Deciding to study abroad is a great opportunity to take your future career further. It broadens your cultural horizon and creates plenty of valuable experiences. However, it also takes a lot of courage. Students face several challenges when they decide to undertake their studies in a different country. Some of the challenges are universal in the sense that every foreign student in a given institution will experience them, while others are specific, depending on the location and institution one decides to complete their studies at. Some of those challenges are discussed below.
Language: This challenge is commonly experienced by students moving to countries where a language different from their mother tongue is spoken. With nowadays’ objective of an increasingly global perspective on education, the completion of an exchange program has often become an essential part of high school and university studies. In some cases, the language barriers can make it difficult for foreign students to communicate with the natives and to understand what is being taught, apart from other challenges they face when integrating themselves with other students.
This is the most common obstacle worldwide. However, knowing several languages is also one of the greatest career assets in order to distinguish oneself from other applicants later on. In order to overcome those language barriers, it is advisable to take basic language courses before departure. By utilising your basic language skills proactively in the foreign country, you will soon see the improvements you are making and integrate yourself properly. In the beginning, it can also be helpful for the international student to look for somebody who will translate to them whenever it becomes difficult to understand what is being taught.
Cultural differences: Culture defines the beliefs and traditions of a given society. Due to a lack of universality in cultural practices, a certain behaviour which is considered normal in one region may be discouraged in another. This may bring some emotional and physical discomfort to individuals that have decided to live in a place away from home. A good example on cultural differences may be the type of food being offered. For instance, the Chinese consume different food than Americans. Foreign students may therefore find it difficult to adapt. Some propositions on how to overcome this challenge is to be curious, rather than frightened, about getting to know the new culture. The more you dare to experiment, the quicker you will find out which parts of the culture (e.g. types of food) you like the most. Once you have come to know that, you will find it easier to adapt and soon feel at home.
Climatic changes: Different regions are characterised by different climates and weather. This may prove to be a major challenge for any international student. For instance, in some areas the average temperature is generally lower than in others, and vice versa. Adapting from one climatic condition to another does take a while and may be quite challenging at the beginning. However, it is recommendable for international students to inform themselves about the local climate beforehand and prepare their clothing accordingly in order to adapt to the new conditions the best way possible.
Homesickness: Moving away from home to a different country will inevitably force the international student to leave his family and friends behind for that period of time. This is a difficult experience as it may lead to spending much of the time thinking of family members. Even though this challenge is difficult to overcome, it is recommendable to take part in as many activities as possible, especially in the beginning, and to be outgoing and open-minded towards others. Keep in mind that many other international students will be in the same position of not knowing anybody. This will make it easier for the student to meet many new people and make friends.