Studying abroad means adjusting to a lot of new things-a new culture, new people, new campus and a new curriculum. The biggest challenge most Indian students face is adapting to the teaching methods and study patterns abroad. In countries like the U.S, Australia and UK, universities use highly interactive methodologies to teach students.
Many students studying abroad complain about not being able to listen, absorb and take notes all at the same time.
While listening to your professor, it’s not possible to write down every word said. You basically need to decide what is important and make a note of that. It’s best to try and sit close to the front of the classroom or hall. This way, you will hear and see better, and will find yourself among a group of committed students. Try to follow the lecturer’s body language, use of repetitive phrases that mean emphasis, as these will indicate to you which information is important enough to be noted down.
Writing lengthy essays might not be an entirely new experience for Indian students, but the research and preparation involved for writing them is definitely a new challenge most of you will face at colleges abroad. You will need to look up relevant materials from the large variety of books that are available in the university library. You might very often don’t know where to start but that’s something you will figure out soon. Your tutors should be able to guide you through this.
Your grasp of the English language is also quite important when it comes to writing essays, so ensure you take up prior coaching to polish your written skills. Most universities offer this as a part of their support services meant for international students.
Most importantly, you must acknowledge all your sources. Plagiarism is an offence that can get you expelled from college, so to avoid this, you will need to learn referencing skills.
Most Postgrasuate degree programmes offered at universities abroad involve research or a thesis-component, though this really depends on the type of programme you choose. It helps to know what your research supervisor or faculty expects out of you. Supervisors generally expect their postgraduate students to be very competent in your academic work, and capable of handling theory and concepts at an advanced level. You must be willing to acquire new research skills and should be motivated to work independently.
Your supervisor will expect you to be competent in the subject which you have chosen to do the research. Apart from these, you will be expected to possess general study skills such as using library resources (and search systems), ability to present in seminars, and how to handle the technical equipment in the laboratory.
Some other basic differences between the teaching and learning at your previous institutions in India and the universities abroad are:
1. Lecture groups are usually large, so it’s really up to you to interact with your lecturer or tutor, and get their assistance if you have any difficulties.
2. To prepare for writing essays, it’s not enough if you read only the set texts; you need to read widely.
3. You need to memorise information, ask appropriate questions, examine the evidence and think critically.
The bottom line is you need to develop the power of independent thinking.