Studying abroad is one of the most exciting chapters of a student’s life. It is a unique experience that provides the perfect opportunity to travel, meet new friends, learn a new language, and, of course, obtain a world-class education. For some, however, moving to another country isn’t an easy transition and there are challenges along the way.
We’ll explore six common challenges students face while studying abroad and how to overcome them.
1. Language Barriers
One of the most common challenges of studying abroad is the language barrier. You may have spent the last five years studying the language, but once you arrive in the country, it seems completely foreign. Locals are using slang you’re unfamiliar with and several words can be used to describe the same thing. Sometimes this makes you feel like an outsider, but take it as a learning opportunity. Most locals appreciate you trying to communicate with them in their native language. While it may seem like a big obstacle to overcome, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will become. And hey, returning home completely fluent in a second language is a huge asset!
2. Currency Differences
Trying to understand a different currency is another common challenge students face studying abroad. Before you pack your bags and jump on an airplane, you want to ensure that you are familiar with the exchange rate. You can use an online currency converter, such as the one Google offers. Simply plug in an amount, choose your local currency from the dropdown menu and then select the currency of the country where you’ll be studying abroad.
There are also other monetary differences to keep in mind. For example, while many countries include taxes in the price of an item, international students should be aware that taxes are not included in Canada and the United States. That means taxes must be calculated in addition to the price tag on the product. Also, like learning a new language, there is also money slang. For instance, in the United Kingdom, one pound is referred to informally as a quid. By brushing up on these differences, you’ll save yourself confusion at the cash register.
3. Day-to-Day Finances
Students will also have to learn to properly manage their day-to-day finances. Some international students may be lucky to land a scholarship, which will help to reduce financial burden. That being said, all students will have to learn to budget. In addition to tuition, students must also account for housing, food, transportation, and other day-to-day living expenses. Costs are generally more expensive in bigger cities and will also depend on lifestyle, choice of accommodations, and spending habits.
Not having your family nearby to support you financially may cause some stress, but again, take this as an opportunity to learn how to develop a budget and manage money.
4. Cultural Differences
Every country has different cultural standards. In addition to becoming familiar with the language and the country’s currency, you will also have to adjust to the local culture. At home, you probably aren’t aware of the “unwritten rules,” those day-to-day things you do which may be unfamiliar to foreigners. One example is a simple handshake. In one country, a firm handshake is standard practice, but in another country, it may be considered offensive. As with everything else, observe the locals and immerse yourself in their culture. You will eventually adjust and can even teach your new friends about your culture.
It’s easy to feel homesick when everything around you is so unfamiliar. You will miss the things you find comfort in, such as the sofa in your living room and your annoying yet lovable sibling. Remember, homesickness is a natural feeling and even expected when moving miles away from home, regardless of whether it’s your first time living on your own. In fact, a UCLA Higher Education Research Institute survey reports that homesickness can affect 71% of students at one time or another.
The important thing is not to let it stand in the way of making your time abroad an incredible experience. Your family and friends will still be there when you get back and in the meantime, you can connect with them virtually through technology. By getting out and exploring your new home and campus, you will quickly move past any feelings of homesickness.
6. Not Wanting to Leave
After overcoming all of these challenges, you will realize how much you truly love your new home. When your studies are complete and it’s time to leave, you will miss the locals, the food, and many of the small, everyday things, like the great cafe down the street. You will miss the freedom, the adventures, even the challenges… and leaving will be its own challenge. But you will be excited to come home and share the incredible experience you had studying abroad.