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The basics
STUDY ABROAD : Before you leave - Must read

10 Study abroad struggles you’ll face (and WILL overcome)

What struggles will you face when studying in another country? Check out our guide which will help you overcome the challenges...

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1. First night panic attack

You’ve arrived in the country and are slowly unpacking in your new accommodation when it hits you: ‘I’m an actual international student....and I’m so, so far away from home. Why didn’t I just stay at home to study?’




Solution: Go and meet new people! Everyone will be away from their friends and family on the first night, so you’ve already got something in common. You’ll likely be the most interesting person in the group, especially if you’re living with just domestic students. Plus, you don’t want to be the international student who seems aloof and keeps to themselves.



2. None of your devices work

So things like FaceTime, Skype, Facebook and special international tariffs for students should mean that it’s simple to keep in touch with friends and family back home, right? Well not always! After a long flight, your devices are probably running low on battery and you’ve just realised that either a) You’ve left your adaptors at home, or b) They don’t work with the wall sockets. And you still need to let your family know that you’ve arrived safely or else they’ll worry. Technology is very convenient...until we really need it to be which is when it fails us. These can feel like our lifeline to home; so when they stop working, it can make an international student feel rather alone as a result.


I've made a huge mistake


Solution: Check whether you need to buy an international adaptor (and do so before you get to the airport which where it will be much more expensive). Charge your devices fully before you leave and remember to take pack all necessary adaptors. Put aside some money or take out sufficient insurance cover to cover any possible repairs/replacements.



3. The language barrier

Even if you aced your IELTS or TOEFL English language tests, you’ll surely find yourself in scenarios where there is miscommunication or you use a phrase incorrectly (and to much hilarity). You may even have those days where you feel like no one can understand you, which can be very frustrating (more than likely you’re tired or everyone else isn’t accustomed to your accent).




Solution: You can’t account for every colloquial phrase or saying that you might come across as your university will be made up of students from all over the country (and from around the world). But usually if you do make a mistake, you’ll find that everyone will laugh off any such miscommunications and politely correct you. These will be the stories you laugh about with your friends, years from now when you look back on your university days. If you do want to improve your English language skills, try our list of alternative methods.



4. Answering the same questions/dispelling the same myths

Answering the same questions about where you come from can become tiresome quickly, as can correcting the same incorrect myths about your nationality/country.




Solution: Talking about something you know lots about makes you sound and feel more confident as you’re in an authoritative position. Take these opportunities to educate strangers about your own country; however beware not to explain things in a condescending tone or make the other person feel stupid.



5. You’ve indulged too much

In your first month in your study destination, everything is new and exciting including the food – it almost feels like being on holiday, so you treat yourself a little more than you’re used to. You might not even be aware just how many calories are in certain foods or products. And before you know it, your clothes start feeling a little tighter...


Solution: It can be quite stressful moving to a new country as an international student, so be kind to yourself in the first few weeks. However, slowly get into a routine again as things feel less “new” and re-adopt any healthy endeavours which you usually do. Join a gym or sports society on campus to meet a new circle of friends while getting a regular workout.



6. You can’t find "your" products

Whether a food, drink, ingredient or item of make-up, you may struggle to find certain brands or items in your study destination. The equivalents in your study destination just aren’t quite the same - even if no one else understands your pain.


Emma Stone


Solution: Find out what items you are allowed to bring with you on your flight (and how much of it), and bring a supply which will last you until you find a new source or more can be sent from home. If you’re living in a culturally-diverse city or town, it’s likely that there are small, niche shops which stock what you’re looking for – you just have to find them! Try searching online as it’s likely that others have had the same problem. However, we really recommend asking someone like another international student from your country about whether they know where such items can be bought (of if they have any spare themselves) – it’s a great way to bond with another individual over your shared nationality.



7. Spontaneous pangs of homesickness

These feelings of despair and longing for someone or something familiar might be prompted by a number of things: Have your friends gone home for the weekend to see their families? Have you reached that period of the term where you’ve “hit the wall” with work and going home for the holidays seems so far away? Have you seen something really small which reminds you off home or someone special back there?




Solution: Talk to another international student as they’ll know exactly what you’re going through. Consider your friends back home who aren’t getting to experience all the wonderful things that you are getting to in this country. And if you’re expecting to return home once you’ve finished your studies, remind yourself of this fact to push you to make the most of your time abroad rather than dwell on home.



8. Money, money, money

While there a few apps available to help you comprehend the currency exchange rate in a new country, it may take you a few weeks to get used to this. Expect those situations where you’re heart breaks at having spent three times the amount on an item without realising it. You’ll probably also find yourself in front of several impatient shopkeepers as you fumble through the strange currency in your wallet too.




Solution: This is where planning ahead and budgeting is really important. In fact, it will determine whether you can study abroad at all and is often a requirement when applying for a student visa for a certain country. Read our Student Finances section to find out about the tuition fees and living costs in various countries, as well as exchange rates and whether you can work while studying on your visa. You should also consider arranging a bank account before you leave for your study destination as this can make the currency transition easier.



9. You’ve packed all the wrong things

So you've lugged your heavy bags across oceans only to find that you'll use half of what you’ve packed. If you pack too much, you’ll just have to bring it all back home at some point (until then, it will just sit in your room taking up space). Meanwhile packing too little will mean spending more money unnecessarily when you arrive (and perhaps even sticking out in terms of fashion sense).




Solution: Ask the university’s accommodation office what furniture is included so you can plan what you’ll need to bring and what you’ll need to buy once you’ve arrive (usually these items will be available on campus, as part of a package sometimes too). Do your research about the kind of weather and climate you can expect and pack clothing accordingly.



10. You’ll have to come home

However once you’ve overcome all these struggles and completed your first year, you’ll find yourself not wanting to leave, having made lots of friends and a proper home for yourself in your study destination. Leaving all of this behind will be the last struggle (and likely the toughest).




Solution: You may be able to secure a working visa allowing you to remain in the country and find employment, though there are strict conditions you’ll have to meet (these will vary from country to country). Or you can remain in the country to study further at a Postgrad or Doctorate level. Whatever you decide to do though, stay in touch!



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