The idea of studying abroad can be both thrilling and frightening. One of the fears can lie in the fact that you will need to cope with all the tasks and assignments and get used to a new life in another country, which is definitely hard. Especially, if you try to combine your study with work. At some point, you might even ask yourself, “What if I miss the lecture?” “What if I fail the test?”, “What should I do?”, “Can I just pay to do my coursework to improve my performance?” All these thoughts are normal and every foreign student has them. These issues are easily resolved. Do not worry. Every university is flexible and understands your circumstances.
Before moving, you should also prepare yourself mentally that everything is going to be a lot different. Collecting information about life in your destination country would make the whole adaptation process much easier.
Here you can find out about some of the potential differences that a student may encounter abroad:
Students who would like to study abroad should note that classes would be different from those they are used to, no matter where they study. By learning about the structure of classes in advance, you will adjust to them more easily. Here are some of these differences:
The structure of the program. The way the curriculum is structured, surely, depends on the particular country. In France and Spain, for example, a student’s curriculum is well organized, and you do not have to attend elective courses besides the major ones. In Austria, on the contrary, students can choose from several areas of study and optional courses in any field.
Grades. The grading system also varies from country and university. In the United States, for example, a student gets a total grade from exams, research papers, and presentations, while in the United Kingdom grades are most often given for the final exam. Moreover, there are different types of grades. In Australia, for instance, they have a percentage scale between 0 and 100, while in Switzerland there is a 6-point grading scale.
Teaching methods. Although lectures are the most common form of studying worldwide, textbook-based, small project-based and independent forms of studying are also common depending on the country and the university. The way of communication and dealing with teachers might be unfamiliar as well, so it might be uncomfortable for you to accustom too.
Reading assignments. In the United States, all students are given specific reading assignments to study in addition to the lectures, while in Europe it is more common for professors to provide just a list of additional reading materials for students to read only if they wish.
Lifestyle and culture
No matter where you are going to study, respect and acceptance of local customs, culture, and lifestyle are the key to a positive experience. Criticism or attempts to change the behavior of local residents is the right way to push them away. Some potential differences you may see are:
Accommodation, bathrooms, amenities. People all over the world live in completely different types of buildings, with different types and quality of amenities. Housing may not be as new and modern or may not have microwave ovens or clothes dryers. In many countries, including the UK and France, a standard bathroom with shower, which is universal in the U.S. is unlikely to be found. Bathrooms there have only a bathtub with a sink. Toilets in some parts of the world may look outdated compared to Western countries, and in many cases, you might have a chance to use a toilet, where you need to squat.
Food. Some students are eager to try different types of food and think it will be one of the most enjoyable parts of their experience, while others try their best to find food they are used to and like. The second approach might prevent you from enjoying your stay, since you will spend a lot of energy looking for familiar food and may miss out on cultural opportunities that are associated with food.
Daily routine. In such countries as Spain, Mexico, Argentina, China, Greece, and India, it is common to have an afternoon sleep. You may find that some stores and services are unavailable at the beginning of the afternoon and that some of their classes are scheduled for the evening. Moreover, even restaurants in some of these countries do not serve lunch until 8 pm.
Personal hygiene. Even such a basic thing as personal hygiene varies greatly around the world. For example, in India, North Africa and some parts of Asia, there is no toilet paper anywhere. In some countries, spitting in public places is culturally acceptable, while in other places, daily showers are rare. To avoid unpleasant surprises, students should do a little research before moving.
Living abroad might influence your mental health. It is your personality and level of adaptability that determine how deeply you can be affected by the following factors.
Often one might feel homesick in the first few weeks after arrival, especially if they have immersed themselves in a culture that is very different from their own. Most students believe that keeping busy and making new friends can help reduce this feeling.
A cultural shock is not immediate if a student finds cultural differences exciting and interesting. Then, the novelty fades away, and students may be disappointed that people do not behave as they think they should. Not being able to talk freely with the peers or eat the common food, they may feel unhappy and unable to participate fully in life away from home. Eventually, you adapt to your new life and begin to accept differences quite normally.
Despite all the difficulties you might encounter, the whole experience of living abroad is exciting and totally worth it. You will get a quality education, test your abilities, meet many new people and have fun. Just stay positive.