Don’t get us wrong, studying overseas will inevitably be one of the best experiences of your life. However, there are some challenges you’re likely to face as you adjust to a different country and we want you to be prepared.
Studying overseas not only gives you a newfound sense of independence, but also prepares you for adulting! However, like all worthwhile adventures, it might be a little overwhelming at times. Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to feel this way.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common study abroad problems you’re most likely to run into along with tried and tested tips on how you can deal with them.
Struggling with the language
Even if you choose a country that speaks your language, unique dialects and subcultural slang can sometimes be confusing. Like, if someone in the UK said, ‘that’s a load of codswallop’ would you know they meant it was a ‘load of nonsense’? Or if they asked if you ‘know your onions?’ they were asking if you’re prepared for the exam? To blend in with the locals, it’s best to soak up your new environment—make friends with locals and watch some of the country’s most-loved TV series.
Dealing with a foreign climate
No matter how much online research you do before you study abroad, you’ll never truly get a sense of the weather until you get there. Are the indoor places heated? Does it rain a lot? Regional quirks can affect what you might wear day to day. It’s smart to bring with you the bare minimum and purchase the rest when you’re there. If you don’t want to spend big on a new wardrobe, keep an eye out for second hand clothing stores.
Getting sick before a deadline
If the flight over doesn’t make you sick, public transport or crowded lecture halls probably will, unless your immune system is made of steel. Make it a priority to find a good local doctor and if you’re living on campus, locate the first aid support. If you end up unwell and get behind on your studies, don’t hesitate to reach out to your lecturers asap to negotiate an extension. Most importantly, be sure to keep your immune system in check by eating well and getting regular exercise.
Staying on top of your work
Let’s face it—new experiences will always be more interesting than a looming assignment deadline. And, living away from home, you’re bound to want to try new things and find yourself! But, let’s be real—you came here to study, right? Buckle down and work smart. Take advantage of the many calendar, to-do list and time management apps out there. After all, if you work hard you can play hard too.
Running low on cash
Even if you’re managing your money well, it’s easy to find yourself with less than you need. But before you sign up for a job, be sure to double check the rules around your student visa. Depending where you’re residing, you may be restricted in the type and location of work you can take on. Tip: check your university classifieds and job boards for opportunities. Keep an eye out for paid focus groups, surveys and maybe even medical trials! Finally, if you’ve got creative skills to flex, try freelancing as a side hustle.
Feeling anxious or depressed
Your moods will undoubtedly fluctuate during your time overseas. Exams, assignments and life in your 20’s in general can be a lot to handle. Treat your psychological health the way you’d treat your physical health. Take note of on-campus or local mental health clinics, lean on good friends or join a community support group. If needed, seek out a counsellor or psychologist to talk through what might be triggering your anxiety and depression.
Disagreeing with the customs
This can be a tough one to navigate. You’re never obliged to fit in perfectly, however, you chose to study overseas, and must respect the people around you. If certain social circles are pressuring you and you don’t feel yourself around them, find some people whose values line up with yours. While it’s good to grow and be challenged by opposing views, it’s also important you find a group of friends who you click with to help you settle into a new country.
Making friends in a new city isn’t always a walk in the park, especially if you’re shy or introverted. Start with the social and activity clubs at your university. Then browse local meet-up groups for things you’re into—be it sports or beer tasting! Then there’s professional and networking groups to expand your circle. If you‘re open to the possibility of romance, try Bumble, Blume, Tinder, eHarmony, OKCupid or one of the many dating and friendship apps you can get on your phone.
More common in the first year and during semester breaks, homesickness comes with the territory of being away from home. It’ll hit you hardest when you’re bored, so try to keep busy. Make friends with your fellow international classmates who may be feeling it too, and embrace as much of your new locale as possible. The more out and about you are in your new city, the less time you’ll have to worry about what you left behind.
The struggle of laundry
The struggle is real. Fortunately, once you’ve mastered your laundry game, you’ll be set for life. Contrary to what your mum says, you can technically mix your lights and darks provided your darks have already been through the wash a few times. The key is keeping the water temperature on cold, as some fabrics dye will run or your fave t-shirt might shrink with heat. Follow the labels on your expensive and delicate garments as well as the directions on the detergent packaging. If washing machines/dryers are tough to come by in your living space, get your IKEA bag and trundle off to the local laundromat—the machines are bigger here so you might even save time!
The benefits of studying overseas definitely outweigh some of the trials and tribulations you may face while traveling, and if you fall in love with the city you’re in, hopefully none of them will faze you. Get out there, explore new places and don’t let money hold you back when you can take advantage of StudentUniverse’s discounted flights, hotels and tours!