Studying abroad is one of the most fascinating and life-changing experiences a person can have. However, at the same time, it’s a little bit scary because it’s difficult to know what studying abroad is really like. Neither glossy booklets, nor vivid Instagram photos can show the whole picture.
My study trips to China, Great Britain and Japan presented me that reality is different from what I expected after reading articles and hearing about other people’s experiences.
So, without further ado, let’s get straight to some things that I’ve realized through my studying abroad experiences.
- Study, study and…study
Surprisingly enough, my first advice – don’t forget that you should actually study. Going to foreign country is definitely exciting. During preparation time you read a lot of articles or books, watching photos and videos and, of course, make list of things you should try and places you should visit. And it’s funny how after arrival you dive into doing all that cool stuff in your list and forget about studying. One thing you should always keep in mind: studying abroad is not a vacation. So try to find a balance between studying and accomplishing your to-do list to have the best of both worlds.
- Don’t underestimate culture shock
Culture shock is the real thing and it’s one of the biggest problems which foreign students face. Even finding information about your destination isn’t enough. That’s why many people experience disorientation in an unfamiliar culture. Just remember that moments of culture shock are natural and be prepared to face some difficulties that may occur while you adapt to new surroundings.
- Try to pack everything you’ll need
Make a list of things you’ll need during your studying time (e.g. laptop) and pack them. This can help you to reduce the amount of money you’ll spend there and make your time there more pleasant and comfortable. But do not overpack. Remember, that there are some things (like toiletries) that you can buy after arrival and save some space in your suitcase.
- There’s no way to prepare for everything
During my study trips to China and Japan, I had a lot of situations when I had to borrow different stuff from other people. I could blame myself for not doing my research properly and it’s partially true. But the truth is that it’s almost impossible to foresee everything that can possibly happen to you in a foreign country and there will always be some details and situations that you’ll miss. So be prepared and try to enjoy surprises that may appear in your way. Remember that best memories are unexpected!
- Don’t set high hopes
One of the most important things that I realized after all my journeys – having lower expectations will lead to a richer experience. Manneken Pis in Brussels may not be as impressive as you expected. You won’t see as many women in kimonos in Japanese streets as you wished. You may not like Thai cuisine as much as you thought you would. You may be disappointed with what you come across like Mable in Gravity falls when she finds out that unicorns are not what she thought they are. And that’s absolutely ok. Just don’t be too let down and try to appreciate your new home for what it really is, not for what you’d like it to be.
- People will have stereotypes about you and your country
As well as you have some expectations and stereotypes, natives or other foreign students will have stereotypes about you and your country (which may or may not be true). I’ve been asked million questions about Russia from “Is it really cold there?” to “Do some Russians keep bears as pets?” Some stereotypes may be foolish, some of them may even hurt you. Try not to get offended and instead use them as a way to start a conversation and tell people more about your culture.
- Try to make friends among witlocal people
This is the thing I wish I realized earlier because having bonds with natives is extremely beneficial. They can help you to overcome the cultural shock and improve your language skills. Also, they can show you best places and help to make your experience unforgettable. Even if you’re not very sociable, try to step out of your comfort zone and get to know someone. But do not use people just to get some advantages. Friendship should be pleasant for both sides.
But at the end of the day, how your adventure turns out is up to you. Studying abroad is no one else’s time but yours, so only you decide what will make your experience perfect and most exciting time of your life.
Have you ever studied abroad? If yes, share your experience in the comment. And if not, tell where would you like to go for study.
Till next time!