Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn many things, visit interesting places and meet new friends. However, there are some issues that you may need to be aware of. We present the most common challenges faced by students abroad, and how to deal with them.
1. Overcoming the language barrier
This is probably the most obvious challenge of studying abroad. Even if your studies are in a country where is spoken the same language you do, it may be still complicated to understand the strong local accent. But if you are moving to the country where people are speaking in a totally unfamiliar language, sometimes you can experience moments of frustration.
"It is what I felt after moving to Italy," says Claudia, a student from Mexico who is currently studying at The University of Bologna. "I have found the best thing to do is practising more before the start of your studies. Also, do not be afraid of asking local people to pronounce words again. They are usually very keen to help you."
We also suggest you use some online tools that may be useful for overcoming the language barrier. Duolingo offers a very helpful language learning programme, while SpellCheck, JSpell and Reverso or similar programmes will help you to translate sentences or check grammar mistakes.
2. Calculate your budget
Money is an issue for all students, but those living abroad must be more aware of. It takes you a while to get used to the exchange rate, meaning that sometimes you may spend a bit more on items than you expected, without even realizing it.
Calculate your budget carefully, watch any deviations and control it. If you learn to manage your money, you will be ready for any emergency situation.
Find a good currency conversion application, like XE Currency, Oanda or Currency Converter. Make sure you work out a quick conversion system for yourself, so you can mentally compare prices. Another important thing is to know the “real” price for items. For that, you can ask locals how much they would pay for certain things, and may they know better places for buying it.
3. Being far from your parents and friends
Living abroad is a very great experience, especially, when everything is going well. But when something goes wrong around, you can really feel what loneliness is. Your family and friends will be hundreds of miles away. And even if you never thought how important they were, after facing problems on your own, you will realise that.
This issue is likely to appear only during the first a few months before you have built up a new “social circle” and get used to the unknown city. As most of the international students agree, after a year or so everything will look much easier than in the beginning.
4. You may get ill
It is not that hard to get flu when you are travelling long distances and living in an unfamiliar environment. However, you should not panic at all. In every country, there are many medical centres with good specialists. Just make sure you have a suitable health insurance if necessary.
Moreover, almost in every university, there are departments for international students. International officers will be able to give you an advice which healthcare provider to chose, where to find certain medicines, and how to register for a local Health System. As well, you can read more about it here.
5. Staying motivated to attend classes
Many students find the transitioning period at the new university a bit difficult. When you are living and studying abroad, taking classes in your second language can feel like a huge task. Also, it is very hard to sit in a lecture hall, when you know that you could just go out exploring and checking new places.
“When I moved to Paris from Brazil, all I wanted was to enjoy the city life, but very soon I realised that I am spending more time for going around than learning my subject,” says Flavia who completed her degree at Paris-Sorbonne University. “To take exams after the first semester was harder than I expected, so during the second one I was more concentrated on attending classes.”
It is important to remember that since you are taking a course, you must stay committed to your studies; otherwise, you might crash your grades or even lose your scholarship. While living abroad is valuable itself, you need to maximize the potential of this experience. So, take your notebook and go to the classroom (at least sometimes).
Now when you are ready to overcome some of the study abroad problems, let's focus on what is the most important – having FUN and ENJOY your studies overseas!