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things to know before setting out to study abroad
Gayathri Gopakumar

Meet Gayathri - a Content Editor at Hotcourses India- an IDP company. A once-international student herself- she loves to research & give insights into the world of global education through her writing. When she isn’t working, you'll find her playing, travelling or binge-watching just about anything.


24 May 2019 409 Book icon 3 mins Share

Student speak- “Five things I wish I knew before setting out to study abroad…”

If you’re planning to study abroad, this is a must-read for you! The article explores the top five challenges you’ll face during your education abroad.

24 May 2019 409 Book icon 3 mins Share
things to know before setting out to study abroad

Hola! So, you’re looking to study abroad yeah? Well, who doesn’t? The excitement of living in a beautiful and scenic country, the freedom to pick the modules of your choice, world-class education with state-of-the-art facilities, part-time work to manage your life and friendships from around the world – it all sounds so exciting!

However, the transition to a student life abroad isn’t really easy. From personal experience, I can guarantee it’s fun, but my transition from India to the UK was certainly not a bed of roses!

Here are the five things I wish I knew before setting out to study abroad…(but now YOU will know shortly and prepare for)

1. Feeling like an outsider

It doesn’t really matter which country you’re from and which country you’re going to pursue your studies – you’ll end up feeling like an outsider anyway.

Of course, trying constantly to feel included can wear you out, but don’t let that bog you down. It’s natural to feel that way. New place, new people and new culture can hit you hard – at least for the first couple of weeks. In most countries, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be made to feel unwanted or uncomfortable deliberately.

With time, you’ll come to realise that most of the people you meet while studying abroad are friendly and encouraging; and you’ll soon notice this feeling of being an outsider fade away.

2. Language and accents

Language barrier is one of the most common challenges that students face while studying abroad. Overcoming this challenge would either mean that you’ll have to learn a new language from the scratch (if you’re planning to study in Germany, for instance) or get better with the fluency and/or accent of the language you already know (English in the UK or the USA).

There’s also a third scenario – where you might be fluent with English yet, find it difficult to follow certain phrases that are unique to that country. For example, if you’re in a pub in Australia and you hear someone say, “that’s my shout, mate”, it means that person is going to be paying. Also, “Flat out like a lizard drinking” is the Aussie version of “busy as a bee” - Wow, right?

3. Of Dollars and Pounds!

This is a tough transitional phase too. First up, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the denominations of the new currency. During my master’s study in the University of Kent, I had a tough time getting used to the various denominations in GBP. For example, the coins include 1 penny, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, 50 pence, 1 pound, and 2 pounds. Notes include GBP 5, GBP 10 and GBP 50. Initially, you might find yourself doing mental maths every time you’re looking to buy anything. But hey! It’s only going to be a phase. So, you’ll get used to it eventually.

4. Home sickness creeps in

Living abroad by yourself is amazing – you’ll have new priorities and you’ll find new set of friends to socialise. But at some point, home-sickness is going to hit you. So, don’t say no one warned you. At times, even when you’re surrounded with new friends, you tend to miss your family, your good old pals, your dear pet, your room, your bike – what not!

Thanks to technology, with just one video call, you can see them all and interact whenever you want. Also, soon before you know it, you’ll get busy and everything will be alright.

5. Adapting to new cultures

As globalised as our lives are, the culture we grow up in tends to stick on for life. The world is culturally diverse with each country having a unique one. Now when you study abroad, you might experience cultural misunderstandings. For example, a handshake that’s firm may be appreciated in countries like the UK, but it may across as domineering in certain parts of Europe.

Don’t be embarrassed if you find it hard to fathom a foreign culture. First, observe and emulate how others go about doing common rituals – such as gestures, conversational etiquettes, dining etiquettes, etc. If you’re still in doubt, the best thing to is just ask. In most countries, people are more than willing to talk to you about their culture and customs. In fact, they’re happy that you’re taking efforts to adapt to their culture while you’re there.  

If you’re intimidated by this list, don’t be. All this sounds drastically tougher than it actually is. When you’re getting all set to study abroad, be prepared mentally to make a few slips in your process of adapting to a foreign culture. It’s extremely common and natural to goof up a couple of times before you slowly get the hang of it. Until then, look at the brighter side. You’ll have plenty of funny stories to tell – like how I got kicked out of the train for not getting the ticket punched. In my defence, I waited for the ticket examiner to come to my seat and punch it – as is the norm in India. Yeah, it sucked, but hey, looking back, that was a crazy experience…

So, that’s that! Why don’t you check out the top universities in the world according to 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. For personalised guidance on choosing universities and application processes, sign up in our ‘call back’ form. Our expert counsellors will be more than happy to help you study abroad!

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