Going to a new country for higher education is just about the most exciting thing that can happen for most students worldwide. After all the exams, essays, and interviews it takes to get selected, the last thing we feel like doing is thinking about the serious aspects of overseas education. However, it always pays to be aware of the common problems students have faced abroad. Here are some of the challenges a student can expect to face when going abroad.
Problems related to financial stability
It should come as no surprise that international education is an expensive endeavour. What many are surprised by, however, is the sheer number of ways one’s finances get tested overseas. It is understandably difficult to account for currency exchange, inflation rates, student loans, where you took those student loans from, your investment portfolio, etc. before even considering your daily expenses.
In general, however, financial stability overseas comes down to planning and responsible spending. As you get to know your new surroundings, you will naturally be able to better gauge the expenses and it can be balanced to maintain a decent standard of living without compromising long-term goals.
Thankfully, various international student finance platforms specialise in guiding students who are going abroad through the technical aspects of student loans, banking, forex, etc.
Finding a decent accommodation
Accommodation or rent is generally considered to be the second-largest expense for international students after tuition fees. Inadequate accommodation can make life significantly more difficult through various means: having long commute times to your college, being in an unattractive part of town, having unclear rent policies, unpleasant neighbours, or just poor amenities.
The good news is that most accommodation-related challenges can be avoided by sufficient planning. Researching your destination’s boroughs and transport routes can help narrow down certain areas you want to live in. Furthermore, in popular student destinations like the UK, entire sectors of the property market are devoted to college students. PBSAs (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) is a relatively unknown form of student housing which are designed from the ground up to cater to students in terms of everything from the rent to the floor plan to the amenities offered.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the accommodation process is ensuring that what you see on a site is actually what you will get when you get to your destination. A relatively new option for students is international accommodation managers that partner directly with renowned property managers in the country to get the most accurate information about rents, leases, points of contact, etc., and ensure a hassle-free stay for their clients.
Adapting to the culture
Though often overlooked during overseas travel planning, culture affects every part of a student’s life both on and off campus. The language barrier is an obvious example. Depending on where you are, accents, dialects, and terminology can be vastly different even within English. Understanding the unspoken rules of a city such as which topics to steer clear of and how formal you should be, can help avoid awkwardness and allow for smoother interactions throughout.
Specifically from an Indian perspective, many students struggle with living entirely on their own. A few more minor cultural differences include diet, weather, comfort around nightlife activities, etc. None of these is very significant on their own but it is advisable to get used to them before they begin taking a toll on your quality of life.
Being aware of psychological factors
Students feel a range of emotions throughout their time overseas. While most of these are perfectly natural and even useful, there are certain unhealthy patterns of thought that students may experience during their time abroad.
There is no getting around the fact that as a student in a new country, students can develop acute homesickness, feelings of isolation, or even unhealthy coping mechanisms in response to this psychological pressure.
Thankfully, such challenges are being mitigated as international students become more aware of these problems and are encouraged to seek help as and when they need it. Most universities now have in-house counsellors to listen to students and assist them clinically or psychologically as appropriate.
The author is the co-founder of study abroad counselling platform Unischolarz.
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