for your entire college life.
The Subsequent Culture Shock
Once the euphoria of new adventures fades, you will be hit with culture shock. Starting a new life in a new country comes with a variety of shocks. After all, this is an entirely different place with an entirely different culture. The people here are different, they live differently, act differently, socialising with them is a completely different experience. Not to mention the food, lifestyle, even teaching can be different from what you are used to.
It is important to stay in touch with home and family during these times. Being connected to family and friends back home helps with the alienation caused by the culture shock.
Along with the culture shock, you may also experience a degree of homesickness when you study abroad. Living away from family and friends can take its toll. Since you are completely new to the country, you don’t have anyone with whom you have a deep connection yet. This means you don’t have anyone to share your feelings and thoughts with.
This loneliness can be combated by keeping in regular touch with those close to you back home. However, sometimes video chats and phone calls don’t cut it. Sometimes you need someone to be physically there for you.
Do not hesitate to talk to your college’s counsellor or psychologist. Counselling and guidance can help you overcome culture shock and homesickness. Your college counsellors are also most likely experienced in dealing with international students and their issues.
Remember that the culture shock is temporary and you will soon start to adapt and fit into your surroundings.
College life brings you a new set of responsibilities. The fact that you now live on your own means that you will have to deal with these responsibilities on your own. You no longer have your parents to rely on for emergencies. You have to develop the life skills and confidence to deal with issues on your own.
You will have to learn to do your own chores and run your own errands. You will also have to learn how to create your own budget. Now that you live on your own, you will need to learn to become a responsible adult. You may also have to take up a part-time job or a side hustle.
College life will be your first step into responsible adulthood. This will include learning new skills both big and small, from doing your own laundry to creating financial plans and budgets. All of these skills, big and small, make you a well rounded adult.
Embracing Multicultural Learning
Embracing a global education also means embracing a multicultural education. The diversity of cultures, nationalities and ethnicities in foreign universities makes study abroad a learning experience in more ways than one.
Just like the culture shock of landing in a new country, the culture shock of a multicultural classroom can initially be a bit much. However, you will soon discover the benefits of multicultural learning. In a classroom with people of different ethnicities, you will get more well rounded and diverse views on the same topics. This makes learning in an international environment a much more wholesome educational experience.
Being in a multicultural environment also helps you develop versatile social skills. Interacting with diverse people will help you understand how to make friends and connect with people across social and cultural boundaries. This can be a big advantage for you when you enter the job market. Multicultural experiences make you more desirable for companies that operate internationally or have a global clientele.
After all the back and forth, the culture shock, the struggle of juggling classes and coursework with non-academic responsibilities, and the many other struggles, hopefully you will reach acceptance.
At the end of your first academic year abroad, you should be able to accept and embrace your new life as an international student. This is the final stage of any new life adventure. This is when you have discovered all the possibilities as well as limitations of your new life and learnt how to adapt to them. You will have met new people, formed new connections and settled into life in a foreign country. Only it’s not so foreign anymore, is it? You now have a new home.
Studying abroad is a process of discovering yourself and discovering new homes for yourself. You find new niches that you are good at, meet new people that you relate to, sometimes unexpectedly. All of this enables you to accept not only your new life but your new self.
Going to study abroad can be both challenging and intimidating. College is scary by itself for new high school grads. When you add in the stress of acclimating to a new country and a new cultural environment, it can all seem a little much.
Your attitude matters when it comes to international education. You need to look at it like a new adventure. It is an adventure which will give you some grief but eventually help you become an adaptable, resilient and versatile individual.
We believe in you!