The pros and cons of studying abroad
By Yashi Banymadhub,
Although the tendency to study abroad is becoming increasingly popular, many students feel torn between the decisions to complete their education overseas or to do it from home. As exciting as it is daunting, studying abroad can open a lot of doors when it comes to employment, expanding your social network and giving you the experience of living in a new country - and with that comes years of lifelong memories to cherish. However, this comes at the high cost of spending several years away from your loved ones. This could even mean missing out on family occasions like birthdays, Christmas and New Year. To help balance out the pros and cons, theunipod also spoke to some international students about their experience of going to university abroad and about the benefits and drawbacks of studying in a foreign country.
Overseas experience is a plus in the job market
In today’s highly competitive world, it is very important to stand out from the crowd. By spending a couple of years abroad, studying in a new and challenging environment, you could be one step closer to landing you your dream job. As a student in a foreign country, you will always have to think on your feet. This means that your future employer will no doubt see you as a pioneer against other graduates - someone who is not afraid to use and explore new methods and ideas. With overseas experience you will benefit especially in the fields of finance and sales in order to deal with workers or introduce a new product abroad.
Improving your confidence and becoming more independent
If you consider yourself a bit shy, finding yourself alone in a new country will force you out of your shell. You will have to approach people and make new friends, and this will no doubt increase your self confidence. If you are used to always relying on your parents to get things done, studying abroad will teach you to fend for yourself and enable you to develop good organizational skills.
A different perspective and a new learning method
Teaching methods can vary a lot across the world and different universities pride themselves on their unique way of teaching. If you have studied in the same country all your life and are in search of a new way of learning, you will find that some universities have a problem-solving approach to teaching whilst others can offer you a lot more resources in areas of research. Employers often want to hear how you have used your problem solving skills in the past, and studying abroad can give you that ‘life experience’ that other national graduates will lack.
Experience a different culture
There is no better way to gain a new, refreshing outlook on the world than to experience a different culture. Studying at a university abroad differs greatly to a holiday as you can live the life of the locals from a foreign country and feel like you are a part of it. A new lifestyle can challenge your beliefs whilst at the same time enable you to think about life differently. Valmiki Ramroop, from Trinidad and Tobago, studies Chemical Engineering at New York University and found his experience of a new culture particularly rewarding: “I enjoy travelling and New York is a great place to start exploring. The relationships back home are getting more difficult to maintain but there are inevitable bonds forming in New York”.
Adapting to a different culture
The most challenging part of studying overseas for many is adapting to a different way of life.
Karim Jabri, from Lebanon, is a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Warwick: “The first challenge I’ve had to face was getting used to the English culture (English food mostly) which is completely different to Arabic”.
Having to change your old habits completely and adopt new social norms whilst feeling nostalgic about the life you left behind can be a very complicated and emotional. Remind yourself that thousands of students before you have been in your shoes; you’re not the first to crave ketchup and you won’t be the last to shed a tear whilst on the phone home. Keep calm, carry on, as us Brits would say!
Communicating might prove to be awkward if you are not able to understand the first language of your host country or if the locals do not understand yours. Don’t panic! This is to be expected; it’s all about overcoming these issues but this requires patience and determination. You will be the one to benefit from it in the end as learning a new language is the silver lining to this challenge. Not only do the personal benefits of learning a second language including becoming smarter, developing your multitasking skills and improving your memory but you will also be at an advantage professionally as businesses today are global and speaking an additional language can be a huge benefit.
If language barriers prove to be a problem, you might not be able to keep up with what is being covered in your lectures and you might find that you are getting lower grades than you are used to. As a student in a foreign country it is important to get help as quickly as possible to ensure that any extenuating circumstances are understood and that any work pressures are resolved quickly and efficiently. Of course be sure to check the language of study before you begin.
Vivek Bhogadi, from Trinidad and Tobago, studies Medicine at the McGill University in Canada, and has had to overcome challenges related to the cost of living abroad: “Challenges I have had to face have included funding problems, as student loans in Canada do not completely cover tuition and board”.
There is no denying that studying in another country can be very costly and many universities offer only a limited amount of scholarships to its international students so you may not always avoid the debt.
Deciding what to do
theunipod asked for some advice from staff working in the international admissions office at universities in different countries in order to help students considering an education abroad make up their minds. Natasha Crompton, from the University of Birmingham, told us that “most students, when they return, say it was the best years of their lives!”, whilst Aldis Sigurdardottir, from the University of Reykjavik, agrees: “Just do it. You will never regret it. I haven’t had a single student complain about it. It’s difficult but it’s worth it”. Both admissions offices help international students on a daily basis to overcome the obstacles they face in a new country, and this can be said for all universities dotted about the globe.
If you’re still undecided, get in touch with several universities and ask as many questions as you need. Find out everything you’ll need to know in order to help you make a confident decision. It may be worth speaking to some graduates too.