10 challenges faced by international students
So, you’ve packed, bid farewell to your friends and family and flown away to study abroad for the next few years. While the last few months leading to the ‘big day’ aka ‘the-day-you-fly-far-far-away’ must have gone by like a whirlwind, once you’ve landed and settled into your dorm, it all starts to sink in.
Here are some of the challenges that you might face as an international student, and ways on how to overcome them.
1) Panic Attack-----“Arrrggghhhh!!!!!! What the heck am I doing here, 10000 km away from home?!”
RELAX….Everyone goes through this panic attack on the very first night, especially once after the adrenaline wears off. As you’re sitting there in your strange new room, staring at your un-packed suitcase and remembering Mummy’s tearful face as she bid you farewell a few hours earlier, think about why you have chosen to study abroad in the first place. New beginnings, new adventure, new friends, new life!! Once classes have started, you will be too busy to feel sorry for yourself, and think of this as an opportunity to make your parents proud (since they probably have invested a lot of money in your overseas education), so regain composure and focus on your studies!
2) My phone doesn’t work!!!
The worse part about arriving overseas is when your social media devices don’t cooperate; something wrong with the WIFI, your phone is dead or has no network, and you have forgotten to bring the right adaptor to charge your laptop. Don’t worry.. most airports nowadays are equipped with local SIM card machines and you could purchase one as soon as you arrive. If you have brought the wrong adaptor, either borrow one from your new flatmate (a good chance to make friends) or just buy one from the airport. This might be a bit more expensive, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
3) I beg your pardon..do you speak English?
Yes, we might all have grown up speaking English (or Singlish) and have seen plenty of American and British films on television. However, once overseas, English might sound like a completely different language! Try to speak properly, clearly and don’t rush when you are talking to someone else. Amongst our own people, we might understand ourselves very well, as we are used to our local jargons or accents, but anywhere else, we might appear to be talking gibberish. Or rubbish.
4) Which planet are you from?
If you are from Singapore, the most common misconception by foreigners is that we are either a part of Malaysia or Thailand. Take this opportunity to educate others around you by giving them a mini cultural and Geographical lesson…not many people are as lucky to be able to travel abroad as much as we do! In return, learn about their local cultures too, and before you know it, you’ve made a bunch of international friends!
5) Food, food…glorious food.
New place, new sights, new smells, new food….All this ‘newness’ might be so overwhelming that you just had to try every exotic-looking morsel on your plate. Don’t worry if you’ve over-indulged, as long as you keep healthy. Sometimes, students tend to gain weight living on fast food (since there is no home-cooked food, courtesy of Mummy) all the time, but be aware that these types of food, including ‘instant’ products, have a lot of preservatives and high sugar and fat content. Try to eat fresh as much as you can and have lots of fruit and vegetables as well, to maintain a healthy diet.
6) I can’t find my favourite brand of chilli sauce
First of all, stake out the closest Asian supermarket near you. Raid the shop shelf by shelf just to make sure that they don’t have what you are looking for. If you can’t find an alternative (e.g Thai sweet chilli sauce instead), make friends with the shop owner and ask him or her if there are any chances of them stocking the product. Tell them you will be the most loyal customer and then buy a whole box!!
7) “I miss my Mummy”
Don’t worry…we all miss home sometimes, and everything connected with it. Try to find an overseas group based in your city and get to know other students/expats who have moved abroad too. Chances are, you will be invited to their ‘makan’ parties and get to meet other people. They might not be your ‘Mummy’ or your friends from back home, but mingling and speaking freely in your local dialects and eating home-cooked local food sometimes could make missing home more bearable.
8) Money matters
Oh dear! If you are not used to handling the foreign currency yet and find that shop keepers are glaring at you, as you fumble helplessly through your wallet for the right coins, stop whatever you are doing right now, sit down and take your wallet out. Take out the bank notes and coins that you have, lay them out on the table and look at them carefully to familiarize yourself with the value, colour, shape and size. Sooner or later, you will be a pro and won’t even have to look to check that you’ve got the right change.
9) Fashion nightmare
So you’ve arrived into Australia in December and have taken your furry winter boots with you, only to realize that it’s 40 degrees of sunshine. Don’t worry, those boots will come in handy when the weather gets cooler, but right now you’d need to get a whole new stock of summer shorts and t-shirts. If you can’t afford to buy cheap ones from a store, head over to the charity shops and see if you could get some decent ones from there. Buy plain tops with different accessories, so that you could be creative and give yourself a different ‘look’ each time.
10) I’m finally going home….Not!
So, after all that you've been through the last few years, you are finally going home…..but oddly enough, you’ve had the time of your life and now wish that you could stay longer! Depending on the country you are in, you might be able to secure a visa to look for work after you finish your studies. Check out the Hotcourses.com.sg page to find out more about post-study visa requirements. Otherwise, if you could afford to or have achieved good grades, maybe you could stay on continue with a postgraduate degree on scholarship!
A Singaporean globe-trotter who is now based in London. Khai has travelled and lived in several countries due to her airline background. She enjoys dancing, painting, cooking, taking scenic photographs and writing about her adventure travels.